Bogovadja: From asylum to the classroom

On Wednesday, January the 16th, for the first time in Serbia, the children asylum seekers from Bogovadja started to go to school. Jamal and Saleh are the twins from Somalia who became pupils of the first grade in the local elementary school in Bogovadja.

Two new school friends were greeted with joy among the other pupils of the school in Bogovadja.

After the winter break, on Wednesday, pupils of the mixed classes of the first and third grade of primary school in Bogovadja were awaited by a double surprise - they got a new teacher and two classmates. Twelve years old twins, Jamal and Saleh, from Mogadishu in Somalia, are the children asylum seekers who started to attend school in Serbia.

Arrival of these two new pupils has made all the other pupils very excited in Bogovadja school, which is the external department of elementary school "Mile Dubljevic" from Lajkovac. Two youngsters, who came in Serbia with their parents and two younger sisters seeking safety from war and hardship in the distant African country, were warmly welcomed by the classmates, the teachers, and their new teacher Ana Zivkovic, who had her first day at work as well.

- Children, I am your new teacher - said Ana Zivkovic. - These are your new classmates. I hope we get along well, and we'll all try to make them feel good with us.

Pupils of the third grade brought school desk and chairs for their new friends. The first day of school was spent for pupils in getting acquaintes with a new teacher and Jamal and Saleh, who, as it turned out, already knew other pupils because they had often played football together on the rural fields of Bogovadja.

- One year has passed since we came here and started to learn Serbian - Jamal and Saleh said. - First, we learned the names of all the candies and sweets, so that we could buy them at the store. My brother and I, we love football a lot and we are big fans of the Red Star football club.

On the school desk of Jamal and Saleh there are neatly arranged pencil-boxes, notebooks and pencils, which were provided for them by the Asylum Protection Center. Alphabeth book and the other books will be soon provided by the school in Bogovadja. When pupil, whose name is Gabriel and who sits in the school desk in front of twins, noticed that they have notebooks without lines, he ripped out two sheets of paper with lines and gave it to them.

- You cannot write nice vertical and slashes when there is no line - he explained.

On Wednesday, which was their first school day, Jamal and Saleh surprised their teacher. When she started to show them first Cyrillic letters she found out that they had already know them all. They told her that they had learned it from the security guards and people working in the administration in the asylum center in Bogovadja.

People who work in the asylum centre in Bogovadja have been, as they say, a bit surprised when two youngsters suddenly started to speak Serbian. They spoke English fluently and their Serbian was very good, given in mind that they have learned it spontaneously, through discussion with the staff of the asylum centre. Although they are twelve years old, Jamal and Saleh have just started to go to the first grade in the first grade.

- This is the first case in Serbia that the children asylum seekers have started school and one of the requirements for them is to understand our language - says Rados Djurovic of the Asylum Protection Center.

- All children who are in the asylum process should have a primary or secondary education, although it is difficult, due to language.

Parents of Jamal and Saleh are uneducated, but they wanted their children to go to school.

Four of other children who are residing in the asylum centre in Bogovadja, as R. Djurovic says, may soon start as well to go to school. However, they do not know Serbian so well as Jamal and Saleh.

The word about arrival of the new pupils in the school has been already spread at the first school break and almost all of the other pupils have flocked to see Jamal and Saleh.

- The twins are very bright and communicative and they have been very eager to go to school, their impatience knew no bounds –R. Djurovic said and then added that it took them only five months to begin to speak Serbian. -The only problem that thay had was with case grammars, but they can understand all and if necessary even do translations at the Asylum Center.

- They speak Serbian very well - said the surprised pupils of the fourth grade, which is the oldest grade in the school - Great, we'll have a backup in football!, fourth grade pipils shouted.

As we find out, the family of twins plans to find a home in the northern Europe, probably in Sweden or Norway, where most of the refugees from Somalia were granted asylum.

While they are in Serbia, Jamal and Saleh will socialize with the children in Bogovadja.

- We would like to stay here, it is a beautiful place and we have a lot of friends - say the twins while they are rushing to the class with the other pupils, because the school bell signaled the end of a small break.

B. Puzovic, Novosti, January 17, 2013.

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