Interview with Dragan Jankov and Bedri Gjureci – school directors in Strumica and Saraj

It is often said that the upbringing of children within the educational system has been neglected. Although most schools are focused on the education of the students, still it goes without saying that the entire educational process has an impact on the overall shaping of young people and their attitudes.
Read the interview with Dragan Jankov, director of the secondary school “Nikola Karev” from Strumica, and Bedri Gjureci, principal of the secondary school “Saraj” from Saraj, and find out how these two schools cooperate in a partnership in order to teach young people about ethnic integration.

Dragan Jankov, director of the secondary school “Nikola Karev” from Strumica, and Bedri Gjureci, principal of the secondary school “Saraj” from Saraj

As the head of the school, the director has a key role in the creation of school changes. For the purposes of a successful implementation of such changes, it is important for the principal to be a role model, both for the teachers and the students. How did you two meet? What are the origins of the initiative for a partnership between your two schools?

DJ: As the director of SS “Nikola Karev”, a secondary school which serves as an example for a school with students from different ethnic communities, I am always up for joint cooperation with members of different cultures. The reason for that is very simple and it lies in the intercultural communication that teaches us how to overcome the barriers of different cultures through learning about the differences, avoiding prejudice and stereotypes and accepting each culture as it is. With the director of the school from Saraj, we met at the directors’ training and we have remained very good friends ever since.

BG: I met the director of SS “Nikola Karev” from Strumica when we attended a directors’ training four years ago. We started talking, we became friends, but we also established professional cooperation. The initiative for a partnership between our schools arose owing to the invitation from the USAID Youth Ethnic Integration Project to participate in the project by forming a partnership with another school with a different language of instruction. In order to work on the improvement of the interethnic integration, we established a partnership with SS “Nikola Karev”, Strumica.

Students from Strumica and Saraj participate in a joint workshop

Saraj and Strumica are located in two different parts of the country. How did you manage to enable contact between the students and the teachers from your schools? What does the partnership mean and are there any results from the activities?  

DJ: As a school with students from different ethnic communities we participate in many projects for interethnic integration. The partnership with Saraj is a wonderful experience both for the students and the teachers. Last year, we were a part of a project supported by the Municipality of Strumica and the activities took place in Strumica. We were drawing in a church – mosque, we played sports games without frontiers and in the end, we all had a wonderful lunch together. This year we were welcomed in Saraj also through the project for interethnic integration. The experience is one of a kind – the students and the teachers spend time together, learn about each other’s cultures and overcome communication barriers by accepting the differences.

BG: Since me and Mr. Jankov know each other from before, we already have a friendly relationship and it was easy to make contact and to additionally cooperate with him. In my opinion, the word partnership implies joint activities undertaken by several entities for the achievement of a specific goal – that is the only way to succeed. So far, we have successfully implemented all joint activities and we achieved excellent results.

Joint sports activity in Saraj

The implementation of such an initiative, in addition to other things, also requires finances. What is your idea of a long-term continuation of the partnership?

DJ: We will always support such projects and activities aimed at improving the communication between different cultures because it is of crucial importance for the educational process and it will prepare the students to be more tolerant in terms of various cultures ever since the earliest age, as well as teach them to continue in the same direction in the future, too.

BG: In order to be able to properly maintain the partnership, we need much more funds. We must find a way because the purpose of these activities is extremely important, both for our students and for the young people in the country in general.

Students jointly visit Canyon Matka

What motivates you in your work?  What would you recommend to the other principals?

DJ: What motivates me the most are pleased, happy and successful students and teachers. Engagement in various projects as a part of curricular and extracurricular activities is crucial for the improvement of an ample range of competences both of the teachers and the professional service staff. In fact, at the present time of continuous change, without professional development and lifelong learning, it is difficult to achieve success or any kind of progress.

BG: What motivates me in my work is the success achieved so far, as well as the satisfaction of the participants and the parents, which means a lot to me. I truly hope that I will continue even better in the future.