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Mysteries of the Parallel Service

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Boro Vučinić has recently been appointed the sixth Director of the Secret Services since the introduction of a multi-party system in Montenegro. He took over the position from Vladan Joković, who resigned last winter “motivated by personal reasons.” Little did anyone believe in such an explanation, since Joković resigned after the publication of a (not)falsified list of conversations between Igor Lukšić and Milan Roćen with Darko Šarić, an affair that implied alleged links between the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integrations with the head of organized crime whose associates in Montenegro are now convicted by non-enforceable judgements of money laundering. In the context of Montenegro approaching full NATO membership, the National Security Agency (ANB) is in focus, which should, together with other state bodies, actively participate in the implementation of measures for criminal prosecution of perpetrators, co-perpetrators, instigators, supporters and/or other persons who are in any way related to money laundering. Such an ANB role is described in the Second Annual National Program, a document submitted by Lukšić's government in September 2011 to NATO.

However, well-known and proven facts compromise fine-grained writing. Darko Šarić, for instance, smoothly passed the security check of the ANB. It has been documented that with Safet Kalić, now accused of money laundering, secret service officers had unusually cordial contacts for at least a decade.
Zoran Lazović and Duško Golubović, high-ranked ANB officials, are most often publicly connected with the criminal milieu. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister Lukšić indirectly advised them to retire on 16 January, both of them are still active, although, it is claimed, without concrete operational responsibilities. However, this in reality does not mean much, because their roles are only partially determined by a special act of systematization.

According to Nebojša Medojević, Lazović and Golubović are the link with a group of officers specializing in espionage, who for years allegedly worked “in a parallel secret service for the needs of Milan Roćen and DPS president Milo Djukanović”. The subjects of their supervision are judges, prosecutors, non-governmental sector activists, businessmen, competitors or factions in the establishment, as well as “competitors in criminal matters and in public procurements”. Parallel service was reportedly formed because ANB’s maneuvering space for abuse was reduced.

Discussions were held on 15 February, at a session of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, when Boro Vučinić threatened Medojević before the appointment as the director of ANB, alternatively, he said that “they would deal with him if the prosecutor does not do it.” He tried to deny that in 2007, with no written evidence of compulsory security checks, prominent members of the former Military Security and Military Intelligence Agency, known as KOS and VOS, were employed and later deployed to extremely sensitive places in the Ministry of Defense.

Some of them, such as Colonel Vladislav Vlahović (now the Head of the military segment of the Montenegrin Mission in Brussels) and Lieutenant Colonel Darko Burić (on duty in the General Staff of the Montenegrin Army), were men of the General Branko Krga, Chief of the Intelligence Administration in two mandates (1994-1997, 1999-2001) and then until 2005 as the Deputy and then Chief of the General Staff in Belgrade.

Medojević claims that a parallel service was formed “in order to maintain ties with the Russian security structures with which military intelligence agents had previously cooperated.”

The Officers Vlahović and Burić ran the 123rd and/or 3rd center of the Intelligence Administration in Podgorica at different intervals. Their mentor, Branko Krga, has been in the vortex with Milan Roćen for two decades, because until 1994, they had served together in Moscow – Krga as the military attaché, while Roćen was the Charge d'Affairs at the FRY Embassy. Recently, for the Sarajevo-based magazine Dani, Krga talked about his recollections from that time, so he acknowledged that they provided contacts in Moscow to Radovan Karadžić.

After Krga, the military attaché in Moscow and Roćen's colleague was Radoslav Škorić, who was later general, from 2002 to 2003, the Head of the Intelligence Administration who formed the 3rd center in Podgorica and appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Burić as the Chief. Škorić was dismissed after one lieutenant colonel was arrested in Belgrade in September 2003 for the crime of espionage in favor of Russia.

Several officers accused of illegal espionage, according to Vučinić's permission, gave public statements and tried to deny Medojević’s allegations. All of them, as the proof of their correctness, are referring to the fact that in 2009, ANB checked them so that they could obtain a security clearance for access to classified NATO information.

However, this is a procedure on a different basis, not a background check that had to be done by 2007 and on which Medojević insisted. Three members of ANB, with the previous history of undermining Belgrade’s military agency work ahead of the referendum, were then directly in charge of the checks at the Ministry of Defense: Božidar Lakić (now retired), Predrag Abramović (transferred to a bank to a security position) and Veselin Mazić.

