Samanta Bajrami, freshman at the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management, University of Montenegro: Be ready to step towards your goal

"Be patient, without giving up, everything will pay off one day because you are building your future" - Samanta Bajrami would repeat to herself every time she was discouraged. She graduated from Vocational High School "Spasoje Raspopovic", majoring in garment technology, and minoring in hairdressing. She is a beneficiary of our mentoring support program - Increasing access and participation of Roma students in secondary education and the transition to the labor market funded by the European Union, and implemented through the Roma Education Fund.

During her schooling, Samanta did an internship in a hair salon, the Dress-press company for the production and sale of textile clothes, as well as in the Atelier of Marina Banovic-Dzuver. For her, traveling means living, so guided by that dream, she decided to continue her education and enrolled at the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management at the University of Montenegro. Her greatest support on the path to education is her mother, who always helps her with endless enthusiasm. Bajrami was our collaborator on the project New beginning for 500 students. She helped Roma families enroll their children in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. She participated in trainings, project activities, and the opportunity to motivate, strengthen her community, and send them an important message that means a lot to her. What Samantha says in addition to the above, read below.

Why did you choose Vocational High School and the profession of garment technician? Did you have an internship?

BAJRAMI: I wanted to study to be a hairdresser, but I didn't manage to position myself well on the ranking list. I was angry because I had a good GPA. After talking to the director, I decided to study garment technology because it lasts four years, and to take exams for a hairdresser extramurally. So in the end I have not just one, but two degrees. Considering that I attended two majors in parallel, there was a mandatory practical part, both in school and in the hair salon, then later in Dress-press for the production and sale of textile clothing, and also in the Atelier of Marina Banovic-Dzuver.

What memories do you have of high school? What was communication like with the students, the professors? Did you make friends from school that you hang out with after school?

BAJRAMI: Those were the most beautiful days. I have positive memories of school and the friendships I gained over those four years. There were only eight girls in the class and I had a friendly relationship with all of them, not only with the class but also with everyone from the school, the majority community. Of course, our friendship did not end in the yard, it continued even after half a day spent at school, it lasts even today. During that period, professors and classmates gave me a great incentive. They were there at any given moment, to help with learning, but also to advise on problems and various situations. I can only address them with one big thank you!

Did you have the support of a mentor? How did your mentor help you?

BAJRAMI: My mentor was Professor Snezana Lopicic. She always had answers to my questions and provided me with help when I needed it. She is one of the mentors who take good care of the student. I never felt she was having a different conversation with me compared to others.

How has the coronavirus affected you? Was it difficult to follow classes online during the first wave? Did you have the right devices?

BAJRAMI: I was very confused. In the beginning, we had groups on Viber where the professor informed us what we needed to learn. But as time went on, the situation became more serious. The time came for the final exams, and I didn’t have a laptop. I got some of the work done using my phone. Shortly afterward, thanks to the project of the NGO Young Roma, we were given tablets and internet cards so we could complete all of our school tasks.

You were our field associate for Podgorica when enrolling children in kindergartens and schools. Do you have data on how many children are enrolled in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools?

BAJRAMI: Since it was the first time I was able to help my community and earn pocket money, I thank you for the invitation and cooperation. Regarding the data for Podgorica, 32 students got enrolled in the first grade of secondary school, and 85 students in the first grade of primary school.

Was it difficult to complete the task? What were the biggest challenges?

BAJRAMI: It was a pleasure to be a part of the team, to be able to help. Being someone to motivate the community is a great achievement. I was a field associate for the first time. The expectations were realistic. There were families who curiously approached to ask for enrollment, but also those who thought that their child “was educated enough”, to which I reacted and tried to point out that they were wrong, and to explain to them that the situation is different nowadays. Roma high school students are provided with a scholarship of 60 euros per month, they have mentors who are in charge of helping them. High school is very important for their future, for finding a job. The parents were in doubt after these findings and agreed to enroll their children. Observing those families who agreed, I felt relieved and realized that there was an improvement for the Roma community. This experience was a big challenge for me. I hope some parents will change their minds about their children’s education.

You enrolled in the Faculty of Tourism. How do you think that the faculty will benefit you? What would you like to do after your studies? Where do you see yourself?

BAJRAMI: Traveling is something I’ve always dreamed of. To travel means to live. During and after graduating from this faculty, I will fulfill my dreams. After finishing my studies, I will strive to deal with tourism. Strive because I graduated from two schools that are also very different. I am sure I will benefit from one of them even after my studies, but my job will be in the field of tourism. I will get to know other countries, cultures, and languages, I will have the opportunity to do what I love.

Do your parents support you when it comes to education?

BAJRAMI: My mother is my biggest support. Full of enthusiasm, she encourages me at all times. When I run out of energy, I just remember the words she says to me: Flip through, read and learn now while you can, because the days, while you study, will make you a person who will build your own life in the future. Sentences like these motivate me to continue where I left off without giving up.

Tell us something about your family. How many members are there, are they employed, educated?

BAJRAMI: My parents are divorced, I live with my mother. Two sisters are married and my brother is married as well. Each of them has their children and their homes. One of the sisters has finished elementary school, the other has not finished high school, while the brother has.

Do you have a message, advice for your peers regarding education?

BAJRAMI: The sentence I always follow is Be patient, don't give up, everything will pay off one day, because Samanta, you are building your future! I give the same advice to my peers. Let them find themselves where they think they belong and let them walk towards the given goal as ready as possible. Without building yourself you are not a person!

What do you think about getting married early?

BAJRAMI: Three years ago, the Center for Roma Initiatives in Niksic organized a forum theater. I was invited to take part in that activity, and I accepted out of curiosity. I played a girl being dragged from school to marry her for a couple of bills. In those moments, I felt really bad. They agreed based on the amount of money, whether I had a boyfriend before, whether I know how to clean and cook... I listen to my father and brother oppose my words, silencing my mom who is sitting in a corner and crying. I felt like a lot of girls going through all this in reality. This is something that can revolt me at any moment, and to this day I am not clear about certain facts related to early marriage. How parents can deprive their child of childhood, schooling, life and give it to an unknown person to live somewhere abroad in their minor years. And precisely because of these situations, I warmly recommend my friends to get an education, because it is through education that they will learn that they also have the right to say no and to live a normal life!

Do you have a hobby? What are you doing in your free time?

BAJRAMI: In my free time, I do hairstyles on myself, my mother, sisters, and cousins. I consider it my hobby because through a hobby I can expand my knowledge, skills, and experience and establish contacts with other people. When I have at least three days off then my choice is to go somewhere and experience something new.

Interview conducted by: Milena Cavic, journalist, associate of the NGO Young Roma

The views expressed in this article can in no way be considered the views of the NGO Young Roma, the Roma Education Fund and the European Union

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