How Save the Children is creating positive changes for minority and disabled children in Kosovo
We are thrilled to have the next group of IWitness Global Citizens travelling to Kosovo to visit an incredible project we fund through the Soft Toys for Education campaign. Valid Zhubi, Education Thematic Manager at Save the Children who is coordinating the project, highlights some of the challenges and improvements.
It is estimated that about 150,000 people in Kosovo have some sort of disability, and about half are thought to be children of school age. According to the Child Right Situation Analysis published in 2014 by Save the Chilren in Kosova/o, the number of children with disabilities in the school system ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 (1.3 – 2%). Parents and family members of children with disabilities—especially those coming from rural areas—are still lacking awareness about the opportunities available for enrollment of their children in mainstream education.
Moreover, children of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) communities still have the lowest school attendance and educational attainment in Kosovo. Also, of the 74% of children aged 5-6 who attend pre-primary classes, this figure is even lower for ethnic minorities, with only 10% enrolled in any early-childhood education programmes.
Corporal punishment is still accepted and is not banned in all settings. The number of cases of violence has recently increased in Kosovo, which is believed to be due to the economic situation. Cases of violence also remain hidden and unreported due to the lack of proper identification and reporting mechanisms in schools.
Save the Children’s project, implemented in nine municipalities in Kosovo in coordination with local grassroots non-governmental organisations, is a three-year project supported by the IKEA Foundation. It aims to promote the right to education for marginalised children, including children with disabilities and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children, focusing on inclusive education, particularly at pre-primary and primary level. The project also promotes children’s access to a safe and secure school environment, and raising awareness of children’s rights and participation among duty-bearers in municipal and central government, as well as in civil society.
As a result of our work, just during 2014, 104 children with disabilities and 214 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children have been enrolled into preschool and pre-primary education for the first time. Furthermore, 217 children with disabilities benefited from non-formal education activities in eight community-based rehabilitation centres. Meanwhile, 91 events/meetings helped 722 parents of children with disabilities, 261 local authorities, 136 representatives of educational institutions and 32 representatives of civil society organisations learn about children’s barriers to education.
Also, a Didactic Manual on Prevention of Violence has been designed and approved jointly with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, to help primary school teachers deliver interactive sessions and teaching units with their pupils, aiming to enhance children’s knowledge of different issues related to violence against children. So far the manual has been distributed to schools in 23 municipalities, and thousands of elementary school children will benefit.
Thanks to the support from the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children in Kosova/o has been able to implement this holistic project to improve the lives of 12,000 children, including marginalised children, out of whom 600 are children with disabilities and 400 are children of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) communities.