October 2, 2020 - In these dark days of the COVID-19 epidemic, everyone needs to take off a little above the clouds and socialize. It is even nicer to learn together, proposes an invitation to a seminar offering continuous psychosocial support for parents of children and young people with special needs. The seminar was held in Herceg Novi as a part of a broader project to support those children and their families.
About twenty experts from Kotor, Tivat, and Herceg Novi joined the coordinator, Dr. Sonja Vasić, for a two-day gathering organized by the NGO Meritum, held last weekend in the Blue Salon of the "Dr. Simo Milošević" Institute in Igalo.
The session leader was Dr. Nenad Rudic, a psychiatrist at the Institute for Mental Health in Belgrade and a consultant to UNICEF Serbia, whospoke to Radio Tivat at the end of the workshop:
"We had the opportunity to exchange our professional experiences and to provide our thoughts on the topic that brought us together: what is the best way to help this group, and what is possible, not forgetting that from the practice of helping children with special needs, parents are not just on the sidelines, but are actors in both child development and in our work with them. The reality is that both in our country and elsewhere in the world, a major issue is how to find the right models and ways of sustainable support to parenthood. Especially in the most challenging situations, we certainly do not have all the answers. It is in those challenging situations where we are wondering whether the profession can, within its competencies, develop support meetings, sometimes within its daily practice, but also as a special activity. These sessions can take place both with groups of parents and through individual counseling. Within these sessions, the parents need to be able to ask questions, feel good while asking them, get clear answers to personal questions, and feel that the child development services are working with the child. We are on the same side as the parents and we are trying to understand each other."
In particular, there were discussions on child development and disorders, mental health problems in children and young people with special needs, quality of life, and parental stress and their own mental health problems.
Emphasis was placed on the partnership model of counseling support to parents, to which attention will be paid in the next three similar sessions provided by the organization. The idea is for participants from three Boka municipalities to organize continuous work with parents in their communities after the training.
The organizers read a letter of support from Mary Borojevich, president and founder of the NGO Meritum, who came to Montenegro after many years dedicated to caring for children with special needs in Serbia.
"For the last four years, I have turned my attention to Montenegro, continuing the work with special needs children. We supported the daily care center in Herceg Novi for two years by paying the rent and funded in-home schooling for those kids who could not attend school. Our latest effort is to provide for the needs we learned of from professionals and family members when we held a needs assessment seminar last November at Cattaro Hotel," explains Mary Borojevich for TMN.
"This is planned to be a four-phase training program; the first phase was held 26-27 September. Our goal is to answer the call of the area's population with one sole goal in mind. That is to improve the special needs reality so that everyone may reach their full potential. Of course, the very wonderful side effect will be a more capable and compassionate society in this beautiful Boka that I have come to love and call my second home," says this humanitarian worker interviewed by TMN two years ago.
Among the workshop's participants last weekend in Igalo, was Marijana Škanata, the President of the NGO European House Tivat, which gathers parents of children with special needs from the town. The NGO has been supporting children with special needs and their families since 2007. As a parent of a child with special needs herself, advocating for better policies and practices through the years, Marijana was invited to join the gathering both as a journalist and experienced worker on the topic:
"The first thing that struck me was the great enthusiasm I felt among all the participants. They came with many ideas, cooperation suggestions, and proposals of how continuous psychological support should be provided within the social care system. In today's world, psychological support is needed more than ever. As a parent, I took the opportunity to emphasize some good and some bad examples of how participants in health and social care systems could be helpful or psychologically unsupportive with parents in very delicate moments. In doing this, we discussed real problems and found solutions together, acting as a team."
Daily Care Center for Children with Special Needs in Tivat, Photo by Sinisa Lukovic
NGO European House Tivat was founded in 2000. Their mission to help special needs children began in 2007 when Marijana took part in a working group to create the Local Action Plan for Children, introducing the need to organize a daycare center for children with special needs in Tivat into the local plans. After years and years of EDT efforts, those plans are finally coming to fruition - the daycenter will host its first guests on Monday, October 5.
The Montenegrin "Monte Carlo," as some like to call Tivat when making a development-level comparison, has succeeded in opening the Daycare Center after dozens of projects, educational, and funding events organized by EDT Tivat.
