Written by Zorica Trajkova
Representatives of the Executive Board of MAAA and the US Embassy visited the State High School for Education and Rehabilitation ‘Iskra’ from Shtip and donated to this school part of the finances gathered at the humanitarian concert in December 2019. Children with special needs from all over the country attend classes in this High School. The director, Toni Petrushev awarded MAAA with a Certificate of Appreciation and stated that the donation will be used to overcome the consequences from the Covid crisis.
We interviewed Ms. Julijana Kujundzieva, a special educator and rehabilitator at the State High School for Education and Rehabilitation in Shtip, and asked her to share with our readers her experience regarding her work in this school.
INTERVIEW with Julijana Kujundzieva, an employee at ‘Iskra’
Zorica Trajkova: Ms. Kujundzieva, you work as a special educator and rehabilitator at the State High School for Education and Rehabilitation in Shtip, Republic of N. Macedonia. Could you please give our readers more information about the purpose of this school? How is it different from the other High Schools in the country?
Ms. Julijana Kujundzieva: The State High School for Education and Rehabilitation “Iskra” from Shtip is a secondary vocational school with a dormitory for students with special educational needs. The classes in the school are organized and realized according to adapted curricula and work programs developed by the BED at a second degree level of professional training. The students perform practical work in textile factories, greenhouses, graphic workshops under the guidance of professional teachers in cooperation with local companies.
Due to the nature of the problems these students face, the individual approach is of great importance to them. They consider the individual possibilities as most important. During the educational process, the emphasis is put on practical work and learning about life. In fact, besides the education they get, they are taught methods and exercises for rehabilitation and socialization, and we also strive that students acquire and adopt life skills and habits. Young people with disabilities have the same needs as young people with no disabilities. They want to go out and listen to trendy music, to play sports and have fun, but their daily routine does not allow them to always do that. So, we organize their free time, we celebrate their birthdays, visit the theater, concerts exhibitions, and organize disco parties. Students are also present at all events organized at a local level and they have participated in international sports competitions in Bulgaria and Serbia. We invest a lot of love, patience and hope in every student, so that they can become useful and equal members of the society after finishing school.
Zorica Trajkova: How old is this High School and how is it organized in terms of things students can study there?
Ms. Julijana Kujundzieva: The State High School for Education and Rehabilitation “Iskra” was founded in November 1981. This educational institution is of special interest for the Republic of North Macedonia and it is the only institution of the kind in the eastern part of the country. It cares about the upbringing, education and rehabilitation of young people with disabilities and special educational needs. Since its establishment until this day, about 1215 students have exercised their right to education and rehabilitation here. Students study for three years in four streams: mechanical, graphic, textile and agricultural-veterinary and they acquire the following qualifications:
- mechanical stream: assistant locksmith – tinsmith;
- graphic stream: assistant bookbinder cartoonist;
- textile stream: assistant textile worker;
- agricultural-veterinary stream: assistant in crop production.
The choice of the right stream depends on their interests, opportunities and abilities.
Zorica Trajkova: How many employees are there and how many children do they work with currently?
Ms. Julijana Kujundzieva: In the academic 2020/2021 year, 50 students from 21 municipalities in the country attended the school. The students were split in 12 classes, 4 of which in the first year, 4 in the second year, and 4 classes in the third year. The number of students in the classes amounts to 5.
The educational work is realized by 6 educators, 15 teachers for general educational and professional subjects, the professional service which consists of three special educators and rehabilitators, one pedagogue, and one social worker.
Zorica Trajkova: Who can obtain your help? Are there any physical or mental restrictions or restrictions in terms of where the students come from the country?
Ms. Julijana Kujundzieva: At the moment most of our students are from Eastern Macedonia Stip, Kocani, Vinica, Makedonska Kamenica, Delchevo, Sveti Nikole, Probishtip, but there are also students from Kriva Palanka, Resen, Demir Hisar, Bitola, Veles, Kavadarci, Negotino. These students have either intellectual disabilities, combined disabilities, physical disabilities or autism. Students coming from the province stay in the dormitory.
Zorica Trajkova: Ms. Kujundzieva, how do you check the progress of what you do? Is there any successful story you would be proud to share with our readers?
Ms. Julijana Kujundzieva: If the student feels that they are accepted and that we want to help them, they cooperate and the result is unavoidable. I cannot single out a separate story, each student ‘writes’ their own story. We are proud of all our students who graduated from our High School. The greatest pleasure for us is when we see them with happy faces and when after graduation they say that the best period of their life was their stay in our school and when they return with good news about their further success in life, in terms of marriage, work, offspring. We, who work with children with special needs, do not have working hours, we think about them 24/7, we talk about them and wherever we go, we carry them in our hearts. They simply become part of our lives and wе become part of their family. Every student has a specific value, only that should come to the surface. It is unfortunate that the opinion still prevails that these people are a burden to the state and society. We imagine a society in which they would all accomplish their goals and take equal part in society as all of us.
Zorica Trajkova: Is there anything that these students lack in terms of technological or any other equipment? How can people who are willing to help them do that?
Ms. Julijana Kujundzieva: Some of the equipment for some of the workshops, such as the one for the textile stream and for the agriculture stream is modern, thanks to non-governmental organizations and companies which have donated it. However, the equipment we have for the graphic stream, for example, is very outdated, so these students cannot really develop the skills which will enable them to get employed in a graphic company. So, if anyone wants to help us, please feel free to contact us.