Jewish Groups Repair, Manage Once-abandoned Kosovo Schools

Children are again learning in two Kosovo schools that were abandoned during the recent Balkan war, thanks to the efforts of two Jewish organizations.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the World ORT Union, the worldwide educational and training network, got the two schools functioning again. A total of 2,500 children, aged 6 to 14, are attending classes along with 1,200 adults who have registered for English courses.

As a result of the groups’ success in reopening the schools, Kosovar authorities have asked ORT to take over the management of all of its 14 schools in Pristina, Albania’s capital.

The success of the project is the result of hard work by Eli Eliezri, who represents both the JDC and ORT and has been in Kosovo since late June identifying projects to support the returning refugees.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he says, “But when I arrived, I found children hanging around the streets with no activities because no schools were operating.”

Eliezri soon found an empty school that had been closed for the past seven months and had not allowed Albanian children to attend for the past 10 years. The windows were broken and the building was dilapidated.

The head of Kosovo’s civil administration, Hashim Tachi, approved of the idea of ORT and JDC taking over the school, located just outside Pristina, and within days the former teachers were reappointed.

Eliezri also met with the administrator and teachers from another school in the southern Kosovar town of Prizrem, where the Serbs had evicted the teachers from the school.

Once the buildings are repaired, ORT plans to equip each of the schools with computer laboratories and provide teacher training.

In addition to computer studies, English will be taught using EnglishSpace, an ORT-developed multimedia program for teaching English as a foreign language.

The next phase will involve the deployment of ORT mobile training laboratories, with each self-contained unit equipped with a generator to enable students from remote villages to access computer classes and acquire vocational skills.

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