In the Second Annual National Program, Igor Lukšić's government reported in the autumn to NATO that “after the completion of the assessment of vulnerability, the updated plans for keeping and handling classified information were adopted”.

NATO reportedly observed serious problems in the security sector of Montenegro. There is a fear of or possible confirmation of the illegal leakage of NATO information submitted to the Directorate for the Protection of Classified Information, which is kept in the building of the Ministry of Defense, and for whose security ANB is responsible.

Such a conclusion is indirectly derived from the fact that last year the ANB appointed a special “responsible person” for performing internal control over the implementation of the measures for the protection of classified information. Previously, the Montenegrin officials claimed that the security of NATO information was maximum. In the meantime, the Ministry of Defense has launched contradictory information about the parallel service. They said at the beginning of February that this department and the Montenegrin Army “do not have and did not have eavesdropping equipment and devices”. Later on, the new Minister of Defense, Milica Pejanović-Djurišić, alluding to their obsolescence and inefficiency, mentioned certain “megaphones, dictation machines and record players”.

The Army without the Service

For years, Boro Vučinić unsuccessfully tried or just pretended to try to legalize, without ANB, a special, transparent, “military service”, which is, after all, a NATO standard.

However, the military security operations are still in the jurisdiction of ANB. In April of last year, the Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on ANB was adopted, which “extended the competencies of the Agency to issues of importance for the defense interests of Montenegro and fulfillment of strategic security goals and interests (intelligence and counterintelligence activities in the field of defense).”

On the data gathered in this area, ANB reports to the Council for Defense and Security (Filip Vujanović, Ranko Krivokapić, Igor Lukšić), as well as to the Minister of Defense and the Chief of General Staff of the Montenegrin Army.

On 29 July 2011, ANB signed an Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operations with the Ministry of Defense, which, among other things, regulated the sending of ANB representatives to the Ministry of Defense, which occurred only at the beginning of December last year.
The Minister of Defense, Milica Pejanović-Djurišić has recently said that the special military service “has not yet been formed”.

Counterattack against Medojević

The counterattack against Nebojša Medojević, who for two or three years has been insisting on the fact that an illegal secret service is operating within the Ministry of Defense, was also joined by Ivan Mašulović, appointed from last winter as the Assistant Minister of Defense for the defense policy, previously the Head of the Criminal Investigation Police, security guard at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Milan Roćen, Head of ANB for Podgorica, advisor of Igor Lukšić.

Mašulović as part of the public reaction on 16 March – only three days after Milica Pejanović-Djurišić was appointed – said that he would press charges against Medojević “because of the untruths”. He did not deny the connection with Andreja Savić, former Director of the Security and Information Agency of Serbia, with whom he published certain police textbooks – what the Monitor wrote about – but on that occasion Mašulović stated:
„I have never seen or heard from Mr. Branko Krga, nor have I talked to him on any basis, and I simply do not know him. Also, I have never held a single lecture at the Academy for Diplomacy and Security (ADB) in Belgrade, nor have I physically ever entered this facility. The only connection I have with ADB is that one of my books is used as supplementary literature in the field of security management”.

It is not clear when Mašulović is telling the truth, because he denies himself. In his chrestomathy “Security of the European Union” (Podgorica, 2009), co-authored by Andreja Savić, Mašulović wrote in his biography that he was “an associate” of ADB.

The founder of ADB is a controversial businessman Nenad Djordjević, who until 2007 was the owner of a part of the island of Hawaii near Budva. Andreja Savić and Branko Krga are lecturers at ADB.

At the end of 2011, Ivan Mašulović, during the mandate of Boro Vučinić, was appointed as the Assistant governing the Sector for Defense Policy, and in that way, according to the systematization of the Ministry of Defense, he oversees the operational links of official Podgorica to NATO, including the Directorate for the Protection of Classified Information, military-diplomatic representatives, Department for International Cooperation and Department for NATO and the European Union.

During the visit to the headquarters of ANB as a member of the Security and Defense Committee, Nebojša Medojević asked the competent officers whether foreign partners, including the US DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), asked for checks on whether Ivan Mašulović also “disclosed information” to Dragan Fric Dudić.

He did not get a specific answer to that question.
For a few years, Mašulović was the head of CB Herceg Novi, under whose jurisdiction was Kotor, the town from which Dudić worked.

