10-year old Diellza Fetahu likes to sing. A student at Leke Dukagjini elementary, the foreign language school in the town of Prizren, Kosovo, she happily shows off the new electronic equipment that she and her classmates use to sing in English. It’s not the only recent improvement; as their singing skills expand, they may have dreams of being broadcast on their school’s new radio station.
Avdullah Hoxha, principal of the Leke Dukagjini elementary school, is happy about the improvements. "I only hope for more such grants in the future - our needs are huge," he said.
Next door at Luciano Motroni Medical High School, Kosovo's future dental technicians are learning the ropes on new dentistry equipment. Their dentistry teacher, Dr. Rishan Kransniqi, is convinced that real-life equipment in the classroom has better prepared his students for the jobs they' ll be seeking when they graduate. All of these improvements, and others like them, have been funded with grants from the World Bank in schools across Kosovo.
Dramatic improvements have been made in some 600 schools - approximately half of the schools in Kosovo - in the last six years under a small grants program funded by the World Bank and the Canadian International Development Agency. The grants are aimed at increasing enrollment, attendance, and keeping kids in class. They also seek to enhance the quality of teaching and learning and to foster inclusive education in primary and secondary schools in Kosovo.
At Sadri Duhla elementary school in village Duhla, some 50 kilometers south of capital Pristina, ninth grade students are able to learn better about the human anatomy with the aid of plastic body parts, bought with one of the grants.
"In the books we see only photographs of the body parts, but here we see them [the life-like body parts] in real life," said one of the pupils Ermira Suka.
Raxhep Suka, a Biology Teacher, is also happier. "When you teach biology and chemistry without equipment, the class is very dry and incomprehensible for the students. This equipment helps us clarify, it gives us the tools," he says.
Vulnerable Groups - A Priority
Through the School Development Grants program, approximately US$ 3.4 million in grant funding was awarded in targeted small grant contracts to over half of the 970 primary schools and 110 secondary schools in Kosovo’s current 36 municipalities. Schools in poor condition and those with a higher proportion of vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities, the poor, girls, and disadvantaged children were prioritized for the School Development Grants program.
A total of 300,000 students benefited from the Project.
The Education Participation Improvement Project (EPIP), under which the grant program was implemented, also helped to build capacity in the education sector within local communities.
After the war, schools were required by law to establish functional school boards, but most schools were unable to mobilize parents and communities and to establish a board, which limited their capacity to efficiently and effectively manage themselves and to provide high quality education for children.
World Bank assistance provided schools not only with the grants, but also with training on school-based planning and management, strengthening the role of school boards, and participation of municipalities in the school grant selection process. Local communities participated in the grants program through co-funding and design-preparation.
"Parents were so satisfied that, after understanding how beneficial all the equipment was, they decided to contribute by paying for the construction of cabinets in the school," says Hamdi Rrafshi, the Principle of the school in Duhle village.
Officials involved in the project assess that about 60 percent of the schools which received these grants are now able to produce a school development plan on their own. As a result of strong appreciation for the School Development Grant activities among schools, parents, and communities, the government has included the program as one of the priority areas in the new Strategy for the Development of Pre-University Education in Kosovo: 2007-2017.
The World Bank is continuing its support for the education sector in Kosovo through a US $10 million grant for the ongoing Institutional Development for Education Project (IDEP). This project, too, has a School Development Grants component. In total, 240 schools (195 primary and 45 secondary) will receive these grants and the Project will continue targeting schools with a high proportion of students from minority groups and poor families, low retention and attendance rates among girls, the poor and ethnic minorities, and poor physical conditions. IDEP is scheduled to be completed by the second half of 2012.