"We started collecting funds and advocating for the daycenter in December 2008, with our first project dedicated to children with special needs - I want to go to the EU, me too! It took a lot of time, but some of our children will finally have this vital service. It is important not only for them but also for their families. Of course, we are happy and look forward to future cooperation and joint projects with this important local institution," said Marijana Mišić Škanata for TMN.
The institution "Daycenter for Children and Youth with Disabilities" Tivat was officially opened on August 12, and its doors open to guests on Monday, October 5. According to the coordinator, Vedrana Petković, the Center in Seljanovo can accommodate 20 guests.
"The center's working hours are from 7am to 3pm; every aspect will be designed with the needs of the children in mind," Vedrana points out, noting that the center is counting on close cooperation with the NGO European Home Tivat.
Guests will have at their disposal a living room, a room for individual work, rehabilitation room, and sensory room, and the center is open to children and young people up to 27 years of age.
October 1, 2020 - A new government is being formed in Montenegro. The prime ministerial candidate of the three winning coalitions with the majority in the parliament, Zdravko Krivokapić, believes that politicians should not burden citizens with the distribution of roles until the parties reach an agreement.
"It is primarily a matter for the political entities to reach agreement on all important details. Something like that is not played out in the media. The government's composition proposal, the plan, and the program are presented only when an agreement is reached, and the goals and priorities are articulated. Everything else is rather inappropriate and an unnecessary burden for all of us," stated Krivokapic in a guest editorial for Podgorica's Vijesti.
According to Krivokapic, the most crucial challenge at the moment is the economy, and "partisans and Chetniks, whites and greens" should be left to "drive through the forests of history."
"Let's return them to the literature from whence they were dragged by the politicians of the failed economy. This was only done to cover their economic incompetence and bad intentions in the legal sphere, using issues that are not the concern of the majority of the Montenegrin population," Krivokapic said.
The current economic situation in Montenegro far from positive. Krivokapic says that it reminds him of "a large, safe ship that the previous rulers broke up so that everyone could float on their own, on as large a piece of wood as possible."
However, Montenegro has so many opportunities for economic recovery that, as he points out, it seems to him that the change of government came at the final, but the still the right moment.
Montenegro is an ideal place for digital nomads, writes Krivokapic. "Work and travel opportunities need to be understood and methodically accepted. Agriculture is simply crying out for real support, and a serious plan must be made and implemented as soon as possible," he said, adding that he can promise that he will monitor the work of each ministry on a daily basis.
"I will follow the flow of money to the last cent. That is why I have already started with the IT sector, "wrote Krivokapic, pointing out that all political parties must recognize this new moment.
"It is time for those who want power or who think they are incapable of doing anything else to not enter politics," Krivokapic wrote, adding that "in the government, we need people who perceive this task as a great sacrifice, ready to spend a significant amount of time, being aware of how much, to every detail, they will be controlled by both domestic and international factors," he said.
Krivokapic points out that vanity, love of power, and love of glory will prove to be the wrong motives for this kind of work, and the future minister, instead of fame and money, could easily end up with a prison sentence if he acts illegally.
"No one in Montenegro, nor in the international community, of which we are a real part, will tolerate corruption, crime or incompetence any more. After all the conversations we have had, I am sure of one thing: there is no going back! Those who hope for a different outcome will be very disappointed," said Krivokapic.
September 30, 2020 - The pozornica.me portal is now up and running. It is an ambitious project through which theaters, festivals, cultural centers, associations, and NGOs can inform the public about their work and their projects quickly and easily.
Ten electronic services have been made available to theater lovers in Montenegro since the beginning of September on the portal www.pozornica.me
The portal is an information hub for current and upcoming theater events and content in Montenegro, and is in important source from an informative, educational and entertainment perspective.
In the informative segment, pozornica.me will continuously publish all upcoming theater events to further develop and support theater art in Montenegro. In addition to its primary function of informing the public about theater events, the portal aims to present and promote professional literature.
"Portal pozornica.me will aim to follow all current theater events and happenings and to provide all related information. The theater audience will be able to read exciting and inspiring texts on theatrical art to find what interests them. But the portal will also be a platform where theater lovers will be able to review plays and express their opinions, said the editor of the portal Dubravka Matičić.