Vladimir JOVANOVIĆ

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THE CASE OF PODGORICA BASIC COURT JUDGE MLADEN GRDINIĆ: Promotion and privileges in exchange for protecting interests of Žugić and Medenica

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After suspicious actions in cases in which Vesna Medenica, Radoje Žugić and the DPS are interested, judge Grdinić was rapidly promoted and gained privileges. According to the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, Grdinic's property has multiplied in just one year.

 

Judge Mladen Grdinić dismissed my lawsuit for discrimination against the Central Bank of Montenegro (CBM) and the Governor Radoje Žugić in its entirety as unfounded. With such a verdict, Grdinić gave the Governor, but also every other employer in Montenegro, freedom to implement nepotism and employ according to unknown criteria. The High Court and the Supreme Court revoked this verdict and the case was remanded for retrial after almost four years, Ivan Jović, a former employee of the CBM, told Monitor. 

This week, Jović's retrial is taking place before the Basic Court in Podgorica and Judge Grdinić against the CBM and the Governor Žugić as the employer. 

He explains that he filed the first lawsuit in October 2017, after a series of unsuccessful attempts to resolve the dispute within the CBM. “After 13 years of dedicated work in the Financial and Banking Operations Division – International Payments Operations Department, with the arrival of Radoje Žugić as the Governor in the second term, my job was deleted overnight, with no prior notice, explanation and most importantly –  needlessly. I had not a single reproach from my superiors, and I do have over 20 certificates from trainings attended in central banks in the European Union, sent to by the CBM herself, investing significant funds in my professional development” says Jović. 

In addition to the basic lawsuit, he simultaneously filed two initiatives with the Constitutional Court of Montenegro to assess the constitutionality and legality of the CBM Rulebook on the Organization of jobs, promulgated by the Governor Žugić. Those initiatives were rejected, and the Constitutional Court never considered the constitutionality and legality of the Governor's actions. Shortly afterwards, Žugić hired the son of “presiding” Constitutional Court judge Desanka Lopičić, Janko Lopičić. 

In his testimony before Judge Grdinić, Jović explained that deleting his job and transferring him to another job, in a department not related to his previous professional engagement, with a significant reduction in earnings, was an clear act of arbitrariness of the Governor Žugić.I was only the collateral damage of the Governor's clash with the then director of the Financial and Banking Operations Division, Mr Idriz Ćetković. By the decision of Governor Žugić, the director was dismissed overnight, forced to retire, and I, as one of his closest associates, was downgraded” Jović added. 

According to the claims of the former CBM employee, Judge Grdinić at the main hearing did not allow the discussion on the identities of the CBM employees, i.e. their friendly and family ties with the Governor and the CBM management. Such actions, Jović notes, protected the interests of the Governor and prevented proper determination of the relevant facts. The verdict of the Supreme Court, Monitor had insight into, also reads that Judge Grdinić passed the first-instance verdict with a significant violation of the provisions of the civil procedure and the absence of reasons for decisive facts. 

This is the third case assigned to the Judge Grdinić, which refers to Governor Žugić and the CBM, assigned in a period of only two years. 

In May 2016, he rejected Žugić's lawsuit against the daily DAN, for mental suffering caused by reputation damage, by which he demanded 15 thousand euros in compensation for non-pecuniary damage due to the headline entitled “Žugić received his doctorate in a non-existent study“. Although he rejected Žugić's claim with the verdict, Grdinić still protected him, in a way that he excluded from the verdict and completely marginalized certain material evidence obtained in the court proceedings. The case of the disputed doctorate was not forward to the prosecution by the judge Grdinić, who ought to have done it ex officio. “For insisting on elements of a criminal offence relating to the Žugić's invalid doctorate, lawyer Nebojša Asanović was publicly arrested, handcuffed and detained for alleged tax evasion, based on a criminal lawsuit by Siniša Kovačević, the chief tax inspector appointed by Žugić when he was the finance minister. He is Žugić's brother-in-law, brother of Žugić`s spouse Milanka-Mira Žugić, explains Monitor‘s well-informed source. 

It's worth reminding: only three months ago, Judge Grdinić also rejected the lawsuit of the former CBM Vice Governor, Irena Radović, in its entirety as unfounded. She, as Monitor wrote earlier, filed a lawsuit against the Governor and the CBM for discrimination and mobbing in 2018, months prior to her dismissal in the Parliament. During the two years and four months that the dispute lasted in the first instance with Grdinić, Radović's attorneys asked for his exemption, due to bias. According to Monitor‘s sources, the President of the Court, Željka Jovović, the godmother of the President of the Supreme Court, Vesna Medenica, rejected the request for his exemption. 

