Stories of Change

Remzija. Photo courtesy Protection through Education program team.

Teaming up for Remzija’s Education

Remzija is a first-grade student in Belgrade, Serbia. She and her family are part of Belgrade’s Roma community. Unfortunately, generations of poverty and discrimination have forced Roma families like hers to live on the margins of society. Remzija lives in devastating conditions in an informal settlement. She has struggled in school, too.

Like many Roma children, Remzija doesn’t speak Serbian fluently. She struggled to make friends at school, since she couldn’t communicate easily with her classmates. Then her mom was late to pick her up a couple of times, and Remzija started to get scared. She thought a day might come when her mom didn’t show up at all, so she started refusing to go to school. It turns out that Remzija’s mom didn’t know how to tell time using a watch or clock. (For generations, most Roma girls haven’t been able to finish school. That means that Roman women often haven’t had the opportunity to learn skills like reading, writing and telling time.) Her mom also got confused by all of the changing schedules as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the school’s hybrid learning model.

Thankfully, CWS’s partner was there to help both Remzija and her mom. Our Protection through Education program focuses on preschool and first grade Roma children. We know that when these kids have the chance to go to school and pursue an education, they are less likely to end up living or working on the streets. We also know that we need to engage a child’s whole family to truly make a difference.

Our program team offered to help Remzija get back on track with her education. They met with her every week to help her overcome the anxiety she was feeling. They also worked with her mom to help her tell time. Neighbors stepped in to help, too, and offered to remind Remzija’s mom when it was time to pick her up from school. Thankfully, Remzija’s teacher was also patient and understanding about the situation.

Additionally, as part of the Protection through Education program, Remzija’s family accessed hygiene and school supplies; clothes and footwear for Remzija and her siblings; and help with applying for government assistance. At one point, Remzija’s younger sister was sick and needed to see a cardiologist, so her family turned to the Protection through Education team. The program’s medical worker scheduled her exam and even went with her to the health center.

We’re happy to report that Remzija is thriving today. She goes to school, and her teacher says that she is making good progress. Thank you for helping to wrap her family in love so that this little girl can pursue the education she deserves!