Computer whiz kid becomes Balkan celebrity at age 9

Thu Feb 4, 2010 12:34pm EST
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By Kole Casule

SKOPJE (Reuters Life!) - Macedonia, which hopes to transform itself into a regional tech center, could not be more proud of nine-year-old Marko Calasan, who recently became one of the world's youngest Microsoft Certified System Engineers.

The problem is that without serious state or private support Marko can't see much of a future in the landlocked Balkan country that declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1992.

"I want to stay, but there are no resources for me here. I want to go to America, where I can find more technical resources for what I need. I cannot prosper here. I want to, but cannot," Calasan said in an interview.

The Macedonian government is implementing an ambitious program to provide a computer for every student in the country. But Marko wowed his parents, educators and the public in one of Europe's poorest countries years before it set the school computer plan into motion.

At the age six, Marko had his first systems administrator credential from Microsoft. He became an instant media celebrity across the Balkans in December when he became a Certified System Engineer, a title difficult to obtain even by more veteran computer system engineers.

With great talents come special rights, and the Macedonian government has granted him special permission to attend school infrequently.

"I love going to school, but cannot go every day. It's a bit easy there, but I learn something new," said Marko, who already speaks fluent English.

At the entrance to his elementary classroom, next to the childish art of other students, hangs a large mosaic of newspaper clippings with headlines referring to Marko as "the Bill Gates of our 'hood" or the "Computer Mozart."   Continued...