EU support for children at risk of early school leaving in Municipality of Zvezdara

With the support of the European Union, the Urban Municipality of Zvezdara, starting from June 2017, implements the project “Inter-sectorial mechanism for prevention of drop-out and decreasing early school leaving in Municipality of Zvezdara”. The project is aimed at helping school-age children (primary school) who have left school or are at risk of drop-out or are not enrolled at school at an appropriate age. The project runs until June 5, 2019.

The project encompasses all children at risk of abandonment of education, as this risk is particularly pronounced amongst the children of the Roma population, which is why the Municipality of Zvezdara is implementing the project in cooperation and with the support of the National Council of the Roma National Minority of Serbia as a partner organization.

The project is based on a multi-sectorial approach, and is designed to influence the factors that primarily contribute to early abandonment of education – poor material and health conditions caused by multi-generational poverty, nomadic lifestyle, social exclusion, language and culture barriers, dysfunctional family relationships, misunderstanding of the importance of schooling. Measures are targeted at children (individual classes), parents (procurement of school equipment, responsible parenting training, vocational training), Roma community (info sessions) and expert public (cross-sectorial mitigation mechanism, which includes all professional services by schools, Municipality and Social Work Center).

Children and parents are assisted by experts from the intersectorial team – pedagogues, psychologists, health workers, representatives of the Center for Social Work, mentors for employment and pedagogical assistants who, through direct contact with children at risk of drop-out and their parents / guardians, identify the key issues that a child and its family face, and by the production of the Individual Support Plan for each child in particular, give a recommendation of concrete measures for their overcoming.

Support measures, available under the Project, include: maintenance of additional individual tuition for children (30 additional individual classes per pupil, per selected school subjects), aid in school equipment (school equipment package, backpack, equipment for art and skills classes), organization of classes/workshops aimed at strengthening parenting capacities and skills, referring parents to additional vocational training courses, mentoring support in the process of finding a stable job and counseling support in solving health problems.

At the current stage of the project, as of March 2019, 99 children – potential beneficiaries of this Project were identified with the support of primary schools from Zvezdara Municipality, Social Work Center and other state institutions and non-governmental organizations operating in the territory of Zvezdara Municipality, which significantly exceeded the project’s target capacity of 60 users, indicating the need for further ongoing work through this and similar projects. From the envisaged number of beneficiaries, up to now, various project activities involved 62 children whose parents were in willing that they and their children participate in the project.

Within the Project, four info sessions were held in Roma settlements in the territory of Zvezdara Municipality with the aim of affirming the value of education and promoting of better job opportunities and better quality life, with the presentation of examples of good practice. 103 members of the community were present in four Roma settlements (Orlovsko naselje, Bosutska, Mali Mokri Lug, Veliki Mokri Lug), who were most interested in the possibility of continued schooling for their children through adult education schools, switching from high school vocational training and retraining – professional training, as well as the necessary documentation for registration of the National Employment Service Register (in the light of mandatory elementary education).

For the needs of a better organization of additional education for members of the Roma population, the Project also provided the supply of equipment (heating, air conditioning, laptop computers and furniture) for premises of the Braća Stamenković School of Adult Education in Orlovsko which has expanded the number of attendees annually over 100.

The project team, in cooperation with the expert services of elementary schools from the Municipality of Zvezdara, has also created a mechanism for early identification and prevention of the risk of drop-out of elementary school pupils. Through five-day training, expert associates of elementary schools have created indicators to detect the risk of drop-outs from schoolchildren. Based on this, an accompanying software solution has been developed, which should provide systematic data collection in this area and monitoring implementation of the measure of support for children and parents.

The project ” Inter-sectorial mechanism for prevention of drop-out and decreasing early school leaving in Municipality of Zvezdara ” was funded from the European Union’s donations amounting to 137,620 euros, with Zvezdara’s co-financing of about 10% of this sum.