Completed projects

Construction of a Kindergarten for Roma Children


Mon – 32  Construction of a kindergarten for Roma children


German Foreign Ministry


November 2004 until February 2005 :: € 207.000


Montenegro has become a place of asylum for refugees and displaced persons since the beginning of the collapse of the state of Yugoslavia in 1990. At times some 20% of people living in Montenegro were either refugees or IDPs. The smallest and poorest of the former Yugoslav republics could not bare the cost of accommodating this caseload on its own. Presently there are still some 8.000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia as well as another 18.000 displaced persons from Kosovo living in Montenegro . 90% of them are of Serbian origin. Under the prevailing circumstances in Kosovo return is not feasible and it is commonly understood that hardly anyone will ever return. Hence, both refugees and displaced persons are undertaking efforts to integrate into the Montenegrin society which appears to be the most likely durable solution for the bulk of them.

The situation of the displaced Roma population is particularly problematic. According to the Commissariat for displaced Persons there were 5.840 Roma among the originally 30.000 persons who had come to Montenegro from Kosovo. Approximately 67% of the Roma settled in the center of the country, mainly in Podgorica, were other members of their ethnic minority were already living. They live mainly under miserable conditions in camps on the periphery of towns. Most of the non-local Roma (93.2%) dispose of the required documentation for refugees and displaced persons. 67.7% of them have the intention to submit a request for Montenegrin citizenship. Therefore integration into the Montenegrin society is the long term solution most wanted by the displaced Roma. However, given the historic and still prevalent attitude of the local population as well as of local authorities towards members of this ethnic minority integration still has a long way to go.

Lack of education is one of the key problems of Roma in Montenegro . More than half of heads of households of displaced Roma does have no or incomplete school education. Most Roma children do not go to school (92.9% according to a study published by the United Nations Development Programme in 2003). There is no problem of legal access to local schools for the Roma children! Many Roma say they cannot afford sending their children to school (37.6%) or they simply lack the motivation to do so (30.9%). Women have no education of formal training for jobs. In the camps Konik I and Konik II in Podgorica there are no women with any kind of formal (or informal) professional training. Women are considered human beings with very few rights and many obligations!

Most Roma children do not attend a kindergarten and can therefore not be prepared for the requirements of regular school attendance. However, programmes directly targeting these children have produced excellent results. The number of Roma children in one kindergarten doubled and many more were interested to go to a kindergarten. Unfortunately the capacities of these kindergartens were limited and they could not accept more children. Such programmes are important as they make parents aware of the importance of preschool education for the primary and secondary school education.

Project description

In the poorest of Podgorica’s city quarters, Konik, HELP will build a kindergarten with a capacity of up to 100 children. The kindergarten (approx. 300 m2) will be open for children from the collective centers Konik I and Konik II and of course also for the children from this suburb. Konik I is the largest camp for displaced Roma in Montenegro ; it was built in 1999 on 34.000 m2 land provided by the municipality of Podgorica . Today there live 253 families with some 1.400 family members, among them more than 300 children und the age of six. Konik is the poorest suburb and borders the large city dump that is in urgent need of sanitation. The two camps are located in the immediate vicinity of the dumpsite. Apart from the displaced Roma, socially weak and poor Bosniaks and Serbs inhabit this area. Konik II is somewhat smaller and hosts 61 families with 340 family members, among them 90 children under the age of six. All residents of Konik II are displaced Roma.

The new kindergarten in Konik will play an important role in the education of the Roma as well as for their integration into the Montenegrin society. Without adequate education the chances of the Roma for a job and social and economic integration remain rather limited. They will remain at the edge of society without hope for improvement of their fate.

The Montenegrin Ministry of Science and Education has adopted the policy that all children have the same rights for education regardless of their social status, religion of ethnic background. The Ministry is ready to actively promote the integration of Roma children into the official education system of Montenegro .

Upon completion the kindergarten will be handed over to the Ministry of Science and Education which will provide the staff and operational costs.

The municipality of Podgorica has provided a building plot for the kindergarten. It must be noted here that until recently the Montenegrin society as well as the local authorities were not very much inclined to engage themselves for the needs of the displaced Roma. The specific problematic of displaced Roma has been ignored by most local authorities (and mostly this is still the case) and it was left to international aid organizations to deal with this particular group. Hence, the readiness of the mayor of Podgorica to participate in this project which will mainly benefit the Roma can be considered as outstanding. In the past efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner’s office for refugees (UNHCR) for improving the living conditions of displaced Roma often failed due to the rigid position and rejection of local authorities.

The cooperation of the municipality of Podgorica is therefore one of the decisive reasons for selecting the project location. The successful realization of this project should have positive effects on the attitude of other municipalities towards the displaced Roma.

The kindergarten is being built in the immediate vicinity of the “German House II” that HELP is presently constructing. This building will comprise 24 apartments, 22 of them for displaced Roma families from Kosovo and 2 of them for local Roma families.

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