School in Serbia: What parents should know

School in Serbia started September 1, but it's not too late for you to enroll your children! You can enroll at any time in the school year.

Who can go to school in Serbia?

Every asylum-seeker between the ages of 7 and 14 has a right to primary education and is eligible to go to school in Serbia.

Around 650 refugee children will be enrolled in Serbian schools this fall, according to Unicef. Last year, about 200 enrolled.

If you are in one of the transit centers in the north of the country (Subotica, Sombor or Kikinda), your children will not go to school. Instead, teachers will come to your camp.

Educational activities in Subotica Transit Center.

How do I enroll?

Parents should submit an application for enrollment to the school.

If you are under 18 and traveling alone, your temporary guardian, a social worker, should submit the application.

The school should respond within 5 working days. If the school where you apply can't admit you, another school will take you. You will get a notification telling you which school to attend.

Do I need to bring anything with me to enroll?

Yes. You must have a health certificate. You can get a health certificate by taking your child for a free exam from a pediatrician at the nearest health center.

Ask the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, Unicef or other aid workers at your camp to help you make an appointment and find the health center.

What happens during the medical exam?

The medical exam includes height and weight measurements, hearing and eye tests, dental examination, and blood and urine tests. The health center will also check if your child is vaccinated against certain diseases.

Can anyone help me enroll?

In the school year 2017-2018, the Commissariat organized enrollment for primary school-aged children in camps. If you missed the organized enrollment, you can still enroll your child individually.

Ask the Commissariat at your camp for more information.

Photo BIRN: Refugee girls sit in a classroom in Jovan Ristić School in Belgrade's Borča neighborhood.

How much does school cost?

You will not have to pay for primary school or supplies.

Unicef has provided backpacks, basic school supplies, and other support to schools to help refugees attend for free.

Which class will my children join?

Your children will undergo an evaluation to determine the skills and knowledge they already have. School officials will also record your children's language skills and interests.

Parents and legal guardians, as well as any educators who worked with your children before, will also be involved in the evaluation. An interpreter will be there to help.

School officials will use the evaluation to develop a "student support plan" for each child, at least for the first month.

The school staff will place your children in the most appropriate class for their age.

Photo DPA: Refugee children file toward their classrooms.

Will my children start regular classes right away?

When children start school, they get 2 weeks to 2 months to adapt.

During this preparatory period, children attend regular classes but don't have to meet the same requirements as the other students.

How do children get to school?

The Commissariat, together with the government and few international partners, provides transportation from camps to schools.

Organizing bus transportation can be challenging, and it isn't available everywhere yet.

Which language will students use at school?

Students learn and communicate in Serbian at school. They will get the chance to practice it a lot.

Their teachers and peers will also help them learn the language and keep up with the lessons.

Will my children get a chance to practice our mother tongue?

Not at school. But in some camps, the Commissariat and some organizations hold classes where your kids can learn and practice your mother tongue.

Serbian language class at ADRA Community Center in Borča.

Will my children make friends with local students?

Your children will be in classes with local students, both boys and girls. They will work, learn and play together. They will get a chance to get to know each other and make friends.

Do children need to go to school each day?

Children need to go to school regularly. Note: There is no school on weekends, except in exceptional cases, or on national and religious holidays.

Will students receive a certificate at the end of the school year?

Yes. Children receive a certificate when they finish the school year. If your children leave school before the year is finished, they will receive a school report in Serbian and English.

Photo Novosti: Refugee children in primary school in Belgrade.

What about secondary school students?

Children between 14 and 18 years old, who have previous education can go to technical school or high school in Serbia.

However, there is no organized secondary school enrollment initiative. If you wish to enroll your child in secondary school, seek help from the Commissariat, UNICEF or other aid workers at your camp.

How is this school year different than last year?

This year, the government is involved in the enrollment initiative, and there is a plan and program for refugee children’s education.

The government is also trying to provide better transportation between the camps and schools.

Around 500 teachers were trained to help the children adapt.

Could my children face discrimination?

Schools in Serbia try to be inclusive, but discrimination still happens. Some local parents still protest against having to send their children to school with children from refugee camps — especially in Šid and Bogovađa.

If your children have a problem at school, contact school staff or send us a message on Facebook. We will help you file a complaint.

Photo Pixabay: Children at a school.

Why should children go to school, anyway?

An average refugee family waits 8 to 9 months in Serbia until they can move on.

Children can use this time to learn, gain experiences, meet local children and prepare for the future.

Here is a video about children in Serbia without their families going to school.