How Serbian children are discriminated … in Serbia

White plague and immigration ravaged schools and villages in many municipalities of Serbia. There are more and more half-empty classrooms, and in many villages the number of students from the first to the fourth grade ranges from one to ten.

This is also the case in two Resava municipalities, district of Branicevo, villages around Negotin and other settlements in Serbia which have large diaspora. Villages are getting older, number of their residents is decreasing, and schools face shutdown, writes “Vecernje Novosti”. At the same time, in Western Europe number of students from Serbia is increasing from year to year. There is no valid information on how many children originating from Serbia today attends Austrian, Swiss, German or French schools. Certainly, their number is not small. No one knows the number of those who were successful students at universities of European cities, and today are respected experts. They live and work in their new country. During a visit to the village of Vojska, a journalist from “Vecernje Novosti” met with Srdjan Petronijevic, who lives in Vienna with his five children. “As far as I know, there are a few countries in Europe such as Serbia, who do not plan their future with childbearing, or they do not stimulate the birthrate with appropriate aid. It is simply unbelievable that here parents are not eligible for this type of aid for the third, fourth or some subsequent child. Such planning makes us face a demographic collapse, empty classrooms, disappearance of villages,” Petronijevic said.

Serbs are the oldest nation in Europe in terms of the average age of the population, and the statistical data indicate that women give birth to 1.4 children on average, while the average number of abortions is 2.8, the participants of a meeting entitled Protection of Motherhood in Serbia said on August 19. At the same time number of births in 2013 in Serbia was 65,554, while the number of deaths was almost twice as high – 100,300, so the trend of negative natural increase continues, said Republic Department for Statistics (RZS). Serbia loses 30,000 people every year. Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Issues Aleksandar Vulin stressed that the demographic data were frightening and that all the ministries and non-governmental organisations had to get involved in order to change that image. “We will all get involved and work to change these data. It is not just about the economy. It is frightening that women in Serbia have more abortions than births,” he underscored. According to Minister Vulin, we can conclude that he does not live in Serbia. First things first. Marko Dj. from Belgrade has graduated in Marketing from High Business School in Belgrade. He is 29 years old, lives with his mother in a one-bedroom apartment in Belgrade and does not have a permanent job. He has been dating his girlfriend Jovana for almost 6 years. She is about to graduate at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade. They plan to get married, have children, but the problem are finances, for which Minister Vulin claims that “they are not the only problem”. “I get up at 4 a.m, a colleague picks me up at 4:30 and drives me to work. By 2 p.m. we transport fruit and vegetables throughout the city, load, unload it. My salary is 25,000 dinars ($279), what future is there for me to think about? Not even this job is permanent, but I do not have another one. I send my CV regularly, I track job ads, the same ads repeat over and over again, there is no use,” said Marko. “I hope that Jovana, when she finishes the faculty, will be able to find a job in Moscow, or anywhere else in Russia, so that we can move there. We tried everything, but I don’t see a future here anymore,” said Marko. To illustrate Marko’s salary, I will tell you that he can buy 12 packages of “Pampers” diapers or 125 packs of Durex condoms. That is how much his monthly work is worth. And Marko is just one of tens of thousands of young people in Serbia with the same problem. Petar T. graduated from the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade. He worked in a private firm that dealt with maintenance of sewer drains, as a technician in the field. Yes, his hands were dirty. He was fired because he was “redundant”. He currently does not have a girlfriend and works in a travel agency, selling airline tickets for a salary of 30,000 dinars ($335). His brother recently left to South Africa at an invitation by a friend. Petar hopes that soon he will be able to follow his brother’s footsteps. “I have sent my CV to numerous addresses – nothing. There are no jobs in Serbia, I can’t even remember when there was. It is good I managed to find this. When the salary comes and I pay everything that has to be paid, I don’t have enough money even for a pint of beer when I go out in the evening,” said Petar. Marko, Petar and thousands of other people have one thing in common – They all want to leave Serbia, find a job abroad and only then have children. Who dares to ask “Why?”

