Little school, big heart

Each village school meets well-known challenges; starting with usually one school covers more rural settlements, through insufficient number of teaching staff, to the lack of required materials and conditions. When combined with pupils who are intelligent, full of talent and eager attention, one big question arises – how to help realize all their capacities?

The elementary school “Heroj Mirko Tomić” in Donji Krčin is one of such schools. Few people in the Varvarin Municipality know that this school has been participating at many Republic sports championships for more than fifteen years, in competitions such as shooting, biking, athletics and table tennis. Even fewer people know that the winner of the state competition for jumping into the high is a pupil of this school.

However, opportunities to engage in any extra-curricular activities are pretty bad. The school does not have a swimming pool, any sport terrain, or a video projector that would allow children to expand their knowledge and develop their talents. Professors and teachers live in the surrounding towns and are unable to monitor the needs of their students on a daily basis. Although they have no resources, their results are unusual. Apart from success in various sports, these students are well placed in competitions in physics, literary Olympiad, competition from technical and informatics education.

The principal of the school in Krčin equally encourages all children’s activities, whether it’s a sport, an art contest, and a competition in mathematics. Good results are achieved solely by the engagement of management and school staff. The teachers and the principal of the school in Donji Krčin recognized the potential of their students and with their efforts they managed to find a better conditions in this school.

In the first half of the project, the project team recognized the elementary school “Heroj Mirko Tomić” from Donji Krcin as a curiosity on the territory of the entire municipality, based on our impressions that we gained during working with schools. Their cooperation, focus on activities and results gave us the idea to motivate other schools, and to show them that success is possible. We wanted to highlight this as an example for other schools with significantly better conditions, but whose principals, professors and professional services were not motivated to the same extent as those in Donji Krcin. We did not favor school, but we used it continuously as an example and we managed to launch some teachers with a lack of motivation and thus inclusion of children in the events.

It was clear to everyone that there were motivated and unmotivated workers in each school. The greater dissatisfaction was with those who are interested in additional work with children, but who do not have the support of management and the environment. So we focused on an ambitious teaching staff. At school meetings we easily recognized them. They had ideas, they were conversational, and they easily gave their contacts and responded to the meetings organized by the project team.

Within the organization of meetings, in connection with project activities, it was decided that they should not be held in schools, but to be organized at the project office or at the Children’s Club in Varvarin. The project team conceived the meetings with small groups of up to ten professors. Teachers attended the thematic meetings from all schools in the municipality. They were usually from the same and similar branches: film festival – informatics, literary competition – professors of languages, fine arts – professors of physical culture, sports sections – professors of physical education, peer learning – pedagogues and psychologists. As a team, we tried to unequivocally make friends with school workers and develop cooperation.

The school in Donji Krčin works at 8 locations – the primary school and 7 external classrooms. It is the school with the most children at risk of dropout. This project has been recognized in this school as an essential need. During all activities they favored children at risk. They made it clear to everyone that the results of children at risk are not the subject of competition and comparison with other schools, but it is a success per se because they are achieved by children we fear that soon there will be no more students. As the project moved away, this point of view became clearer. With other school representatives, ideas began to emerge, recalling some students and eventually interacting with professional services.

It is now clear to everyone that the goal of our work is to keep as many students as possible in the education system, to leave as few as possible dropout and to realize full potential of children. In order to do this, in conditions where there are no significant financial resources, the methods can be applied. It is important to recognize bad habits, positive examples and valuable partners.