UNIQLO and UNICEF Help Reduce Early School Leaving in Serbia
BELGRADE, 11-12 November 2013 - A UNIQLO delegation visited UNICEF Serbia where they are supporting prevention of early school drop-out within the global alliance agreement signed with UNICEF aimed at improving children’s education. The program is providing support to Bangladesh, China, Philippines and Serbia, with more countries to be included.
UNIQLO has donated US$ 630,000 to UNICEF Serbia for a five-year project that will contribute to social inclusion and poverty reduction through reducing the number of children and adolescents dropping out of school.
UNICEF Representative Michel Saint-Lot thanked UNIQLO for their support and expressed his pleasure that Serbia was the first UNICEF office that UNIQLO visited since the beginning of the global UNICEF-UNIQLO collaboration. “UNICEF’s work in Serbia focuses on both the system strengthening within the on-going reform process in the country, and the modelling of new initiatives on the ground. UNIQLO’s support touches both sides of our work, “ he said.
In Serbia, there are high rates of early school drop-out among Roma, children with disabilities and children living in remote rural areas. Some children from these vulnerable groups do not go to school at all.
“Last year we began the ‘Clothes for Smiles’ programme, developed in collaboration with tennis player Novak Djokovic, UNIQLO Global Brand Ambassador. The aim is to provide support to programmes aimed at improving children’s education. We plan to continue the programme and expend it, including here in Serbia,” said Ms. Eiko Sherba, UNIQLO Corporate Social Responsibility Officer.
In Serbia, the project will contribute to the timely identification of and effective support to children and adolescents at risk of dropping out through school and community measures; setting new measures for decreasing drop-out and having them modelled in selected municipalities; improving capacities of the key national and local stakeholders implementing the effective measures.
Mr. Muhedin Fijuljanin, State Secretary of the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, said that the prevention of early school leaving was a key national priority. “Some elements of the early school leaving are integrated into the Education development strategy to 2020, and mid this year, the legislative framework was revised as to clearly define legal obligations of all relevant actors within the educational system. The Ministry has developed and is implementing the early drop-out prevention measures in collaboration with different partners, UNICEF included. UNIQLO’s support to the our efforts will significantly contribute to the achievement of our common goal to reduce early school leaving, especially when it comes to children from vulnerable groups", he said.
During their two day-visit, the delegation visited the city of Nis in South Serbia, one of the municipalities in south Serbia where the capacity of different actors will be conducted (schools, non-governmental organisations, parents, youth organizations, etc.) will be built to plan, implement and monitor policies and measures aiming at drop-out prevention at school and community level. They met with pupils and teachers in a rural school and beneficiaries of a UNICEF-supported community based centre.
Ms Ljiljana Radovanovic Tosic, the Principal of the primary school “Desanka Maksimovic” in the village of Cokot near Nis, said: “We are an inclusive school that educates children with typical development abilities, children with different disabilities, as well as talented children. The school has a good reputation because we have prioritised professional development for our staff, because we are open for innovations and accept to experiment and apply new methods.”
Children at risk of early school leaving will directly benefit from this project that will also have positive effects on parents, relevant institutions at community level (schools, centres for social work, local self-governments), civil society organisations and key ministries.