On 03.10.2010 in Strumica, the Executive Director of NDC Skopje, Mr. Saso Stojkovski and Mr. Zoran Zaev, Mayor of Strumica have signed an “Agreement for cooperation” for the project “Integrated bilingual primary school” – a project that will be realized in the next three years within the municipal primary school “Marsal Tito” in Strumica.

The project includes two classes, i.e. 33 students (Macedonians and Turks) enrolled in first grade this academic year, their parents and the teachers from the regular and informal lectures.

With this project, Macedonia got its second primary integrated and bilingual school, in which for the first time the integrated lectures will be realized bilingually, in Macedonian and Turkish. The project has been financially supported by Strumica Municipality and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom Norway – through Nansen Dialogue Center Skopje.

The official ceremony for opening of the project has been attended by Mr. Abdullaqim Ademi – Vice President of the Government of Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Nikola Todorov – Minister for Education and Science, Mr. Baskar Herman – representative of the Norwegian Embassy in Macedonia, Mr. Steinar Bryn – Director of the Nansen Network on the Balkans, parents of the students, representatives of Strumica Municipality and NDC Skopje, as well as by part of the professors from the Integrated secondary school in Jegunovce Municipality.

This school is the oldest one in Strumica and exists since 1925, it has always been multiethnic and it: “When you want and can do something, the religious and language barriers do not exist, and when you invest in the education of the children, the result is always positive” – said Ms. Snezana Koleva, Director of OOU “Marsal Tito” in Strumica.

After the addressing of the Director, the students have presented a short performance which has thrilled the audience.

“The beginning of the project makes me particularly happy and I am a big optimist that the project in this school will succeed because of the following specific reasons: The projects for integrated and bilingual education which are being realized by NDC Skopje three years already in Jegunovce Municipality, have been recognized by the Management of this school and Strumica Municipality, so this is how the initiative for the beginning of this project in this school has started; the realization of this project will be financially supported by Strumica Municipality and the especially important thing was the motivation, the desire and the excitement of the school staff and the parents of the students, who were eagerly waiting for the day when this project will begin. Dear teachers, although we are talking about a project, such projects are something new in Macedonia and of particular significance for NDC Skopje, the school, Strumica Municipality and Macedonia” – said Saso Stojkovski in his speech.

“Does it really matter that some speak this language, others speak another language? Does it matter that some are celebrating Christmas and Easter and others are celebrating Kurban and Ramazan Bayram? Does it matter that somebody’s names are Stefan, Nadica, Zoran, Ljubica, Ilija and Elena, whereas others are named Jonus, Orhan, Gjuldzan, Xhelal or Umut? Their common denominator is “children” or “students” who through this project will show and prove that opposites attract. I am convinced that the Municipal primary school “Marsal Tito” will be a good example also for the other similar schools in Macedonia and Strumica Municipality will be proud that in the project of Nansen Dialogue Center has recognized positive energy which gives the desired benefits. Hoping that this first step will be an introduction in walking on long tracks, I wish for the students and their parents at the end to honestly say that it “многу е добар” and “cok guzel” – said the Mayor of Strumica Municipality, Zoran Zaev.

“In order for Strumica to function as a multiethnic municipality, in order for Macedonia to function as a multiethnic country, in order for whole Europe to function as a multiethnic society, we need a multiethnic dialogue and this project offers exactly that. Fridtjof Nansen – the Nobel Prize Winner for Peace had the idea to reach the North Pole by Nordic skiing. Everybody told him it was impossible! But his answer was that nothing is impossible, just that the impossible needed more time! This is my first visit to Strumica and through it, Europe has become bigger and more realistic for me. Europe is not a concept, Europe is not an idea, Europe is a place where we all live together and where all of us could learn from each other” – said Steinar Bryn, Director of the Nansen Network on the Balkans.

“The school, the employees and the parents here in Strumica may represent a symbol of what can be achieved if we realize that the ethnic groups should work together in order for us to have a better future. All of you are giving a good example for other multiethnic municipalities, through the support that you give to this project for his continuance and maintenance. As you already know, Norway is already supporting one integrated primary school in Macedonia and Norway is very satisfied with the work of Nansen Dialogue Center. We hope that they will make success here, as well, said Mr. Baskar Herman – representative of the Norwegian Embassy in Macedonia.

The Minister for Education, Nikola Todorov, has also emphasized the importance of this project and its achievements. “I am convinced that the realization of this project, whose goals are to overcome stereotypes and the barriers of the children related to their ethnic and cultural background, to intensify the constructive collaborative relations between the children from different ethnic communities, as well as a tolerant relation towards differences of social, ethnic and cultural character, will be a solid basis for successful implementation of the Strategy for integrated education, adopted by the Government of Republic of Macedonia. We are strongly supporting this concept of integrated education and this concept should not exclude anyone – on the contrary, it should unite and should make it possible to get a higher level of integrated society. That is one of the key preconditions for building a successful multicultural and functional democracy in Republic of Macedonia” – said Minister Nikola Todorov.

“I have accepted the invitation for promotion of the second successful project for integrated bilingual primary school in Macedonia with pleasure, a project in which I have been directly involved in Jegunovce Municipality. The experience is showing that the use of dialogue, including of the parents, teachers and the local government are very important components for a successful realization of the project. Recently, the Government of Republic of Macedonia has adopted the Strategy for integrated education, in which the main goal is to give contribution through five components to the joint studying of the students from different ethnic communities, to have joint regular and extracurricular activities, to include all educational institutions in order to have an integrated education which will eliminate prejudices that are being created in the education, better integration and cohesion in Republic of Macedonia” – said the Vice President of the Government of Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Abdullaqim Ademi.

At the end of the official ceremony, the present guests have visited the newly equipped classroom in the school where the project for integrated and bilingual teaching will be realized. NDC Skopje and Strumica Municipality believe that the project will be a successful example in this part of Macedonia and that the number of students who will participate in this project will increase in the next years.

For more photos, click here.