We are thrilled to have the next group of IWitness global citizens travelling to Kosovo to visit an incredible project the IKEA Foundation funds through the Soft Toys for Education campaign. Liron Kafexholli, Communications Officer at Save the Children, highlights some of the challenges and improvements that have happened through 2016.
Kosovo not only is the youngest country in Europe but it also has the youngest population, with 53% being under 25 years of age. This is a positive element for Kosovo as it can bring forward positive changes and contributions to the country. Investing in education can yield significant development benefits as well as ensuring the country works towards providing a quality education, without discrimination, for all.
Children with disabilities and children from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) community are the most discriminated groups of children in Kosovo. It is estimated that about 150,000 people in Kosovo have some sort of disability, around half of whom are thought to be school-aged children. The figure for the number of children with disabilities in the school system ranges from 5,000 to 5,500 (6.6-7.3%). Children from the RAE community have the lowest school attendance rate in Kosovo.
Thanks to the support of the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children in Kosovo works in nine municipalities and supports 16 schools, to ensure the right to education for the most deprived children. During 2016, 156 children with disabilities and 338 RAE children have enrolled for the first time into pre-primary and primary education.
One of the children benefiting from the project is Erion Buqinca, a nine-year-old boy with Down Syndrome. Erion enrolled in the first grade during 2016, in one of the schools supported by the IKEA Foundation.
Erion has been going to the Handikos Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) centre for five yearsand is now able to do many things that earlier seemed out of reach for him. During this time, he has received both physiotherapy and psychosocial therapy, which has helped him immeasurably.
I have personally had the opportunity to see the progress Erion has made in the last year, when he started writing his first letters. His mother Teuta said: “I will never forget the moment Erion started walking for the first time and it happened here, in the CBR centre. As a result of continuous work Erion can now walk, pronounce words and distinguish shapes, colours, quantities and letters. He attends school in an inclusive classroom—something I thought was impossible just a couple of years ago.”
There are countless stories like Erion’s, where children are accomplishing great things and changing perceptions in Kosovar society.
Thanks to this project, it’s possible for children like Erion to have the chance of a quality education. We are looking forward to having the IWitness team see for themselves how their work is having an impact in reaching the most marginalised children and providing access to mainstream education for children in Kosovo.