After such actions, Judge Grdinić became the Vice President of the Basic Court in Podgorica in June 2019, although he slipped into the judicial toga for the very first time at end-2015, based on the decision of Medenica and the Judicial Council. Simultaneously, Željka Jovović was appointed president of the Basic Court. 

In the short period following his assignment and with the achieving of good results in the cases in which Medenica, Žugić, DPS were interested, Grdinić was progressing rapidly and gaining privileges.

According to the Agency for Prevention of Corruption data Monitor had insight into, Grdinić's property multiplied in just one year. 

According to the property card reported to the Agency in 2018, Grdinić had only 1,100 euros in his current account and had no real estate. Only a year later, the judge's property card indicates a monthly income from rent in Kolašin in the amount of 3,000 euros a year, without prior registered real estate, i.e. on what basis he earns income from renting out. According to the property card from 2019, Grdinić had an inflow of 31,300 euros, also without reporting where that income came from. Two months later, he reported the vehicle as an increase in assets beyond 5,000 euros – a Peugeot 508 1.6 HDI, again without explanation. 

In May 2020, Grdinić took over the keys to the apartment obtained on favorable terms. In the property card reported to the Agency on 10 March 2020, he reported an apartment of 48 square metres with a housing loan of 16,000 euros. Only a day later, he reported a membership in the Steering Committee (SC) of the Commission for Implementation of Child-Friendly Legal Aid, with remuneration of 375 euros. In the meantime, in August 2020, only nine days after passing the verdict in favour of Žugić/CBCG in the Radović case, Grdinić was appointed to the four-member Board of the Mediation Center to represent the Basic Court in Podgorica, with a monthly allowance not yet reported to the Anti-corruption Agency, although four months have passed since his appointment to the new position. 

Grdinić's success in judicial circles is linked to Medenica. According to allegations of those close to Judge Grdinić, Medenica did her internship with Judge Grdinić's father in Kolašin. She worked closely with him for years during her career in the Kolašin judiciary and prosecutor's office. First in his capacity as a judge, then as a lawyer. 

Close relations of Žugić and Medenica are not unknown to the public. It was discovered that they have villas next to each other in the seafront in Krašići. The international public's attention was drawn to Medenica's legal position that officials dismissed in Parliament do not have the right to judicial protection before regular courts, which contributed to protecting the interests of the then ruling DPS majority and the Governor Žugić. Žugić also assisted in the businesses of the children of the President of the Supreme Court. Miloš Medenica got his first job for trading in oil derivatves, linked to the company named „Timi“ during Žugić's term of office as the Minister of Finance. In the meantime, the Investment and Development Fund (IRF), which is controlled by the CBM and Governor Žugić, approved and implemented via Prva banka two favourable credit arrangements of almost 400 thousand euros to the same company owned by Medenica's son. Medenica, as the supreme state prosecutor, thwarted the indictment of Žugić on at least two ocasions, while he was the director of the Pension Fund including for the controversial privatisation of Maritime Transport company in 2004. 

What can Ivan Jović expect from the new trial on Thursday, when this issue of Monitor goes to press?

HOW ŽUGIĆ AND CBM TAKE CARE OF THE JUDGES’ CHILDREN IN PARALEL WITH RELATIVES, FRIENDS, BEST MEN

“A significant number of children of Montenegrin judges are employed by the CBM,” Monitor source stressed.

The son of the Supreme Court judge Radojka Nikolić, Marko Nikolić, also works in the CBM, in banking supervision. Žugić awarded director positions to the daughter and son-in-law of Supreme Court Judge Dušanka Radović, Marija and Rajko Sekulović. As the Monitor's source explains, Žugić is in a direct kinship relationship with Judge Radović. The husband of the judge of the Supreme Court Nataša Božović, Srđa Božović, is also sitting today in the Advisory Board of the Governor of the CBM with monthly remuneration. Previously, he was a member of the CBM Council for a full eight years, with a monthly fee of one thousand euros in net amount.

Both daughters of the Supreme Court judge Svetlana Vujanovic and Filip Vujanovic, former triple president of Montenegro, prime minister and former Minister of Justice Nina Vujanovic and Tatjana Vujanovic Vukasnovic, also work in the CBM.

