Transcript of the podcast:

I went to Novi Travnik to meet Ljubica Matošević, Head of the Novi Travnik Public Institution Kindergarten. Interestingly, Ljubica is one of 14 directors in this small town. Only four public institutions are led by men and this is a bit unusual for BiH.

As you approach this kindergarten located between the buildings, you see that this is an institution that is most certainly attended to. The fence and the façade are brand new, and in front there is a playground I haven’t seen, not just in our kindergartens, but nowhere in our country.

Ljubica explained how she had succeeded in getting a kindergarten that was almost shut down and falling apart to the level where everything is working and looks impeccable. They take care of everything, at the entrance you have information about inspection checks. When I came in, children had watermelons and apples for snacks, they have all the professional services available and I think that such a kindergarten could easily be placed in Scandinavia.

What is most impressive to me is that the credit for all this goes to Ljubica and her own efforts because she is the one following projects. She prepares them herself, manages all over the place to do everything she imagined. Again, an example how personal enthusiasm compensates for the lack of system.

Ljubica Matošević:

When I just took the post of the director in this public institution, I was met with a very bad situation. I didn’t give in to complaining and not working, but instead I knew what to do. I saw projects as rescue. We had blocked accounts, complaints, workers did not have health insurance … then I decided to start from the beginning.

It was something new to me. I never wrote projects before or didn’t know what it was like. I thought it was something abstract, but when I started working I saw that it was essentially interesting and easy. What is most important is to have an idea and to implement it, to know what we want and what our tasks are.

Here, I’ll name few that we implemented. I would first stress t Civitas playrooms that are free for children from marginalised groups and socially vulnerable children, meaning children of parents who cannot afford to pay for kindergarten. Such children have free playrooms and these playrooms are held every year.

We had some new stuff in our programme, we introduced the Little Olympics. On the day of birthday of our town, we organise our Children’s Olympics and invite guests. Among them are kindergartens from our local community. We even had guests from other local communities such as kindergartens from Travnik and Vitez and it has already become a tradition we hold each year.

Cooperation with the community environment

I am working to know where the fire brigade is, the police station, the library comes, so every year we have a public and social environment, and we have a useful and positive cooperation with all of them.

We have signed a protocol on cooperation with the Mental Health Centre Vitez in the Vitez Health Center, where our children have free access to a professional team, comprising a speech therapist, defectologist, psychologist, pedagogue, all experts. You will rarely hear and see that school today has what this kindergarten has. This protocol lasts for three years and I can only thank them. Until now, they were really correct and children are overwhelmed, and most importantly, parents as well.

All projects were carried out in just 3 years.

The projects came one after another. It is important to say that all this has been done in a very short period of time. When I took the office, I was on maternity leave so all of this happened within three years. We replaced the furnace, and we had “Phase 1 of the Fence”, and the project “Green Economic Development for Increasing Energy Efficiency in Public Institutions in the FBiH” financed by the UNDP and the Municipality. Then, “Civitas Mobile Playrooms” project, “Phase 2 of the Fence”- FBiH Ministry of Education and Science, the Government of the Republic of Croatia replaced floors that were really worn out … then we worked with the FBiH Ministry of Education and Culture on the project of “Development of key competences with children with special emphasis on marginalised groups”.

We introduced children from rural areas, from villages, to have access to kindergarten. Such a programme was carried out in rural areas. The Government of the Republic of Bulgaria has done a playground that we needed, we had nothing.

Employees in our public institution are all highly educated, all are members of the association of employees of preschool institutions. This is very important because we are progressing there, we are continually learning and obtaining certificates and regularly follow their seminars.

A phenomenal playground

What do you think how beneficial are your activities for the community and in what way?

I think it is very useful for our local community first of all because children are there. Our future is whatever we invest in our children. It is important to say that this kindergarten is multi-ethnic. All children are welcome and no children is refused regardless of their nationality.

The same goes for employees. We have employees of different ethnicities so that we can be an example of coexistence in our local community. We can be an example of how we teach children in the best way to be good people tomorrow.

How helpful or unhelpful is the political situation in your case?

In my opinion, it should not have any impact here where there are children, because if children are happy and parents too and if that goes well, and I think it is, there’s nothing for them in it. Certainly, they have quite a say as the Municipality, as our founder, allocates funds under the budget.

But I cannot say that this relation was negative. So far, it has been shown that they really see the work and appreciate it and support us and we are grateful for that.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, my desire is to rebuild the kitchen that is much needed, though it meets the basic criteria. But here, I think the time has come to change it and have it according to the standard.

I have a million of other ideas as to ​​what I could do, but I would mostly stress children’s programme. All children, regardless of their ethnicity, affiliation, religion, have equal rights and access to upbringing and education, no matter where they are, whether they are urban or rural children.

The moment we put children before anything else, that’s a good moment, that’s a good thing. And then we know what we are doing. So I’ll attend to it and I’ll try to work on it. Of course, I cannot do it myself, but with the support of our fellow citizens, support of our municipality, there is still plenty to do.

How to keep youth in BiH?

Very difficult question. It is possible to keep them.

It is possible to keep them, but you know what – you need to give young people a chance, give young people the opportunity to be more active.

They all say jobs are the problem. It’s not only jobs that are the problem. Many other things are too.

I believe we can keep them but there is still a lot more work to do. The question now is whether young people want to recognise that and whether we have enough strength to keep them, or if it is too late. But in my opinion it’s never too late for the real thing. You just needs to work, and in time it will come to its place.