Lezhë, North Albania


A new outlook on life among the Romanies

Four young women have successfully passed their final college examinations (A-levels). In Switzerland this is hardly worth mentioning, but in Lezhë in North Albania it makes the headlines. The girls' achievement was widely discussed in their town because they belong to the minorities of the Romanies and Egyptians.


It is over three years ago since the first teenagers who had taken part in the programme set up for Romanies and Egyptians by the Italian priest Luciano were about to finish their compulsory school education. For a long time Luciano had been aiming to improve education for the minorities in Lezhë. But in spite of his efforts most of the youngsters were facing unemployment, never-ending poverty and a very early marriage. Four girls, however, had set themselves higher aims and IPA supported them in their efforts to enter a college. The main aim was to initiate a change of attitude in the societies – that of the minorities and that of the ethnic Albanians. The plan was discussed widely in the town, the girls were under constant observation. 200 other children who belong to the minorities realised how successful the girls were at school and for more and more of them they became role-models. They all passed their final college examinations (A-levels) last July. "All our lives we have been trying to convince the Romanies that education is important – without success. This project was needed to achieve our aim within three years." Suzanna Brahimi, once a headmistress in Lezhë herself, summarized. The effect the project had on the population was bigger than expected. There were reports on TV and politicians spoke of the exemplariness of their town. Parents no longer think of child marriage, but encourage their offsprings to become like one of the four young women. During the last two years about a dozen teenagers have followed each of them in their footsteps. Their successful integration at school has caused many Albanians to judge their neighbours differently. After the exams Selma was offered her first holiday job and during the summer months earned four times as much money as the family receives from the social welfare office.

Emoticon "blissfully happy"


"Could you also support our children if they were offered a place at university?" Parents asked us this question in April already. It was obvious that a revolution had taken place in the heads of the people. Father Luciano, the priest, speaks of "a new outlook on life" which is getting more and more common. Thanks to a Swiss foundation, Fatjona can now start her training as a hairdresser. Lumturije is on the way to be a kindergarten teacher and Selma is studying social work – both of them at the University of Shkodër. Unfortunately the fourth girl can not yet start her professional training. She first has to recover from a dramatic change in her life. The others have started a new adventure and once again many people in Lezhë will keep an eye on them. On her first day at university Selma posted a picture of herself on facebook with the emoticon "blissfully happy". She has clearly changed her concept of life!

Education for girls of the minority of Romanies