Тhе number of the unemployed in Serbia totaled 778,577 people on May 31 this year, putting the registered jobless rate at 29.53 percent, according to the National Employment Service’s data. However, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt because there is a large number of those who do not work but they are not registered at the Bureau for Employment, because the Bureau in Serbia practically can not help in finding a job – because there are no jobs. It should also be noted that, according to unofficial information, close to 800,000 people in Serbia receives salary from the state budget, with many of them employed in various government agencies, mostly opened with only one purpose: to employ fellow party members or aunts, uncles, nieces, sisters, brothers, mothers, …. As we learned recently, no one in the Government of Serbia has the exact information how many agencies the Government has, but it is estimated that there is “about a 100 of them”. Now, one can say that the average salary in July in Serbia was RSD 45,216 ($506), but this number should also be taken with a grain of salt, because the situation “on the ground” tells an entire different story, which is very well known by those who live in Serbia. It is already well known that there are no jobs in Serbia and that salaries are extremely low, but what is less known is that those who dared to have children in Serbia are discriminated by the state, against its own laws.

Since I am a parent of a child who is now going to pre-school, going through the whole cycle, I came to some interesting information for which I asked clarification, but none of the official institutions cared to answer. Not the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, nor institutions of the city of Belgrade, not even the Government of Serbia press service. I should note that those who were supposed to answer my questions are those above-mentioned, who receive their salaries from the state budget, and thanks to whom the statistics of the average salary in Serbia shows unrealistically high numbers. Before I duly requested (and never received) answers from the institutions, I tried to get answers from the Director of PU “Bosko Buha” in Belgrade, who is responsible for the enrollment of children in pre-school in the municipality where I live. However, she refused to answer any question because “you journalists, you cannot just show up to the director’s office and start asking question”, “you did not officially schedule an appointment”, “directors have better things to do”, etc. I also tried to talk about this subject with social workers in the same institutions, who worked on the enrollment of children in pre-school, but they did not want to talk with me either once they heard who I am. Nevertheless, I did learn from social workers that THERE IS DISCRIMINATION of children – on the basis whether the parents are employed or not, that Roma children have greater rights (no matter if their parents are employed or not), and that in this way the Republic of Serbia violates its own law on pre-school education: “Equal rights and access to all forms of pre-school education, without discrimination on the basis of gender, social, cultural, ethnic, religious or any other affiliation, place of residence, or domicile, material or health status, difficulties and disabilities, as well as on other grounds, in accordance with the law”. For example, parents can not choose where their children will go to pre-school, although they are legally entitled and the law guarantees this right. In PU “Bosko Buha” I was explained that they distribute children where they see fit, taking into account: 1. Is the child from “vulnerable categories” such as Roma children; 2. Are the parents of the child employed (civil servants); 3. Are the parents of the child employed (private sector); 4. Order in which requests for enrollment were submitted.

The difference between the point 2 and 3 is that, at least as far as admission to kindergarten is concerned, and according to social worker who refused to tell her name, civil servants certainly have paid taxes and contributions to the state, while in private sector this does not have to be the case. I know from personal experience that my children or children of other unemployed parents were not able to enroll in kindergarten – “You are unemployed!”. Children of unemployed parents have no priority, “but fill the remaining places”. This is nowhere defined by the law – why children of employed parents have more rights than children of unemployed parents? I was also notified that I, as an unemployed parent, have the right to file a complaint and request that my child is transferred to another school, that I will wait 8 days for the answer and that my request will most likely be rejected because “they do not have a place”, “you cannot send your children to the school you want”, and most important of all – “what do you expect, you are unemployed“. So children of unemployed parents in Serbia are deprived of “education and involvement in the community; developing of the potential of the child as a prerequisite for the further development of the society and its progress”, as is nicely written in the laws of the Republic of Serbia. And yet another example of the great concern of the Republic of Serbia for its children: The Law of the Republic of Serbia says that “the Republic of Serbia will file a request for initiating criminal proceedings against the parent or guardian whose child is not enrolled in a timely manner, or who does not attend the pre-school program, no later than 15 days from when they were informed about it.” This is nothing strange, except for the fact that no one has announced the start or any details of the enrollment of children to pre-school – parents had to assume and inquire about it. The same situation happened after the enrollment was finished – no one informed parents if and where their child was enrolled. Or the need for children to go to a medical examination before the school begins. Nothing. Nowhere. To sum up: If you are not Roma, or you are not working for the Government of Serbia, your children have no “priorities”. Serbs are discriminated in Serbia, no jobs, low salaries, with the Government which does not respond to questions of journalists, social workers who do not want to present themselves, directors who have better things to do than talk to the press (or concerned parents) and empty desks in schools throughout Serbia. Maybe it is really about time that my three children leave Serbia, because how am I going to raise them when everything in this state is set upside-down. As Serbian Prime Minister Vucic said “EU has no alternative”. Now I understand. The last one who comes out, please turn off the lights.