After the illegal dismissal of Vice Governor Irena Radović, Tatjana Vujanović Vuksanović, but also the daughter of Prime Minister Duško Marković, Valentina Marković, were promoted. Marković was promoted to being the chief supervisor, and Vujanović Vuksanović to special advisor to the governor for representing the CBM in difficult disputes before the courts. Her sister Nina Vujanović was also, after Radović's dismissal, promoted to advisor to Vice Governor Nikola Fabris.

It is also a convenient coincidence that Tatjana Vujanović Vuksanović legally represented Žugić in Radović's dispute against him and the CBM before Judge Grdinić. Besides her, Žugić's representative in the same dispute is Ana Đukanović, the sister of Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović, who initially defended the interests of CBM and Žugić against Radović openly and singlehandedly in June and July 2018. This can be seen from the documentation signed by the president's sister, whilst in the dispute before the Basic Court, in addition to Vujanović Vuksanović, the interests of the CBM and Žugić were formally represented by Miroslav Adžić, a lawyer who emerged from Ana Đukanović's office.

Andrea JELIĆ

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SILENT KILLER: DRUG ADDICTION AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE IN MONTENEGRO: Growing Hopelessness

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Young people in Montenegro can reach dugs within half an hour. They often consume it in school backyards, most commonly marijuana, and the use of heavy psychoactive substances is increasing. Many of them suffer from psychological disorders. Monitor's interviewees agree that we don’t talk about this enough, and that we lack support of the society as a whole.

 

“They use drugs wherever they can, mostly in the schoolyard. They choose places where cameras can't capture them, and those who want to get “stuff” turn to them. In most cases, it is marijuana”, said student A.S. from Electro-Technical High School Vaso Aligrudic in Podgorica.

Last year's research of the Ombudsman Children and Addiction Diseases in Montenegro showed as well that drug addiction is one of the burning problems of young people in Montenegro. According to the research, which included 37 elementary and 25 high schools, marijuana was used by more than 11 percent of students, while on average, more than eight students consumed heavy drugs. “Half of drug addicts use one substance and the other half use two or more substances. Students in Montenegro use significantly more illegal (heavy) drugs than the EU average”, the study said. As many as 16 percent of students said that illicit substances were often consumed at school, and besides, there was an increase in the use of synthetic drugs, which are cheap and easily available.

“Those for whom I know that use marijuana do it behind the school. They did it before on the fire stairs. The most problematic is easy availability of drugs”, said student Z.K. from Economics High School Mirko Vesovic in Podgorica. More than 25 percent of the students that participated in the Ombudsman's research reported a similar view. If one wants drugs, it will take him half to several hours to get it, which is disturbing.

Dijana Milosevic, from Public Institution Kakaricka Gora, an institution for accommodation, rehabilitation and re-socialization of users of psychoactive substances in Podgorica said for Monitor that it generally began with marijuana “The adolescence itself, is the greatest crisis period of each individual, when identity problems naturally appear, difficulties in accepting authority, as well as a tendency to experiment with “forbidden things.” All these are favorable conditions for an adolescent to come into contact with psychoactive substances. There is a persistent misconception among young people that marijuana is not a drug or that it is an “easy drug” which facilitates entering into problem. Most often marijuana is the first substance that addicts consume. Besides consequences which it leaves on the psyche of the consumer, this is a misconception that can cost them their lives”.

According to her, the reasons why young people use drugs are mainly dissatisfaction, concern or rebellion against authority, boredom, family problems, peer violence as well as opinion that cigarettes, alcohol or drugs are some kind of “gateway” to a certain group of peers.

“Behind our school sports hall, you can often see older guys who give marijuana to children. It happens almost every day and its favorite gathering place”, told us  another student of Electro-Technical High School Vaso Aligrudic.

Monitor addressed this issue to most of the high schools in Podgorica. The question what they did to restrain this problem, even after weeks of waiting, has not been answered.

“We do not work enough in schools with adolescents, when it comes to drug addiction. However, the reason for that is not in schools, but rather in insufficient involvement of institutions, which should tackle more with this problem. We cannot expect from schools to deal with the education of children and to be a police officer and someone who, among other responsibilities, will work with children on restraining this phenomenon. That is why they need help from both the institutions and the civil sector. Everybody has to deal with this phenomenon. Every year its presence in educational institutions is increasing”, said to Monitor NGO Euromost, whose main goal is to support fight against drugs abuse and all forms of addiction.

