With his father no longer living and his mother fighting everyday to feed and clothe her three children, Met Leka passes his summer mainly in vain,wandering through his poor neighbourhood streets or staying alone in front of the television. This 12-year-old boy, who dreams of becoming a brave footballer, is very introverted and does not speak much. However, his life changed at the beginning of July and became more joyful, when he started summer camp.
The sympathetic child has been involved in one of the World Vision projects in Bathore, a poor community on the periphery of Tirana. The project provides math and language lessons to catch up, in addition to games and a healthy meal, everyday,for several hours, for five weeks. Its name is “Summer schools 2012” and it includes 90 pupils from “Bathore 1”, “Bathore 2” and “Bulqeshi Ri” elementary schools.
It is August 1st and nearly midday, but “Bathore 1” school is full of children’s voices. On the first floor, 30 children, separated into two classes, draw, sing and cut with their small scissors. One floor above, 30 other kids from “Bathore 2” are doing many of the same things. In addition, the teachers have borrowed a big classroom so the children can play ball with enough space, after learning math and Albanian language (which, to our pleasant surprise, the children now adore!).
“It is much better here than in my home. I would stay there without doing anything, whereas here, in school, I stay with my friends. I play football with my cousin and learn. Teachers are so good and they have taught us many things we did not understand before,” Met says.
Through this project, World Vision aims to help children with poor grades during the school year to catch up with their peers. “In the same time, they have to come from families with social problems,” clarifies Ermelinda Ruka, a project coordinator for WV.
“Many families are begging us for their children to be subscribed into the project. At least one of their children. They tell us: ‘My children stay in the street, all day long and we can’t stay after them’. For other families, the fact that the child will receive drinking water, bananas and sandwich for free -it’s a big help. At least, once a day, a child of theirs will eat properly,” says one of the teachers, Lule Mishaj. In her “Bathore 1” class, it’s the game hour. Anisa Sava, one of the girls, loves to draw. She attends the program together with her youngest sister. “I am learning a lot and in the same time we are having fun,”she says, with a big smile.
Anisa lives with her parents, four sisters and brothers and dreams of becoming a singer. Her parents moved close to Tirana from the village of Dibra, a deep and undeveloped area of Albania. Since moving, the couple, just married at that time, has tried to do the best for their five children. But they do not always succeed, as is clearly observed from the two little sisters’ clothes. “My mommy stays home, only my daddy works, as a labourer in construction,” says the little girl, who speaks with assurance and pride. At least, her daddy has a job, she seems to be saying. And this sentence of hers explains almost everything…
It is Albanian language hour in the class close to Anisa’s. One of the boys is writing on the blackboard and the teacher asks him to find the predicate. The boy does it immediately. The other children listen, answer the questions or write on their desks.
Teachers (who are all staff of these schools) are convinced that children are profiting a lot and that the results are already obvious. “They are relaxed, with no tensions during this project because everything is organized through games and learning. And that is the reason why everything becomes easier and more understandable for them,” says Lule Mishaj.
And how much do they need to learn! Weeks ago, before the project started, a survey was given to determine their scholastic knowledge. Some of the children knew only five letters, even though they were in the fifth grade!
“Lessons are organized mainly about the basics of education. From the survey we accomplished with schools’ staff, it was clarified that many children did not know or remember the whole alphabet, the multiplication table and all the letters. We want this to change,” says the World Vision project coordinator.
Teachers show how the situation has improved. Children read, write and complete math exercises much faster than before the project application. “Our objectives are these children assemble, deduct, multiply and divide with no problem. Apart [from] these, we have stressed the importance of punctuation marks and have organized short writing spottings very often. Children have accomplished to describe nature or their friend, in written and oral forms,”says Miranda Hasanaj, one of the teachers.
But this is not the only change. The adults who help in this project tell passionately how much it has emotionally affected the children. Especially those like Met, who is suffering without a father. "I see him smiling a lot much more, he does a lot of things with other kids, interacting and playing with them, giving answers to questions during lessons. He was so shut down to himself and now it is like he is awaken," one of the teachers says.
“Summer school 2012” is not the only one of its kind in Albania. World Vision and its partners have organized many summer camps, mainly in rural and undeveloped areas of Albania. In these camps where fun is combined with learning, there are nearly 15,000 children in all World Vision Area Development Programmes (Diber, Vlore, Elbasan, Korce, Librazhd, Durres, Lezhe, Shkoder and Kurbin).