Our school days are such a formative and paramount period of a person’s life that it’s hard to imagine someone not having any vivid memories. It is so much more than an institution that teaches us knowledge, or “the best that has been thought and said”. School forms our way of thinking and, if done well, it makes us realise that in many cases in life there isn’t just one right answer — there are many, some better than others, and a judgment different from that required for a multiple choice question has to be made. School teaches us about human interaction, emotions, values and much, much more. It is interesting that while we are in school it’s hard for us to imagine that there are children our own age who are not in this situation. Education should be a basic human right available to all but in many cases throughout the world it is denied to people for various reasons.
The Balkan Peninsula is a region where schools and education are not touted as being in the top world league. I was personally educated in Balkan schools until the age of 18 and I have witnessed first-hand how many schools can become shells, ghosts of what they once were, particularly in rural areas; some villages in Bulgaria, for example, still have schools, but not the population that requires them as they are mainly aged 65+. The reasons for this are manifold but an overarching trend would be the exodus from villages to cities, depleting the rural areas of young people to educate.
Marko Risovic has turned his lens to his home country of Serbia to illustrate this trend. The images are strikingly different from what one would expect from a typical school photograph — it’s a decrepit environment and there are hardly any smiles. Far from the ideal happy atmosphere to foster happy childhoods and promote learning. Photographs of former schools with paint coming off the ceiling and walls with shattered windows and plants growing inside are appropriate metaphors for the current state of education — teachers and educators at large are being vilified by parents and people who think they know best because they read something on social media. It’s a sad story about the decline of education and a nation because a country which starts to lose its schools is on a downward spiral to ignorance.
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