Drug abuse increased everywhere in the world, and the same happened in our country, regardless of the actions taken through health, educational, legal system, noted psychologist Natasa Vukovic, who works with peer educators as a part of NGO Euromost actions. “The number of drug users is becoming more noticeable among young people, among high school students and even elderly elementary school students. There are no harmless drugs. The continuous, systemic and systematic action of the whole society is necessary. The aim above all must be that children and young people never turn to drugs”.

According to her, inadequate assistance and lack of support from the family, primarily parents, who have failed to maintain a relationship of trust with their children, and who have failed to “impose” desirable role models, make young people an “easy target”.

“Eighteenth birthday celebrations are particularly problematic. Sometimes flats, where they mix two or three types of drugs and large amounts of alcohol, are being rented. Mostly, this refers to grammar school graduates. My daughter went to one such birthday celebration and she called me to pick her up, shocked and dreadful. She didn't know what was going on there. And parents have no idea”, said for Monitor Patricija Pobric, Director of NGO Our Action.

She claims that a deeper involvement in drug addiction is often preceded by some criminal acts: “Usually, as of the third grade of high school, young people are recruited to buy ID cards by older students. These kids turn to drugs afterwards. They are “carriers” and it’s easy to involve them in petty crimes. They later buy motorcycles and cars from that money “.

Many start using drugs because they expect that it will help them deal with problems on a daily basis. Many start out of curiosity, with the well-known – ‘I will just try it’. Asked why someone became an addict and someone did not, especially if persons grew up in similar circumstances or even in the same family, Natasa Vukovic said that there was no clear and definite answer: “The only certain conclusion is that you should clearly advise everyone not to try psychoactive substance because one does not know in advance whether he/she is sensitive to it, which would mean that even a single intake already creates a psychic need for re-taking it. Such patients exist in practice, and they have a common characteristic that they “immediately liked the drug”.

Euromost noted that in addition to combating drug trafficking, we should work also on improving prevention of drug addiction among youth: “Upon completing the training of the first peer educators, Euromost, besides Bijelo Polje, has expanded its workshops to other northern municipalities, such as Plav, Gusinje and Rozaje. The number of participants is the best indicator of youth interest. However, in order for this to be successful, it is necessary to constantly communicate with young people and listen to what they have to say. It is not really useful just to find an expert who will explain them what the drug is and how it looks like”.

Natasa Vukovic, pointed out for Monitor, that addiction can be closely related to young people’s mental problems. Mind and mental healthcare is still a taboo topic in Montenegro. “It is true that in recent years more and more young people have sought help and advice of psychologists, but still shyly, almost always asking for visits not to be evidenced, and that parents do not find out about it, because it is often very difficult for them to accept the fact that their child goes to a psychologist or psychiatrist”, she said.

The state has similar approach. “There is no institution in our country where young people with a mental illness can be treated”, warned Vukovic.

In Montenegro, National Register on Drug Addiction has been maintained since 2013 by the Institute for Public Health, but it functions only on the basis of data collected from health institutions. There is no information about those who are not reported. According to recent estimates, there are more than 15,000 drug addicts in Montenegro.

How many of them are young people and children is not precisely known. The results of the research are discouraging. Monitor's interviewees agree – there is a lack of communication and cooperation between institutions, schools, parents and young people. And the problem of addiction is not the problem of the individual, but of the whole society.

Milo Popovic and Andrea Jelic

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HOW HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ACCEPTED STAY-AT-HOME AND SOCIAL DISTANCING ORDERS: Time of Worrying and Learning

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It has been shown that keeping prescribed distance without physical contact, shaking hands, hugging … is one of the least respected measures among surveyed high school students. According to received answers, the only recommendation that was less respected was the one concerning wearing of protective equipment

 

Do high school students in Podgorica and to what extent respect the measures taken to prevent coronavirus spread? Through social networks, we surveyed about 200 students, from all high schools in Podgorica, to find out first-hand, how they cope with recommendations and measures that, among other things, limit movement and outdoor activities.

“Ever since the coronavirus appeared in Montenegro and since the Government announced the protective measures, I fully comply with them,” Elena Dabetic told us. “I haven't been out of the house since March, even when I have to go to the store, I go with full equipment: masks, gloves, and I keep distance from other people. Quarantine was not difficult for me since I’ve focused on some other activities, for which I did not have time, such as drawing. I kill boredom by playing online video games with my friends, watching movies, reading books, etc. I believe that people just need to think positively and use this time to work on themselves; well, we have a lot of time and we will learn more to appreciate going out after all this.”

