The two children, a boy and a girl, of 31-year-old Kumanovo resident Jennifer Asanovska have gone to a Kumanovo kindergarten over the past few years. She has therefore had time to dedicate herself to her personal development by enrolling at the Business and Administration Department of the Tetovo State University. She says that her children have been taken care of, have received education and have thus been prepared to enroll at primary school, while she has had enough time for herself. This is why she has decided to enroll at a faculty and then, once she completes her university education, to find an appropriate job.
“I can say that I felt secure when my children went to the kindergarten for a few hours. My daughter started going to the kindergarten at the age of three, while my boy at the age of five. They fitted in perfectly, although my daughter managed to fit in much sooner than my son. However, they both learned to speak Macedonian, which is a real advantage, and they acquired certain hygienic habits and learned some seemingly trivial things, such as cleaning up the table, folding their clothes and the like,” the young mother explains.
She advises the mothers of the Roma community to enroll their children at the kindergarten because children become socialized in this manner and because this is very effective for their future education and general interaction with the other children.
“The benefits for the mothers are even greater because they have more free time that they can use to find a job or those who are already employed can focus on building a career or upgrading their education,” Asanovska adds.
Some of the parents enroll their children through the project “Roma’s Inclusion in Preschool”. The parents pay 1,500 denars per month and this sum covers the children’s accommodation, two meals and two snacks.
One of the employees to be the first to get in touch with the Roma children is kindergarten teacher assistant Aneta Demirovska. She explains that she helps the new children pass the initial adaptation stage more easily.
“We have children who fit in immediately, but there are such who need some time to adjust. Because they speak only the Roma language, they most often contact only me. However, we have fun and they associate, laugh and sometimes cry,” Demirovka says.
She explains that the mothers need help when raising a family. She appeals to the Roma mothers to enroll their children at the kindergarten.
“This is excellent for the entire family. The mothers are certain that their children are taken care of, while they have the opportunity to work without being preoccupied with them,” Demirovska adds.
Both mother Asanovska and teacher assistant Demirovska, as well as the other kindergarten personnel, say that the Roma children have not been discriminated against so far.
“At this stage, the only segregation is that in terms of gender, that is, boys associate with boys, while girls associate with girls,” Demirovska explains.
Kumanovo kindergarten psychologist Lidija Nikolovska Georgievska encourages the mothers to be more patient the first few days they leave their children in the kindergarten.
“Every child has a special character and reacts differently to a new environment. However, the important thing is for the partners and the other family members to be unanimous and leave the children in the kindergarten,” Nikolovska Georgievska explains.
There have been cases of certain family members exerting pressure on the parents not to take the children to the kindergarten, despite their wish to do so. These are usually grandparents in traditional families who do not allow other people outside the family to take care of their grandchildren, which indirectly prevents the mothers from finding a job or advancing because they have to bear the brunt of the children’s upbringing. There are such examples in the other ethnic communities, too, not only in the Roma community.
“However, it is the parents who have the final say in terms of their decision to enroll their children at a kindergarten,” the psychologist adds.
The Roma children are separated into groups depending on their age. In cooperation with the kindergartens, the Labor and Social Policy Ministry has created a number of projects for the vulnerable categories, that is, mothers from the Roma community who are illiterate, so they jointly work on reading picture books. Kumanovo kindergarten “Angel Shajche” manager Marina Aleksovska explains that the project called “Roma’s Inclusion in Preschool” has been going on for more than 15 years and has yielded results. She says that around 30 children enroll at the kindergarten through this project on an annual basis. There are also parents of the Roma ethnic community who bring their children to the kindergarten but are not related to this project.
“We all know how important it is to enroll children at the kindergarten, first, because of their socialization, second, because they have warm meals suitable for their age and also because they associate with other children, which is especially important when going to primary school. I would like to call on the parents to enroll their children at this institution on time,” Aleksovska says.
The kindergarten comprises six facilities, but these are still insufficient. The interest of the Kumanovo parents to take their children to the six objects of the “Angel Shajche” kindergarten in Kumanovo is much bigger than the available capacity for children accommodation. Hence, in order to meet the parents’ demands, the councilors of the Town Hall Council have decided to expand the kindergarten facilities so that a larger number of children can attend next year. The manager has informed that the deadline for the enrolments this year expired on 15 June and that they have received 500 applications thus far.
“The number of applications rises on a daily basis, so we cannot say how many children will be admitted until September. We have no sufficient room,” Aleksovska says.
The maximum capacity of accommodating 1,044 children has been a problem for years. According to the kindergarten data, there are 1,804 children.in the six facilities and the two daycare centers for early childhood development at the “11 Oktomvri” primary school, where most of the Roma children are enrolled, and in the regional school “Hristijan Karposh” in the Igo Trichkovikj district.
“I do hope that the government will show understanding for this problem and meet our needs by readjusting, completing or building a new kindergarten at the venues that will be suitable for the users of our services,” Aleksovska says.
The local self-government and the Labor and Social Policy Ministry have been informed of the problem with the insufficient capacity for children accommodation in the kindergarten. Kumanovo is one of the rare Macedonian municipalities with a constant rise in the birth rate. The Labor and Social Policy Ministry officials have noted that they are informed of the shortage of space in the Kumanovo kindergartens. Labor and Social Policy Minister Mila Carovska said during her recent visit to Kumanovo that they plan to reconstruct an object.
“An existing object in Kumanovo is planned to be reconstructed, whereby more room will be provided for the children enrolled at the Kumanovo kindergarten ‘Angel Shajche.’ You will be informed of this soon, but the public procurement plan does envision the reconstruction of an existing Kumanovo facility. You, the media, will receive additional information on this matter, although agreements have already been signed and incorporated in the public procurement plan and they are under way,” Carovska stated.
According to the initial information, the former Pioneers House in central Kumanovo may be reconstructed for this purpose. The parents, especially the mothers, welcome this project. The children will be safe, while their mothers will have the chance to progress. Roma mothers, such as Asanovska, who have decided to enroll their children at the kindergarten and prosper are a positive example of how to use the services provided by the state institutions in support of the mothers from marginalized groups.