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First early childhood development centre opens in Serbia

© UNICEF / Udruzenje Roditelj / 2012
Small children play in the newly opened Early Childhood Development Centre in Zemun, Belgrade

BELGRADE, Serbia, 3 July 2012 - The first Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre in Serbia was formally opened today. It is located in the premises of the RODITELJ (“Parent”) Association in Belgrade’s municipality of Zemun. 

The centre in Zemun and a sister centre in Nis are the first of their kind in Serbia. They were established with the assistance of UNICEF, partially using the funds provided by IKEA and UNICEF National Ambassador to Serbia Novak Djoković.

In opening this Early Childhood Development Centre, Jelena Zajeganovic Jakovljevic from UNICEF emphasized the exceptional importance of a child’s first years developmentally and in determining a healthy foundation for life.  She said that in these critical years a child develops emotional stability, learns to trust other people, to build self-esteem and to master social and coping skills they will need later in school and, indeed, in life.

“Early childhood is a time of great opportunities that mustn’t be missed because the consequences are far-reaching. That is why it is important to support parents in acquiring the knowledge they can use to help their children to achieve their full potential and in doing so, make the larger Serbian society prosper,” said Ms. Zajeganovic Jakovljevic.

© UNICEF / Udruzenje Roditelj / 2012
Pre-school children draw and play together in the Early Childhood Development Centre in Zemun, Belgrade

These early childhood development centres will make it possible for parents and children aged zero to six years in the cities of Belgrade and Nis to spend quality time together free of charge, while  participating  in educational and developmental programmes that stimulate  all child development aspects from their earliest weeks.

Dragana Socanin, the head of RODITELJ Association, invited parents and children to get involved in the activities of the early childhood development centres. She pointed out that now it will be possible for children who are not enrolled in kindergartens for a variety of reasons to be exposed to early socialisation and to different forms of stimulation through play and workshops adjusted to their ages. “Parents will have an opportunity to socialise, to grow with their children, to spend time with other parents, to learn together with their children. But also to rest and to have fun”, said Ms. Socanin.

The early childhood development centres will operate on the premises of the RODITELJ Association in Belgrade and Nis. In addition, every first Saturday of the month different locations in these cities will offer a whole-day programme for parents. These monthly thematic workshops will include: peer counselling, and support groups with special attention paid to parents and children of vulnerable groups.

Similar programmes are widely offered in developed countries. They are a form of support to the standard preschool system, and they specifically target children not enrolled in crèches or kindergartens. The programme to be implemented in the early childhood development centres in Serbia was developed based on the Ontario Early Years Centre, which has operated with exceptional success in Canada for over 10 years.

All interested parents may sign up by calling +381 11 3165 376, or by sending an e-mail to the address



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