Series of events highlight the importance of Early Childhood Development in Kosovo
By Edona Zogu
PRISTINA, Kosovo, 26 June 2012 - Earlier this month, a series of high-visibility events highlighted one of the territory’s most neglected investments for children – Early Childhood Development (ECD).
Launched by the President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, the ECD-themed week began with the release of a UNICEF-commissioned report by Yale University (“Joined Hands, Better Childhood”) analyzing current investments in ECD in Kosovo, and outlining costed recommendations for a way forward. The goal of the event was to stimulate debate on how to best meet the needs for comprehensive development of the children in their earliest years, a discourse markedly absent to date.
Aside from President Jahjaga’s address, speakers included Deputy Prime Minister Hajdredin Kuçi, EU Special Representative Samuel Zbogar, IMF Resident Representative Jose Sulemane, Minister of Health Ferid Agani, Minister of Education Rame Buja, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Fatmir Shurdhaj, and MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights, Gender Equality, Missing Persons and Petitions, Susanne Novoberdali. The UNICEF Kosovo Head of Office a.i. Luciano Calestini presented the findings of the Yale report.
All speakers universally reinforced the urgency to invest in Kosovo's youngest citizens from the legal, social and/or economic perspectives.
To reinforce the importance of the ECD opportunity for Kosovo amongst policy-makers, the UNICEF Kosovo office secured the agreement of the Assembly of Kosovo to hold a special parliamentary session on Children’s Day itself. Exceptionally invited to attend the session, the UNICEF staff present witnessed a lively and substantive debate between parliamentarians and ministers, in the presence of the Prime Minister, on the value of ECD and the realization of child rights in general. A series of specially created postcards featuring designs and bearing messages by pre-school children were distributed to the gathered 79 MPs, some of which were subsequently read to the session by the Speaker.
In addition, through the great support of UNICEF Brussels, a pre-recorded video message by MEP and Standing Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Kosovo Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA) was broadcast to the Assembly during the session. MEP Lunacek urged her fellow Kosovo MPs to act decisively and hold the government accountable for their results for children, with emphasis on ECD. Subsequent to the session, eight recommendations have now been adopted by the Assembly and form the basis of a resolution that calls on the government to compile qualitative educational programs for parents with the aim to improve the nutrition, care, and stimulate learning in the earliest early years.
Violence against children also features, with emphasis on empowerment of strengthened services for child protection. The climax of the week was a public event on the afternoon of Children's Day in Mother Teresa Street, Pristina’s principle pedestrian boulevard, in collaboration with Pristina Municipality and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. With Pristina Mayor Isa Mustafa and Minister Buja in attendance, the “Your Star” campaign (inspired by UNICEF Turkey) aims to sustain parental awareness of the importance of ECD over the next 12 months, and unveiled thirty decorated star-shaped sculptures bearing key messages to caregivers.
The campaign launch also provided an afternoon of fun and activities for children with painting, clowns and music.