Fast Forward to the School of the Future

February 8, 2005

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    Students at the Kukare school work in a clean, productive environment, made possible by a partnership between Mercy Corps and the community. Photo: Mercy Corps Serbia Photo:

Shabby. Rundown. Overcrowded classrooms. A single trail in the snow leading to stinking outhouses. The primary school in Kukare is typical of schools in this region. Built in the early 1960’s, decades of use, changing standards and declining maintenance have left the building in dire need of renovation.

The citizens of this rural community in southwest Serbia felt their children deserved better and took advantage of the Community Revitalization through Democratic Action (CRDA) program funded by USAID and implemented locally by Mercy Corps.

Prioritized by the community at a town hall meeting and led by a selected group of community members, this renovation project took shape by addressing a list of student, teacher and parent concerns. At the top of the list was the need for more classrooms, followed by indoor toilets.

These and other concerns were worked into a project proposal and design that matched the financial resources of the project’s stakeholders which include the community, the school, the municipality and the CRDA program.

In the implementation phase, five new classrooms were added to relieve the class load of this growing community. Toilets were moved indoors. The building was weatherized with new double-paned windows and attic insulation. An offsite boiler was completely overhauled and relocated in the new addition to the school.

As their financial share contributing towards the school renovations, the community provided seven computers for students that made possible a new computer class.

This pairing of renovated facilities with modern educational tools is one of the ways the CRDA program is challenging communities to apply their match in a complementary manner. Student life has now all changed for the better. No more trudging through rain and snow to go to the bathroom. Fresh paint, lighting, less crowding and a comfortable temperature in the classrooms enhance student learning and promote school pride. The new computer lab exposed students to computers and a 21st century education, better preparing them for their future.

The citizens of Kukare, partnered with Mercy Corps through the CDRA program, are making a difference for their town - and their children.