Albania’s marginalised youth offered vocational opportunities at ‘one more dream’ centre

Within this program, 42 children who never attended high school are able to seek a brighter future with a scholarship at the ‘one more dream’ vocational skills centre. The lucky recipients were announced last month and will complete their training in July.

To have a chance to obtain the scholarships, children who have had problems with literacy or did not complete primary education can attend a 72-hour literacy course, while a Children’s Club operating after school is providing a space for children to discuss, as well as empowering the children to stand up their rights and the rights of other children.

Some of these children are simply unable to keep up with the expenses of attending school, whilst many others, suffer discrimination to due their ethnic background which results in them failing or leaving education.

World Vision Albania has piloted three significant activities to ensure children’s rights in education are manifested and respected Children who are not ethnically Albanian and therefore part of the minority ethnic group are grouped together into the category of ‘Egyptian’. It is these ‘Egyptian children’ who are most likely to have not even completed primary education.

“The mentality is such that the parents of children from minority families fear that their children will have a hard time at school as they are from a minority family. Further more, most parents are not aware of the importance of education, young boys are expected to work while girls stay at home doing household chores”, said World Vision staff.

These children require more attention on their education to ensure that they will become capable adults and able to earn a living. Young people who are unemployed especially girls can easily become exploited in the trafficking and illegal activities.

Scholarships at the ‘one more dream’ centre allow each student to be trained in different vocational skills such as hairdressing, tailoring, mechanical engineering and catering for six months. It also provides personal social assistance to all students, some of whom have experienced trafficking and divorcing issues.

The Gashi sisters are enrolled on the literacy course, and hope that they can join the vocational skills centre and fulfill their dreams of becoming hairdressers. They explained that they dropped out of primary school, along with seven other female classmates as they believed they were discriminated against.

“It is important for the girls to be able to read and write before we can give her a scholarship to the vocational school, in a way it is almost an incentive to these students to attend the literacy courses”, said World Vision staff.

The girls state that they did not concentrate on their education as they were called ‘Gypsy’ and accepted at school. Also their parents did not have high expectations for them as girls.

Traditionally, when a girl child’s formal schooling is interrupted, they remain at home to assist their mother with household chores.

The girls from the ‘gypsy’ families are also married young. One young girl in a class of ten students was married at 18, only a few days before the final examination. She did not return after her wedding.

Yet the literacy course has not only taught the Gashi sisters how to read and write, but has also given them confidence and empowerment.

“I can now read everything, I can read even the newspaper. I was embarrassed when people asked me to read in the past but now I am happy to read for them”, said 15-year-old Mirsada Gashi

Scholarships at the ‘one more dream’ centre allow each student to be trained in different vocational skills such as hairdressing, tailoring, mechanical engineering and catering for six months Last week, Mirsada took her final examination. Her results are expected to be good and will underline the need for these children to have access to additional literacy courses.

The after-school children club, on the other hand, is free for all those who attend and focus on the rights of the child and encourage club students to discuss freely about their rights.

The children’s club started in January, the topics for the 18-week series include children’s rights, hygiene and environment respectively.

Last week, hey were debating the future of one girl who has been pulled out from high school because of her parents.

“The girl is very smart but her parents do not believe she will gain any thing from school as she will face discrimination because she is from a minority family. We (the students) encourage her to come to school and do not to feel worried or concerned”.

World Vision and the “one more dream” center plan to monitor the graduates in locating employment in town as well as providing tools to some students.