The freshly white-washed walls of widow Gjylizare’s home enclose a small yard where chickens scratch and red roses grow. It is a place of retreat from the tightly packed alleyways of the Roma enclave of Fushe Kosove and a source of pride for her and her sons. Muhamet, her youngest son of fifteen years, explains how the Get a Kosovan Kid to School project provides extra lessons and a reading club to assist him in getting back into elementary school. He has obvious abilities in languages, speaking both Albanian and Turkish, but did not pass his exams. However, “He is smart!” his mother says with a smile; and he proves it by switching to English to tell us that learning German and English were his biggest challenges.
Muhamet’s older brothers work intermittently in construction or in any other labor they can get their hands on. He has no definite ambitions himself, other than the popular but precarious route of making music for a living. As well as facilitating extra classes the Get a Kosovan Kid to School project provides the community with basic school materials and a library – the raw resources for opening up educational opportunities now and employment options later.
During our visit with the Gjylizare’s family an incapacitated older son and his young daughter join us on an old sofa in the yard. Ermine is a bright shy girl of twelve years; the project’s activities support her educational engagement in a culture where there is often pressure to marry at a very young age. However, her aspirations are more certain than her cousin Muhamet’s: she wants to be a teacher and enjoys learning Albanian.
Besides any income from her working son’s insecure subsistence efforts Gjylizare stretches a benefit payment of ninety euros per month as far as she can. Unforeseen scenarios, such as ill health, can be financially debilitating. Although the extended family always rallies to help out the chances of successfully stabilizing their future livelihood is increased if Muhamet can reengage with school and Ermine can fulfill her aspiration to become a teacher.
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