200 children from migrant families start school in Bosnia and Herzegovina

A total of 200 children of migrant families who temporarily reside in the northwestern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) will start school soon, the local news portal Vijesti.ba notes.

Most of these children will first attend the HEART program’s workshops and learn the local language in order to be ready to enter the regular teaching process, the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Education Officer in BiH Amila Madzak explained.

“According to current estimates, some 60 children will be able to start the regular teaching process immediately,” Madzak said, adding that they will be working to get as many children as possible into the regular teaching process.

Children will be provided with all the necessary equipment, clothing and footwear for the beginning of the school year.

Bihac, a city located some 310 kilometers northwest of BiH’s capital Sarajevo, is a temporary home for migrants’ children who are being constantly on the move, which is not easy for these children but has made them talented at communication.

In addition to the languages spoken in their countries of birth, most of them speak English very well, and many also speak Turkish and Greek.

Matafej, an 11-year-old girl from Afghanistan, and 14-year-old Hasan from Azerbaijan are happy to go to school in Bihac.

In a short interview with Radio Slobodna Evropa (RSE), Matafej said she was learning mathematics and Bosnian language, which was her favorite subject.

Hasan also likes to learn Bosnian and mathematics, and he looks forward to starting school because he will meet new friends and teachers.

Ameldina Kecanovic, a teacher at Prekounje Elementary School who has been working with migrant children from the very beginning, told RSE that these children are hardworking, eager and very quick to learn.

Psychologist Azra Culum explained to Xinhua that socialization of children from migrant families is not only important and significant for them but also for local children because it teaches them that they should be tolerant, share a sense of community, unity and acceptance.

“Generations born after the 1992-1995 war in BiH cannot have the sense of what being a refugee feels like, but their parents know very well, because they were refugees some two decades ago,” Culum said, adding that by accepting migrants in schools, children are being taught that all children should be equal and accepted, and this will have good long-term benefits for them.

Unlike their peers from other cantons across the country, children attending schools in Una Sana Canton have not begun their school due to a strike by educational workers.

However, several schools in Bihac, including Prekounje Elementary School, have started their program despite the strike.

In the first half of the year, 10,525 migrants were registered entering the territory of BiH, mostly from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq, on their way to countries of the European Union (EU) in hope of a better life.