Lack of access to early learning affects the well-being of children in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The right to preschool education is universally proclaimed by international standards, most notably the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Early childhood education (ECD) can lay the foundation for later success in life in terms of further education, well-being, employability and social integration, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Persistent equity gaps hinder ECD in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Bosnia and Herzegovina the percentage of three- to four-year-old children attending ECD is still extremely low, although in recent years the percentage of five-year-olds attending preschool one year before enrolment in primary school has significantly increased (from 31 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2016). However, only 1.5 percent of Roma children and two percent of the poorest children are enrolled in preschool. Furthermore, ethnic divisions persist and access to education remains limited for children with disabilities.
To encourage enrolment in preschool, a legislative framework has been put in place for integrated early childhood development (IECD). Services are expanding and are currently provided in 32 municipalities with trained professionals providing quality ECD services to over 2,000 children and their families through home visits.
Through UNICEF advocacy with the Government, enrolment in preschool education has gained momentum, and more than half of the country’s children have begun attending minimum preschool programmes prior to first grade, as required by the legislative framework.
UNICEF interventions focus in the following areas:
- Supporting the continued expansion of preschool education programmes in order to increase preschool attendance, particularly among Roma children.
- Addressing data gaps and identify invisible and excluded children to boost attendance in primary and secondary education by children with disabilities and Roma children.