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Volume 7, No. 3WINTER 2004

‘Window to the world’ opens up
for children in Serbia, Bosnia

By Nenad Prelevic, IOCC-Serbia and Montenegro

Serbian school children from the village of Badnjevac gather around a computer recently installed as part of an information technology project by IOCC. The “Connecting Kids” project fosters exchanges between children in Serbia and Bosnia, and incorporates computers into their curriculum. Photo: Nikola Culic-IOCC

Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro (IOCC) — The excitement at St. Sava School in the village of Badnjevac was palpable. A feeling of expectation was in the air as the teacher rang a bell to gather the children.

It could have been a scene from another century, except for one thing. Inside the school, brand new computers awaited the students — a “window to the world” for children isolated by years of war, sanctions and economic uncertainty in their home country of Serbia-Montenegro.

An IOCC computer project in partnership with the Vlade Divac Group 7 Children’s Foundation is establishing Internet connections across the once-hostile borders of the former Yugoslavia.

The “Connecting Kids” project is introducing information technology to nine rural and suburban schools in Serbia and incorporating it into the curriculum. Through the pilot project, IOCC is providing computer equipment and training to participating schools, as well as creating a network to connect children and allow them to communicate with each other.

IOCC is establishing a similar network in eight schools in Bosnia-Herzegovina, offering the same assistance and bringing children together throughout the region. The goal of “Connecting Kids” is to facilitate dialogue between schools and young people in Bosnia and Serbia, using modern technology as a tool.

“I have a computer at home,” said Nemanja, an eighth-grader at “Ljubomir-Ljuba Nenadovic” School in the village of Ranilovic, “but there is nobody to teach me how to use it for anything other than computer games. These classes help me to learn how to operate different kinds of programs.”

A variety of activities are being organized to foster healthy, civil exchanges, including an interactive Web site, discussion forums, e-learning and technical assistance.

Serbian school girls learn how to use a computer newly installed as part of IOCC’s “Connecting Kids” project. Photo: Nikola Culic-IOCC

“The teacher helped us a lot,” said Sanja, a seventh-grader at “St. Sava” School in Badnjevac. “She taught us many things, such as how to connect to a Web site. I didn’t know any of these things before. My English is also improving.”

In the spring of 2005, IOCC plans to host the first-ever competitive School Fair between the participating network schools. Young people from Bosnia and Serbia will have a chance to compete against each other on educational games and quizzes and to make a presentation about their schools and communities.

IOCC hopes that with the Internet connection comes new interpersonal connections — that these encounters will promote partnerships and friendships between the young people, teachers and school officials and become an annual event.

All the participating communities have responded positively so far, providing support for the project as they are able. Parents see the chance for their children to do new things and to learn something other than handcrafts, which is what rural children usually do.

“It hurts me as an educator that our children in rural areas are deprived of possibilities to build a foundation for a better future,” said St. Sava Principal Zorica Milojevic. “Through ‘Connecting Kids,’ children have a chance for a better education. They have discovered that the Internet is a window to the world.”

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