ADRA in Serbia

The Impact of COVID-19

On March 15, 2020, Serbia declared a national emergency due to COVID-19. Following the declaration and the decrease in economic activity, the working hours offered in Serbia declined by an estimated 14.8% during the second quarter of 2020. More than 700,000 workers were at immediate risk, including those in wholesale trade, transport services and crop and animal production.

Since the pandemic, Serbia has faced many challenges, including rising energy and food prices, rising inflation and slow trade. Without structural reform, many feel as though there cannot be a boost in productivity. 

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency 

ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, has provided counseling and medical checkups for the homeless and displaced in Serbia, as well as transportation to health care institutions and other health care services. During the lockdown, children in Serbia also received tutoring from ADRA teachers, and this continues in 2023, as children in poverty receive education services from ADRA. 


In Serbia, 45% of children will drop out of school once they reach 11 years of age, because of poverty and a lack of support for education. Yearly, ADRA supports 150 students who are a part of socially vulnerable families to enroll in school, advance their education and prevent dropout. ADRA provides links to employers for these students once they leave school.


ADRA estimates there are 5,000 to 15,000 persons who face homelessness in the capital of Serbia. ADRA supports up to 1,000 with mobile showers and laundry, as well as health care and psychological support. The organization works with authorities to ensure the proper implementation of relevant policies and to create new ways to end homelessness. Monthly, ADRA provides 550 hygiene, 350 health care and 450 psychological services to the homeless population in Serbia. 

ADRA trains local police to work with the homeless population. They also issue personal IDs and insurance to the impoverished people of Serbia. Yearly, ADRA lifts 130 homeless people out of their difficult living situations so they are able to restore their social lives and integrate into society.

Current Projects 

In Belgrade, ADRA has assisted in the renovation of a church. This renovation is meant to house a church congregation with some apartments offered to key workers. Currently, the organization is holding classes for Roma refugee children on Sunday mornings to improve their education. This is to help these children get into schools. ARDA runs formal education classes as well as informal ones where children learn about essential life skills and discuss the effects of smoking, drugs and alcohol consumption.

ADRA’s vision is to work with churches in Serbia to provide opportunities to break generational poverty and help victims of economic and political policies. 

– Abigail DiCarlo
Photo: Flickr

Education in Serbia
Since Serbia transitioned to democracy in 2000, its education system has faced challenges in regard to access, equity, quality and financing. However, in recent years the country has made major efforts to rebuild and improve its education system.


The distribution of schools in Serbia does not correspond to its population. Although the gross enrollment rate (GER) for preschool education is 98% overall, the GER is as low as seven percent of children in rural areas. These children sometimes have to walk between three to 10 km on way to school.

Serbia adopted the Law on Foundations of the Education System in 2009 to address this issue. This law was meant to provide opportunities for the marginalized, economically disadvantaged and internally displaced students in Serbia.


A major inequity gap exists for children with special needs. According to a 2010 statistic, only 1% of children with disabilities have access to pre-primary education. These children are also more likely than non-disabled peers to drop out of school. Resources are particularly scarce for students with physical impediments.

In 2008, UNICEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address inequity. The goals in the Memorandum were to establish a foster care system for children with disabilities as well as establish new standards for accountability and protection of child rights.


Serbia’s learning outcomes are below the region’s international average. This low performance is due in part to the school system’s failure to address the psychosocial needs of children emerging from conflict. School safety, drinking water and restroom sanitation also need improvement.

A “School without Violence” (SwV) initiative has been implemented across the nation to improve school quality and yield safer school environments. It includes the development of plans for crisis situations, a parent’s manual and the promotion of fair play in sports.


Although the level of government spending on education in Serbia (3.8%) is comparable to other European countries, its outcomes are poorer. This is due in part to Serbia’s inefficiently small classrooms.

To increase efficiency, the World Bank suggests consolidating under-enrolled classes by shifting students to other classes in the same school. This would reduce education costs by 10%.

According to Minister of Education M. Srđan Verbić, education in Serbia needs to be broad and flexible with its curriculum. This will provide students with the skills necessary for any job in the global workforce.

The Education Reform Initiative of Southeast Europe (ERI SEE) has the potential to establish one such framework for educational qualifications. It will also better distribute funds for education in Serbia. This cooperation in the education sector will cumulatively optimize school networks and increase school readiness and quality, ensuring equal access and high-quality education to all children in Serbia.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr