It was an uplifting experience yesterday to visit the Central Trades School (Srednja Zanatska Škola) in the Belgrade suburb of Rakovica. The school is a government initiative that focuses on social rehabilitation and job training for vulnerable students in the Belgrade metropolitan area. Single mothers, refugees, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, Roma children, etc. are the target population. Most of the students are from ages 17-20 and include about 30% Roma.
The school was hosting a school year culminating fair, called, “We Can Overcome the Boundaries Together.” There were food stands, music and dance performances, judo exhibitions, craft bazaar, etc. I toured the school and met with the teachers and students. I was invited as the representative of the International School of Belgrade. This year our students through the Community Action and Service Program at our school have been regularly working with the severe special needs students in the garden and green house program of the school. The idea stemmed from one of our students, whose parents through their work in the diplomatic community, became aware of the school.
The school’s goal is to train and find job for their students. To that end, they have working auto mechanic garages, welding workshops, beauty salons, and even a small restaurant. Students also do internships with local businesses to help them make the transition into employment. An article in the Studio B web site stated that 40% of their students find jobs.
It is nice that the Serbian government supports these kinds of schools. A society can be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable members. I was also impressed with the positive spirit of the students and teachers and especially, the dedication of the faculty. Everyone I met was very dedicated to students and felt good about making a difference