Also, there is a further service that is still under construction, which consists of a calendar of events, a repertoire divided by production, reviews from the audience, a wish list (with which portal users will be able to see when and where a favorite show will be performed), and a ticket reservation section.
The portal is open for cooperation with all institutions, festivals, associations, schools that deal with theater in any way, and individuals, whether they are actors, directors, producers, or just theater lovers, the portal editor added.
The portal designer is Kristijan Vujović.
The project pozornica.me is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Montenegro, through a competition to help independent artists affected by the pandemic's impact on the cultural sector, in partnership with the Royal Theater Zetski Dom.
September 27, 2020 - The Institute of Public Health (IPH) has appealed to the public in general and "influential individuals" to call for strict adherence to measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Institute called on the public to stay in their houses as much as possible, to wear masks, and maintain physical distance.
"Given the rampant local transmission, the large number of cases in hospitals and the enormous pressure on the health system, the IPH has proposed to the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases the introduction of additional measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. "Aware of the difficult situation caused by non-compliance with the measures, we appeal to all people, and specifically to all influential individuals to call for strict adherence to the measures adopted," the Institute said in a statement.
These measures, the implementation of which will start tomorrow, will ensure that we suppress the intensive spread of the epidemic in the first half of October and preserve the population's health and lives, added the IPH.
"We are aware of the economic situation and the problems that will arise due to the proposal of such measures, but this is the only way to try to control the challenging epidemiological situation and help the healthcare system stay on its feet. We do everything our colleagues do everywhere. We call on you to be united, disciplined, and responsible for yourself and your loved ones. "
Only in this way, as they point out, can we help both ourselves and the medical workers who "are fighting for every human life with superhuman efforts."
"Dear citizens, please stay in your homes as much as possible, wear masks, and maintain physical distance. This appeal refers to all citizens of Montenegro, regardless of whether there is a higher or lower level of transmission in their local communities," concludes the IPH, asking for assistance to cope with this challenging period.
September 26, 2020 - Elementary and high school students in Montenegro should start the new school year on October 1, which will take place in conditions adapted to the current epidemiological situation. According to the Ministry of Education plan, students in the last three grades of primary and upper secondary school levels will attend classes entirely online, with the organization of examinations at the school. Students in other years will go to school in groups of a maximum of 15 children, with the obligatory wearing of protective masks. Is the decision discriminatory? And what impact will it have on children's psycho-social development at adolescence?
In general, the situation surrounding the COVID-19 epidemic has affected children in different ways, points out pedagogue Dr.Sci Jelena Perunovic Samardzic. In addition to the impact on education, there is also a broad impact on their mental health.
"The children have faced a lot. They've put up with isolation, with the story of the deadly virus, they're bombarded with these things every day, both through the media and from other sources on all sides - they are scared and confused. They've been taught to fear things, in a certain way. What is very unusual for them is that during the isolation, which is still present in a way, is that have been in far less contact with their peers, which leaves a mark on them, both in the socio-emotional and psychological sense. It was especially prevalent during the first wave of the epidemic. And yet it has an impact even now, assuming that we are socially responsible and teach our children such behavior. We have to change our habits and give children an example to follow so that they accept the new reality," says Dr. Perunovic Samardzic.
"I think we will have a problem now that the children need to go to kindergarten and school. School children will face the situation whereby they have to maintain physical distance and not have contact with their friends and teachers. When they are in groups, it will be difficult for them to adhere to the measures, and that will certainly affect them," says Dr. Perunovic Samardzic.
The Ministry of Education has presented the necessary recommendations for the organization of classes in the school year 2020/21. Following the personnel and space capacities, the administrations of each school in Montenegro will have to respond. The summer months were used to review European practices in the organization of online teaching and train 2,000 teachers from all over Montenegro, enabling a better quality of educational process in the coming period. However, the questions without answers do not only affect education and barriers of a technical nature. Seventh, eighth, and ninth-grade students are "condemned" to a lack of interaction with peers, which can have severe consequences for them.
"Online teaching is a useful tool, but I think it is not enough, and is certainly not the best way for students to acquire knowledge, especially when it comes to adolescents. In general, we know how much children at that age behave rebelliously towards imposed situations, so it won't be easy to get and keep their attention. Children at this age learn tolerance, empathy, experience the first disappointments, and fall in love for the first time. The fact that they will not go to school deprives them of a large part of the social space in which all this takes place."
