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Serbia's stranded migrant children start school amid welcomes and rejection

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 02:01

School is underway in Serbia, where thousands of stranded migrants and refugees are hoping to resume a normal life. But while school officials are welcoming their new students, some locals are adamantly opposed. Nathan Frandino reports.

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Vacation's over and the halls of Belgrade's "Jovan Ristic" school are bustling again. Only this school year, the students include migrants and refugees... ready to resume their studies after fleeing war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PUPIL NABIH, 13, FROM AFGHANISTAN, SAYING: "Yes, I like to go to school, because here I can learn new things." School principal Mileta Djorovic says his newest pupils are adapting well. (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, MILETA DJOROVIC, SAYING: "We were somewhat concerned at the very beginning, how both the parents and the (Serbian) children will receive these kids. But these children who came, at least those who are with us, behave with an exceptionally high level of culture, and they made quite a lot of friends among our students, so there are no problems." But not everyone is so welcoming. In Adasevci, a town near Serbia's border with Croatia, petitions are circulating, aimed at stopping the migrants from enrolling in local schools. Some residents say their own children should not mix with the migrants. (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) PROTESTER ZORAN OGNJANOVIC, SAYING: "The children are unprepared, the parents are unprepared, the environment has not been prepared and I think this will be extremely destructive. That mentality and ours do not match at all." (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) PROTESTER JELENA, SAYING: "They don't speak the Serbian language, it's a different religion, a different culture, a different system of practices." But with borders to the north closed, many of these migrants had no choice but to settle - and educate their kids - in Serbia... One father from Iraq says Islamic State banned schooling back home. He says, now's their chance to catch up. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MIGRANT FROM IRAQ, EFERHAN HARAF, FATHER OF FOUR, SAYING: "We want an education (for our children), because if a child doesn't go to school and doesn't get an education, how would they benefit in their lives?" And he says it shouldn't matter where that education takes place.

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Serbia's stranded migrant children start school amid welcomes and rejection

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 02:01