REF and CEI Support Know-how Exchange for Secondary Scholarship Services Reaching over 4,500 Roma Students in Eight Countries Annually

“Intergovernmental cooperation is essential,” said Ivan Ivanišević, Director General for Multilateral Affairs, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro and Representative of Central European Initiative (CEI) in Montenegro. He emphasized that “especially when it is supported by a large regional structure such as the Central European Initiative. CEI has been committed to preserving linguistic, cultural and religious identity of minority groups and promoting the value of education among these groups.”

The statement was part of Mr. Ivanišević’s keynote speech during the regional conference of the Central European Initiative and the Roma Education Fund (REF). The event, which took place in the capital city of Podgorica (September 27-28), united 30 governmental representatives from eight countries, i.e., Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia  and Slovakia, in a professional intergovernmental know-how exchange on the implementation of large scale secondary school scholarship and mentoring programs for Roma students. 

Other Montenegrin governmental officials also held keynote speeches on the importance of the public-civil society collaboration for increasing school enrollment among the Roma and Egyptian communities. “Montenegro is a leader and an example of a good practice in the provision of full support for educational inclusion of Roma and Egyptian children and youth. Due to the integrated efforts of the government of Montenegro and the Roma Education Fund, the transition rate from primary to secondary education among the Roma scholarship beneficiaries is 100 percent,” said Leon Gjokaj, Director General of the Directorate for the Promotion and Protection of Minority Rights and Other Minority National Communities, at the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro.

Rešad Sijarić, the Acting Director of the Bureau of Education of Montenegro, emphasized the role of the 27 mentors who have been providing academic support to 130 secondary scholarship beneficiaries in the 2016-2017 academic year. He reported, “Twenty-three of these pupils have been already enrolled in university this year.” Despite the good results in transition between grades, strong factors like migration, the low level of awareness about the importance of education among Roma/Egyptian families and early marriage continue to be huge obstacles.

According to the know-how exchange participants, among the recognized weaknesses of the current secondary scholarship program, is that mentors are not employed full-time in school and also that stable funding should be guaranteed for pedagogical assistants working with Roma both in preschools and secondary schools.

A number of recommendations, related to early warning and response systems to prevent early school leaving, were put forward by the government officials and the Roma Education Fund during the working groups: (1) parent-related – strengthening parental engagement through school boards and other joint activities among parents, teachers and children; (2) legal – for example, the necessity for introducing mandatory preschool education for 3-6 year olds and encouraging early childhood non-formal community-based education for children aged 0-3; (3) labor market-oriented – securing availability of advisors to guide scholarship beneficiaries through employment opportunities and obstacles; (4) institutional – utilizing peer mentors and peer-learning groups, enhancing exchange of information among stakeholders involved in educational system (school principal, tutor, other teachers, mentor, educational authorities, etc.), and developing an online database of beneficiaries and improving the existing software for identifying potential dropouts. 

This know-how exchange is the second in a series of three meetings made possible through a grant from the by the Central European Initiative Know-how Exchange Programme sponsored by the CEI Fund at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The first meeting was held in April 2017, and by the end of the 18-month project, the participants plan to develop a unified monitoring and evaluation system to measure and monitor the outcomes, as well as common guidelines, for tutoring and mentoring activities.

Click here for REF's Montenegro factsheet. 

Ivan Ivanisevic

Ivan Ivanišević, Director General for Multilateral Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro and Representative of Central European Initiative (CEI) in Montenegro speaks to the audience at the Know-how Exchange held in Podgorica, Montenegro on September 27, 2017.

leon gjokaj

Leon Gjokaj, Director General of the Directorate for the Promotion and Protection of Minority Rights and Other Minority National Communities, at the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro speaks to the audience at the Know-how Exchange held in Podgorica, Montenegro on September 27, 2017.