Students in the most sensitive period are discriminated against compared with other children, by being completely denied school desks, and consequences for their psycho-social development can be expected.
"During distance learning, solidarity, empathy is lost; there is no socializing, no establishing new friendships. Therefore, there is no falling in love, which is an integral part of personality formation. Consequently, I think that this type of teaching is hazardous for the socialization of children and, in general, for their functioning later in life, "says Dr. Perunovic Samardzic.
In cooperation with the British Embassy in Montenegro, UNICEF conducted a survey questioning parents' opinions on whether children in the current situation should attend school in the classical way or online. More than 73 percent of parents believe that children should attend school regularly regardless of the epidemiological situation. Dr. Perunovic Samardzic believes their position is completely justified from the pedagogical point of view.
"There were several suggestions and possible models to organize classes. The Ministry of Education has decided on an organization that means that students in the last cycle of primary education, as well as upper grades of high school, attend school entirely online," says Dr. Perunovic Samardzic. As to whether there is a pedagogical justification for such a division of children by age, Dr. Perunovic Samardzic explained:
"I believe that children are discriminated against by age without any pedagogical justification. Especially because of the sensitivity of the age we are talking about and the importance of socialization during adolescence. There is no justification for leaving their developmental interests aside. As parents, and we will do it from the profession's perspective, we should appeal to the Ministry of Education to allow those children to attend classes according to the classical model as much as possible in the current epidemiological situation."
We must enable our children to function normally as far as is possible. Dr. Perunovic Samardzic concludes by emphasizing that the current situation is no excuse not to do our best to provide children with the best conditions for mental, physical, socio-emotional, and psychological development.
September 25, 2020 - The European Union (EU) recognizes Montenegro as a leader in the integration process, stated the Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Oana-Cristina Popa, stating that a significant proportion of the work has already been completed. Today, she was received by the President of the Assembly, Aleksa Becic, who said that he was satisfied with his first meeting with Popa after taking office.
Becic thanked her for the support that the EU has provided to Montenegro so far in the process of reforms and democratization, which, as he said, confirmed that the Western Balkans is still a major focus for the EU.
Becic emphasized that the EU's assistance in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic was far greater than that provided by other international organizations.
"Having in mind the complex socio-economic and epidemiological situation, it is imperative that the new government is constituted as quickly and efficiently as possible." Significantly, minority parties supported my election, and I hope that they will be part of the new Government. Our common goal is to strengthen the civil state," Becic said.
He reiterated that the agreement signed by the representatives of the coalitions in the new parliamentary majority confirms that the new Government will be pro-Montenegrin, pro-European, pro-Western, civil, and conciliatory.
Becic mentioned that he would strengthen cooperation within NATO and accelerate European integration, which unites Montenegrin society.
He emphasized that the Assembly will remain open for project cooperation in the coming period, especially in supervisory and control roles, transparency, and efficiency.
Speaking about Chapters 23 and 24, Becic pointed out that stagnation in the integration process is not an option, that the new model of negotiations will give an additional boost to those who are efficient in implementing reforms, and that victory in the fight against organized crime and corruption is the only guarantee of a prosperous and stable Montenegro.
He pointed out that he sees the future of Montenegro and the Western Balkans as part of the EU and that this path has no alternative for the entire region.
Popa said that she was looking forward to excellent and efficient cooperation with Becic and the Assembly's new convocation to jointly lead Montenegro more swiftly towards EU membership.
Speaking about the consequences of the coronavirus epidemic, she emphasized that the EU has operational mechanisms to support Montenegro.
Popa said that the European Commission would publish two important documents on October 6 - the Enlargement Report for 2020 and the EU Investment Plan.
"The EU recognizes Montenegro as a leader in the integration process. A significant part of the work has already been done. That is why you have a great responsibility as a model for other countries in the region. The issue of integration of the Western Balkans countries is still on the table, and the European perspective is something we take very seriously," Popa emphasized.
She congratulated Becic on his election as President of the Montenegrin Parliament and said she was pleased with the peaceful transition of power.