Looking back in time, it is hard to believe that so many years have passed since our initial co-operation with the IKEA Foundation. Save the Children in Kosovo and the IKEA Foundation began their first collaboration in 2000, by jointly supporting the establishment and refurbishment of 380 pre-primary classes (for five-to-six-year-olds) and education programmes in the then war-torn country.
Since then we have worked together to ensure all children receive their equal right to good quality education and protection, and that they are given a voice to speak freely for their rights. We have been doing that especially for the past six years, through two IKEA Foundation-funded projects and the Soft Toys for Education campaign.
We are truly delighted to welcome IKEA’s IWitness team in Kosovo for the fifth year in a row. Another group of co-workers will be able to see the many positive changes happening in Kosovo that would have not been possible without the IKEA Foundation’s support during the past years.
Though a lot of progress has been made in children’s rights in Kosovo, ever since the devastating war in 1999 problems and inequalities still do persist. Around 44% of the Kosovo population still lives below the poverty line and 49% of children are poor. Kosovo’s ethnic minorities, including Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian, remain particularly vulnerable to extreme poverty. Only 10-15% of the estimated 14,500 children with disabilities in the country have access to any form of education and protection services. They continue to be the most marginalised groups in Kosovo and face stigma, discrimination and segregation.
We are working to change that. Ebsar is one of the many beneficiaries of the IKEA Foundation-funded “Quality Education for All, Without Discrimination” project. Implemented in 16 primary schools in nine municipalities throughout Kosovo from 2016-2018, it focuses on promoting the right to education for the most deprived children in Kosovo. Diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Ebsar is an eight-year-old boy from Gjakova, who loves going to school. His progress has been fascinating to watch, as he becomes completely capable of taking care of himself. He is one of around 394 children with disabilities who have benefited from non-formal education provided by eight Handikos community-based rehabilitation centres nationwide, all supported by the IKEA Foundation.
The “Quality Education for All, Without Discrimination” project has so far made it possible for 156 children with disabilities and 338 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children to be enrolled for the first time into pre-primary and primary education. In addition, it has trained 218 teachers and school staff in inclusion, prevention of violence and child rights, and non-discrimination.
It is thanks to the support of the IKEA Foundation that Ebsar can go to school and feel like any other first grader, learning and playing alongside his classmates. Through investing in children’s futures, the IKEA Foundation and Save the Children can help ensure that children like Ebsar never find a reason to believe they do not have what it takes to chase after their dreams.