Play Hub and Toy Library in Kuršanec has been opened

Within EU Child Guarantee UNICEF works with partners to ensure equal opportunities for all children

04 March 2022
Predstojnica UNICEF-a u Hrvatskoj crta s djevojčicom
Danijel Soldo/UNICEF

Čakovec, March 3 2022 – Within the pilot-program Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia, funded by the European union, implemented by UNICEF in cooperation with 11 implementing partners in Medjimurje County, two new Play Hubs and Toy Libraries are being established and opened in March. 

With the already established Play Hub in Orehovica, the newly opened Play Hub in Kuršanec and the one in Držimurec-Strelec which will be opened end of March will serve as places for non-formal pre-school education of children and learning through playing. These are especially important places for the most vulnerable children aged three to six because in an informal environment near their homes, they socialize with their peers and parents and develop skills and knowledge necessary later, when starting formal education. Activities designed to promote inclusion are carried out by experts from the Open Academy Step by Step, UNICEF's implementing partner on the principle of promoting care for children in the community and making services more accessible to children and their families. 

Mama s kćerima u Centru igre
Danijel Soldo/UNICEF

In Medjimurje County, as many as 40 percent of children aged three to six are not included in preschool education. Children not attending kindergarten are regularly those that would benefit from kindergarten the most – children living in precarious family environment, children with disabilities, children of Roma national minority and children facing poverty and/or social exclusion. According to available data, only 31% of Roma children aged 3-6 are enrolled in pre-preprimary education, whereas in all of Croatia 79% 3–6-year-olds attend preprimary education. The European average of children 3-6 enrolled in preprimary education is 93%. 

“It is important to reach the most vulnerable children and create opportunities for them to reach out their full potential. children of Roma national minority are more often exposed to multiple exclusion and have less learning opportunities which help them develop and flourish. Play Hub, here in Kuršanec, but also in Orehovica and Držimurec-Strelec are important meeting places for all children and create opportunities for non-formal education, socialization, and inclusion, which will long-term enable them with better and more successful start in pre-primary and primary education”, said Regina M. Castillo, UNICEF Croatia Representative.    

Activities in all three Play Hubs and Toy Libraries will include more than 450 children, 3 education experts have been employed, and to further adapt activities for Roma families, 3 Roma assistants are also a part of the expert team. 

 

Centar igre u Kuršancu
Danijel Soldo/UNICEF

“Combating poverty and social exclusion is a great challenge, but at the same time an opportunity to develop, improve and integrate services for children to ensure equal opportunities and a safe and happy childhood. That is why the welfare of children must be at the heart of all our activities, especially in our mutual cooperation and the provision of integrated services of social welfare, health, and education in collaboration with the local community and non-governmental organizations. The opening of the new Play Hub and Toy Library will enable the youngest children who are not included in preschool education to be included in structured play and learning activities with the support of Roma assistants, thus encouraging their early psychosocial development, and developing social skills. I believe that through joint and coordinated action of various systems in partnership with UNICEF, we will ensure integrated and accessible services in Medjimurje County, especially for children growing up at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Such examples of good practice will help shape the future of the EU Child Guarantee Program and its implementation across the EU in the coming years," said Marija Pletikosa, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy. 

Uzvanici na otvorenju Centra igre
Danijel Soldo/UNICEF

"Every investment in early and preschool education has a long-term effect on the individual lives of our children and their capacity to actively contribute to society in the future as adults, as citizens. International research on literacy and in mathematics and science shows that students who attend preschool for extended periods of time, at least three or more years, perform better on average than their peers who have attended for only a year or less. Also, there is a positive impact of early education on average results, with higher achievements in mathematics and science achieved by those students who attended programs of early and preschool education, said Tomislav Paljak, State Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Education. 

“We at Open Academy ‘Step by Step’ are dedicated to children at risk and through our activities want to influence the improvement of their living conditions and educational opportunities. Our role in this pilot program, which is making a significant difference in Medjimurje County, includes work on the comprehensive empowerment of experts and the implementation of activities in Play Hubs. Play hubs are especially important as opportunities for non-formal education and places where children and parents socialize, play, share experiences with others, and can borrow toys free of charge“, explains Sanja Brajković, director of the Open Academy Step by Step. 

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The pilot program “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee” is funded by the European Union and is implemented in seven countries within European Union with the aim of providing access to basic services such as health care, education, quality nutrition, quality housing and care for children growing up in the most difficult circumstances. The Republic of Croatia was given the opportunity to model the EU Child Guarantee in cooperation with European Commission and UNICEF to tackle child poverty and social exclusion, so this pilot program is aimed primarily at children with disabilities, children living in precarious family environment and children belonging to national minority groups. It is implemented in seven municipalities of Medjimurje County, and through cooperation and knowledge of implementing partners interventions take place in three areas: integrated child protection services and family support, early childhood intervention services and access to quality preschool education. 

©UNICEF, 2022. “The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

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