In 2015, the candidate for mayor at the time, Erjon Veliaj, promised to build a kindergarten and a public school in the area of KMY, Yzberisht, today an administrative unit with at least 70 thousand inhabitants. Eight years after the promise, not only hasn’t the elementary 9-year school been built, but the location where it was supposed to be built has changed on the urban plan map. This is against the rules of the urban plan according to which a neighborhood must have an elementary 9-year school no further than 500 meters from its establishments and a secondary school no further than 1000 meters. Some parents tell Faktoje about the financial and psychological cost that the lack of educational institutions causes for one of the neighborhoods with the highest population density in the capital.
Irena came from Vlora to build her life in Tirana almost 23 years ago, while for 14 years she has been living in Yzberisht near the area known as KMY, one of the neighborhoods of Tirana with a high population density that is growing unstoppably. Irena and Ilir Bleta are parents of two children, a boy in the 7th grade and a girl in the second grade of elementary school. If Yzbershti had a school built, they would save at least 10 million lek per month, just for the transportation they have to pay, since that is how much the van costs to take them to and from the public school “Sabaudin Gabrani”, almost 4 kilometers away from the apartment.
Child taking the van to school
A parent helping his child with the school bag, Yzberisht March 2023
Ardit is another parent who has a daughter who is in the second grade. He accompanies her every morning until she gets on the private school van. He says he was forced to take such a decision after considering the options available.
If I would send her to a public school, the transportation would be not only an additional cost, but an additional problem in itself, because she would have to travel with students of different ages, without a teacher accompanying them. When she finishes school, she has to take the van again and go to an ‘after school centre’ on her own, as both of her parents are still at work by that time. The cost is high, and you have no control over your daughter’s travel. So we were forced to choose a private school which provides transport. In the first grade, the monthly cost was 220 euros, while this year the cost has gone up to 320 euros/month. Of course, it is a lot of money, but we had no other choice”, says Ardit. In order to cope with the increasingly expensive life, he is forced to do two jobs and together with his wife have an income of 150,000 lek, of which 2/3 goes only for his daughter’s education and the home loan and 50,000 lek remain for all monthly bills and food. “Everything has become more expensive, but the absence of school has greatly affected our family budget, one salary only goes to the education of the girl at this age, later at this rate I don’t know how much the bill could be”, he concludes.
Children waiting for vans
Many parents in Yzberisht, which today has at least 70 thousand inhabitants, are concerned about the lack of public educational institutions. If you take a look at the Territorial Planning Regulation, the standard requires that the residential area must have an elementary 9-year school no further than 500 meters and a secondary school no further than 1000 meters.
This was also taken into account by the candidate for mayor in his campaign for the local elections in 2015, Erjon Veliaj, who promised, among other things, to build a kindergarten and an elementary 9-year-old school in Yzberisht:
“We are committed to building a kindergarten and a new 9-year-old school in the New Ring area in Yzberisht near KMY, because that is where we need it the most, so we can make it easier for Kombinati school, which operates on two shifts today” – he said he during a meeting with voters in area number 6 in Kombinat on May 25th, 2015. (click here for video recording of the promise)
Screenshot from the list of electoral promises of Erjon Veliaj
Based on the high public interest regarding this promise, Faktoje addressed a request for information to the municipality of Tirana on January 31st, 2023 asking about the two works promised 8 years ago, but for a month and a half, the institution did not reply.
Yzberisht, by decision no. 33 dated March 29, 2018 of the municipal council of Tirana, has been declared an administrative unit, known as neighborhood 14, and is estimated to have at least 70,000 inhabitants.
In this area live mainly people who came from other cities and young couples, who have generally taken loans to buy apartments, with apartment prices being lower than those closer to the center of Tirana. Their income is low, as most of them live on minimum to average wages, so they have to sacrifice even more to educate their children.
From an online search we found the feasibility study report of the municipality of Tirana, published in November 2016 for the educational infrastructure. Even in this study, it is emphasized that despite the population density, especially in the area of the New Ring and Yzberisht, the educational infrastructure is missing.
Screenshot from the feasibility study showing the lack of schools in Yzberisht
In the 2016 plan, it is written that two educational institutions will be built in Yzberisht.
Screen from the feasibility study of the municipality where it is determined where the new schools will be built
The following map, part of the feasibility study, defines the place where the school would be built near KMY in Yzberisht.
We went to the area planned for the construction of the school, but on the ground we found only a field, next to which stood a multi-story building.
Multi-storey building near the planned area for the construction of the school in Yzberisht
Planned site for school construction, Yzberisht, March 2023
A few days before the publication of this article and after the complaint process to the Commissioner for the Right to Information, Tirana Municipality confirmed that the construction of the school and kindergarten is still in the procurement phase, but the site where the school will be built has changed.
Screenshot of Tirana Municipality’s response, March 10, 2023
In Yzberisht, we also met Alda, the mother of a 3-year-old girl who says: “I send her to a private school, because we are at work and we have no other option, I pay 180,000 lek a month just for this.”
Elona has three children, 2 in 9-year school and a little one that she keeps at home. “They are in the 3rd and 9th grade in a private school, so there is no money left for food and the rest. I take care of them, but I have to do that by taking time off from work,” she says.
For former municipal councilor Akil Kraja, this is a complex problem in social, financial, political and human terms.
“The construction of 17 schools would be done through concessionary PPPs at a cost of 60 million euros and we would pay an interest rate of 6.5%. During this period, the education tax was collected, the citizens paid it, but was the money spent on and how much has been collected so far? 9-year education is mandatory in the Republic of Albania, and the 9-year school in Yzberisht, specifically, should have been self-financed”, says Kraja for Faktoje.
Sociologist Entela Binjaku sees the long-term consequences of the lack of public educational institutions in populated areas such as Yberisht.
“The right to education is one of the main human rights. When adults agree with this situation, they do nothing but preserve the situation as it is and pass on to their children what they themselves, already parents, have accepted and lived: the lack of basic elements for a decent life: roads, water, services, respect for human rights, etc. It is enough to see a day in the life of a family that has one or more children in such a situation: waking up early, leaving the house earlier, waiting for the vehicle, time spent on the road, dealing with traffic as in the case of the capital, arriving late for the first lesson.”
Even waking up children early has consequences. “This means: in many cases, fewer hours of sleep necessary for the child’s own health, starting the daily program earlier than their peers, growing up with the feeling of expectation from others and not of independence: many times their parents show pride that they: have grown up with their house key hanging around their neck”, she concludes.
In addition to the cost in the budget of each family that has to send their children to school, sociologist Marsi Simo lists the problems that the absence of a school brings. “Schools are not only institutions where learning takes place, but also creative, sports and social spaces, so if they are missing in a certain area, we cannot expect positive developments. The passivity shown for this area creates a not very positive sign for the community as a whole”, says the sociologist. On the other hand, she also mentions the overcrowding in the classes in the schools located closer to this area, affecting the quality of teaching. According to her, among the public schools in the areas closest to Yzberishti, the “Sabaudin Gabrani” or “Ahmet Gashi” schools in Laprakë are the favorite ones.
*This article is published as part of the call for 10 articles with a fact checking profile, part of the “Strengthening Fact Checking Journalism in Albania” Project, which is being implemented by Faktoje, supported by the Dutch Embassy. These articles are part of the national competition for “Fatos Baxhaku” award.