Others, again, relativized the danger and explained why they did not exactly adhere to the imposed measures of social distancing. In fact, it was shown that keeping a prescribed distance of 1-2 meters without physical contact, shaking hands, hugging…was one of the least respected measures among surveyed high school students. Only every tenth respondent respected this experts’ recommendation. Even less number of respondents, according to received answers, respected recommendation concerning wearing of protective equipment. It was respected by every fifth research participant.

“When it comes to quarantine, I was relaxed at first, but when the situation intensified, I took it more seriously,” said Isidora Milatovic. “It is difficult for me to get used to it. This is the first time I am faced with situation like this. I spend my time learning, so I don't really do any other activities. I sincerely hope that the situation will stabilize and that we will soon return to a normal life. ”

Her peer Danilo Kujacic explained: “I accept quarantine well, since my usual lifestyle is not much different. I spend most of my day at the computer. I go out with friends in the evening or occasionally, go out for training. I think the current situation is exaggerated and not half as significant as the media present it.”

A significant number of young people, according to their own testimonies, comply with the recommendations and stay at home. Survey has found that watching series and movies, playing games on a phone/computer and using social networks are three of the most common activities young people currently do. According to collected data, every tenth respondent takes an online course, learns a foreign language and (or) reads extracurricular literature.

Milica Radulovic stated that the current situation disturbed everyone's usual activities, but, as she said, we must accept this way of life. “We all eagerly wait for measures to ease, but until that happens, we must use this time as good as possible. I suggest that we all devote this time to ourselves: by doing home-based training, reading a book, studying, but also communicating with friends through social networks. If after doing all of these you still have spare time, you can always watch a series or a movie…”, said our interviewee. And she concluded: “I really miss gatherings in the neighbourhood, but these measures must be respected if we want to get back to our old habits as soon as possible.”

In our survey, high school students cited several common reasons why they went out: a third of surveyed participants went out to shop at stores and pharmacies; a quarter for a walk or training in nature; every fifth for meeting and hanging out with friends… Boris Janjusevic said: “It was strange at first, but over time I got used to it. I spend my time doing homework, but of course I play games more than usual. As usual I spare an hour, an hour and a half of time for training.”

Given the new circumstances, interaction between students and professors in the school classroom has been replaced by online teaching, a platform and a website. Survey showed that most students did assignments, presentations, essays which professors gave, as well as that they studied provided resources. However, based on the results, two-thirds of high school students were not satisfied with online teaching, since, as they said, new way of work, to which they were not used to, required more work, effort and time than “traditional” class attendance.

Almost everyone missed social life, going out and socializing (without set limits). “I am very bored in quarantine and it has been difficult for me to find anything interesting to do”, notes S.P. who wanted to remain anonymous. “I usually play games, write songs, listen to music or do my homework. The current situation has great impact on us and our psyche. When all this is over, the consequences will be visible in our country, as well as in the whole world”, he said.

On the other hand, a smaller number of respondents said that they did not have any difficulties during quarantine. They believe that there has not been any other situation in which they would have so much time to devote to themselves and to improve their skills and potentials. Thus, M.P. explained: “I learn languages ​​during quarantine. I try to organize myself well, especially because of my school obligations. Of course, this is not always possible, but I manage. I also watch movies, communicate with friends, and read books. This is a chance to correct most of the mistakes, because time, despite the space barrier, works in our favour. ”

We spoke with Patricia Pobric, a civic activist and Executive Director of the NGO Our Action, about the behaviour of young people in this new situation caused by coronavirus pandemic and in what way they can make useful contribution.

“One who understands young people understands that current situation is most difficult to them. It's still easy for kids to have fun at home with toys and other activities, but young people are, by their nature, very social beings. They like to move, to socialize, go out…Although we consider that they are too much attached to their phones, physical socializing means a lot to them. In general, I think most young people understood the significance of the situation, and that it was accepted with understanding but not with fear. Only young people to whom parents, relatives, and media transferred fear, showed it.”

Pobric however, pointed out that there were also undesirable examples. “It happens that a small number of young men drives their vehicles after curfew, or organize trips and barbecues and do not respect social distancing. My advice to young members of NGO Our Action, from the beginning of quarantine, was to spend time after online school activities not only on games and internet, but also on planting, working on farms, gardens, learning new skills at home and in nature.” Photos prove that some have accepted the advice.

Zana KNEZEVIC

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