Cikatove e Vjeter, Kosovo — In this 2,000-person village, building a new school was a community-wide project. So when the new Deshmoret e Drenices Primary School celebrated its opening day October 2, hundreds showed up for the celebration featuring speeches, musical performances, dancing and singing.
Community involvement is an important aspect of education, Patricia Rader, director of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Kosovo mission, said at the school’s opening ceremony as students and adults alike waved Albanian, Kosovar and American flags. Rader was joined by Drenas Municipality Mayor Nexhat Dermaku and Kosovo’s deputy minister for education, Agim Hyseni.
The former Deshmoret e Drenices Primary School, built in 1969, had been in major disrepair. One of the five classrooms had so much mold in it that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology ordered it closed for health reasons. Outside the main building, the pre-school was being taught in a classroom built out of two converted shipping containers. The 256 students were so cramped they had to attend school in three shifts.
When the Drenas Municipality government asked USAID and the aid organization CHF International to help it repair the school, aid officials found the school was in such bad shape that it would be more cost-effective to build a new facility.
Construction began in spring 2009, with CHF International overseeing the design and construction process while the construction was completed by a local company. The building has six primary school classrooms, a separate area for pre-school students, a library, a multipurpose room, a teachers’ work room, teacher and student bathrooms and a principal’s office. With more space, the school likely will be able to reduce student attendance to two shifts. The school has new furniture, supplied by Kosovo’s Education Ministry.
USAID funded part of the project, but the municipality paid for more than half of the school. The community took an active role in the school construction and helped repair the schoolyard, said Dermaku, thanking citizens for their physical labor and their engagement.
“I am very happy that the community and the mayor were able to work with us and provide the majority of the finances for the school,” Rader said. “I congratulate the school, I congratulate the community … and I want the children to work hard, enjoy the school, take care of it.”
“Education is the single most important aspect for the future of Kosovo,” Rader said. The United States has proven that education opens doors for women and minorities, she said, noting that two recent examples of how education provides opportunities are the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and the election of Barack Obama.
This project is one of many examples in the decades of friendship between the United States and Albanians, Hyseni said. USAID and its partners have been working in Kosovo since 1999 and have invested about $18 million in education, about $600,000 of which has helped the Drenas Municipality.