Zorica Jovic, pedagogue in the Secondary School of Economics Mirko Vesovic – Roma students in mentors have support and security

The students who are taken care of by Zorica Jovic, pedagogue and mentor in the Secondary School of Economics Mirko Vesovichave solutions to the problems they encounter, develop critical thinking, broaden their horizons and continue their journey as formed personalities. Some of them are students at the Faculty of Economics. According to our interlocutor, this important background that students receive from their mentors is crucial for continuing education and achieving good results. An important role is also played by parents who, in cooperation with mentors and teachers, can influence the empowerment of Roma students. We talked about experience, achievements, challenges, improving education. Read what we learned below. 

How is your job different from the job of a teacher, professor?

JOVIC: Both roles are complex and require continuous improvement. The difference is that mentoring requires commitment in monitoring developmental and school achievements for a particular student, timely information on all segments of growing up, development, behavior, learning and achievement, efficiency in solving all problems faced by the student. It is important to get information about all these segments and act accordingly.

Describe to us how one working day of a mentor and your work with students goes.

JOVIC: The working day is always different, depending on the problem, the period during the school year, the goal we set together etc. Instructive and advisory interviews are conducted with the student on a weekly basis, and all necessary information is prepared in advance (impressions and opinions of the teacher, the class teacher about the student, data on behavior and achievements for the previous week). Based on all the data and those obtained in the conversation with the student, I estimate which type of support will be most fruitful for him.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

JOVIC: There are many challenges that I face while performing the role of a mentor, and all of them refine and enrich the dynamics of work, my status, and the position of a pedagogue - psychologist at school. I am glad to be part of the process of increasing the number of Roma students covered by secondary education. Certainly, the biggest challenge is to use my knowledge, experience, and professional, dedicated work to help the students I mentor in solving the problems they encounter, to develop critical thinking, appropriate and acceptable forms of behavior, to achieve better achievements and become better people.

What are the prejudices that exist from students of the majority population to Roma students?

JOVIC: I believe that the workshops I do with all students on the topic Acceptance of diversity, the path to the development of a healthy personality contributed to the fact that my students from the Roma population did not encounter the prejudices of other students towards them in school circumstances. The practice so far indicates that most peers have realized that broadening their horizons and spiritual wealth is precisely in accepting diversity.

How do Roma students react to the news that they will get a mentor?

JOVIC: It would probably be the most reliable to ask students, but my experience and knowledge indicate that they are satisfied because they quickly realize that they have support, security, and understanding in overcoming all the difficulties and problems they encounter in school life.

Why is a mentor an important link in the education chain?

JOVIC: The question itself indicates that without the mentoring link, the education chain would be incomplete. The importance of mentoring is in a dedicated individualized approach to each student individually, in the determination of the individualized procedures, forms, and methods of work, which increases the effects and results of student work.

What are the difficulties that Roma students face in the education process and how do mentors help solve these problems?

JOVIC: Difficulties are numerous, different, and depend on many factors - age, a period during the school year, previous educational activities, habits, interests, capacities, motivation, etc. Each student is a special individual and is determined by the specifics of the social - family milieu in which he grows up. In that sense, I will list some of the most common, general difficulties: an insufficiently developed sense of responsibility towards school obligations, undeveloped work habits in learning, lack of systematic incentives in educational activities in certain segments, difficulties in adopting materials from certain subjects, changing motivation to achieve goals.

What needs to be done in order for Roma children to fit in better and be encouraged to achieve better results?

JOVIC: It is necessary to educate parents in the process of complete and true parenting in systematic incentives for educational activities on children, in forming work habits at an early age of children, in strengthening and acquiring skills to monitor developmental characteristics and solving difficulties they encounter in school life. I believe that would be a contribution to change some things for the better.

When it comes to teaching, do Roma children have a strong language barrier? Do you think that affects success? Are there any indications to consider the introduction of the Romani language?

JOVIC: The students I mentored had no problems with the language barrier and I did not get the impression that attending classes in a non-mother tongue affected their success in school. Knowledge of two languages ​​is, I think, an advantage for them, not a disadvantage, especially when it comes to life circumstances, achieving goals, and especially continuing education.

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

Translation: Milena Cavic, Milos Knezevic

The text was created within the project Increasing access and participation of Roma students in secondary education and the transition to the labor market

The views expressed in this text 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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