Uncle Rale

For the past fifteen years, a janitor and stoker Radisav has been taking care of the Elementary School "Slobodan Bajić Baja" in Donji Tovarnik, a small village in the Srem County.

Uncle Rale, as he is known in the school, has learned every scratch on the school’s 1000 square meters, he knows how to cure all its illnesses, he style-trims the greenery, puts back in place every loose screw or detached board, making the school a safe and pleasant place for the pupils to spend time in.

Rale is equally devoted to his darling, his pet-school during the bright summer days, as he is in times of harsh winters, when, in addition to his regular errands, he becomes in charge of another task - to keep the school warm. For years Rale would get up way before dawn so that he could load the coal and wood into the boiler and make the classrooms warm for kids coming to school in the morning. With temperatures falling below zero, the roads becoming snow-drifted and Rale’s car failing to obey, he would cross the three and a half kilometres distance on foot to get to school. “We used solid fuel for heating, coal and wood, which were stored 50m away from the boiler room, so in times of snow and bad weather, I had to use the construction trolley to carry the firewood, which was very hard. Unfortunately, my efforts weren't enough, because the windows were old and rotten, there was no thermal insulation, not in the attick or anywhere at all. It was cold, our teeth chattered all the same.”

His school, one of fifteen in the Srem Municipality of Pećinci, Rale now proudly calls  the Municipal Beauty. Though aged, it won’t let the years show. During the past year , the school has been completely covered with thermal insulation, from outside walls to its ceilings and roof, while the boiler which bothered Radisav and polluted the environment has been replaced with a new, more efficient one, with automatic regulation, and using biomass as fuel.

”A few months ago, a new pellet boiler was installed, 150 kW in power, and it ended the great difficulties we had in this school. We are all happy, the school looks better, my job is much easier now, and the classroom temperature is constant, there is no more cold, the situation has changed 100%, it’s a whole different story now. We never had temperature above 18 degrees before, now that is no longer a problem, chalk and cheese for real”, says Rale.

The most important goal has been achieved  this way - the children now have all the conditions to study and continue to notch up their successes, which, as Rale claims, are numerous. “Every year we have winners on, in the least, county competitions. This small place of ours still pushes the kids to work, we take great pride in our champions. And in all likelihood, there will be more of them. The school is currently attended by 131 pupil, and this number gets higher every year, there are more couples with three or four children in the family, which shows that Donji Travnik has nothing to worry about in the future.”

Setting the thermal insulation, replacing the old boiler powered by coal or gas and installing a circulating pump is an eight million dinars worth investment provided by UNDP together with Serbian Ministry of Mining and Energy, as a part of a wider project which aimsto improve the energy management and reduce the costs of maintaining the public facilities and local public services in Serbia. The project is funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF), while co-financed by the Ministry of Mining and Energy and partner municipalities.

In the scope of this initiative, UNDP has helped 32 local self-governments across Serbia improve their energy efficiency, whereby 820 municipal technicians have learnt how to manage the energy at the local level. Additionally, 125 people passed the training for Municipal Energy Manager. The elementary school in Donji Tovarnik is one of eight schools in which, once supported by the Project, the thermal insulation was improved by facade repairs and replacements of old windows and doors, modernization of boiler rooms and introduction of a new, more efficient and cleaner heating system.

By applying the energy efficiency improvement measures, the stay in these facilities is made more comfortable, while the energy dependance and environment pollution are reduced. 

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