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The ‘25 May’ school – with 1,500 pupils located in Gazi Baba (Skopje) – is just the starting point of a larger rehabilitation project initiated by the Ministry of Education and Science of North Macedonia. The initiative was supported by €3 million in grants provided by the WBIF Bilateral Donors and two loans from the Council of Europe Development Bank in total value of €42.5 million. Specifically, the project concerns the construction of 70 physical education facilities and the rehabilitation of more than 60 primary and secondary schools throughout the country. This project will improve the teaching conditions for more than 11,000 pupils and 700 teachers.
The WBIF Bilateral Donor grant support has enabled the refurbishment of 10 primary and 6 secondary schools. The ‘25 May‘ school is one of the ten primary schools supported. Built in 1967, it currently accommodates about 1,500 pupils, aged 6-14. Prior to the WBIF support, no significant refurbishment activities had been carried out.
The ‘25 May’ school has received funding for renewing the roof and facades of the school building, window replacement, as well as rehabilitation of floor surfaces, the heating and electrical systems. This modernisation effort has especially improved the energy efficiency of the school, allowing it to save energy while improving teaching conditions. The energy savings, of more than 100% annually, generated by these investments have freed up financial resources which can be allocated for the purchase of new educational equipment.
The teachers of the ‘25 May’ school now have new furniture and teaching equipment, such as interactive whiteboards and video projectors in each classroom, therefore improving the digital skills of the pupils. This school stands as a flagship example for other educational institutions of North Macedonia that are taking the ‘25 May’ as a reference point for equal access to adequate education infrastructure. The changes brought by this WBIF project have enabled a series of international exchanges with other schools by establishing protocols of cooperation with other centres in the country as well as from Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Turkey. Pupils will be able to socialise with their peers, go to school together and, more importantly, experience cultural exchanges.
Obtaining European educational standards in the ’25 May’ school have attracted attention and admissions of new pupils. The ’25 May’ school’s enrolment rates have increased significantly after the renovation, as residents from municipalities other than Gazi Baba apply to register. This momentum originally started as a parent initiative; they started by undertaking minor renovations, painting the school fence and tidying up the schoolyard. This drive and enthusiasm from the local community came to the attention of the Ministry of Education and Science, which shortly after approved the request for renovation and reconstruction of the school financed by the WBIF.
Easier access for pupils with disabilities is one of several benefits of the programme for renovation and construction of school facilities (which is fully in line with European standards ensuring accessibility for disabled persons). These investments support the implementation of the National Strategy for Education Development 2018-2025; this strategy highlights several priorities directed towards inclusion, with actions enabling teachers and pedagogics to recognise pupils with special needs at an early stage. Another key priority is to include at least 30% of pupils with special needs in regular school activities.
WBIF was jointly launched in 2009 by the European Commission, international financial institutions and bilateral donors to enhance harmonisation and cooperation in investments for the socio-economic development of the Western Balkans. Together with the Western Balkan beneficiaries, WBIF forms a unique partnership, defining priorities and support packages needed for strategic investments and institutional reform. During the past decade over €1 billion in grants were allocated for preparation and implementation of infrastructure projects.