Education has a key role in building a more just and prosperous society
Within EU Child Guarantee UNICEF works with partners to ensure access to quality education for all children
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 will be opened in February. In addition, education programs for experts in the field of early preschool education are successfully held, and the practicum of early and preschool education at the Faculty of Teacher Education, Čakovec branch has been equipped.
In Medjimurje County, as many as 40 percent of children are not included in preschool education. The newly opened Play Hubs, in addition to the existing one, are places for non-formal education of children and learning through playing. These are especially useful places for the most vulnerable children because in an informal environment near their homes and schools, they socialize with their peers and parents. Activities in the 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.
Activities in the Play Hubs are designed and implemented by experts from the Open Academy 'Step by Step', UNICEF's implementing partner. Toys and books intended for new locations are currently being catalogued in the practicum of early and preschool education of the Faculty of Teacher Education, Čakovec branch which was, in anticipation of the new academic year, equipped with inclusive didactic materials and kindergarten furniture. The practicum equipped in this way brings two benefits because future educators will have the opportunity to experience how to apply practical materials inworking with children, and the practicum space will be opened for children not yet enrolled in pre-primary education and provide them with opportunities to learn and play in the kindergarten setting.
„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.
In addition to the activities in Play Hubs, 3 carefully designed education programs were organized for 55experts in the field of early preschool education from various kindergartens. Experts learned about the importance of social justice, respect for diversity, development of inclusive awareness and overcoming prejudices and stereotypes when working with children at early preschool age.
- At education program Living Diversity - Education for Social Justice, the participants reflected on diversity, multiculturalism and social justice.
- At education program Creating Intercultural Environment in Kindergarten and Education for Diversity, participants learn how stereotypes are formed and how to encourage children to think critically and respect diversity.
- Education on the interactive method Persona Doll, in which the puppet is used as a mediator between educators and children and brings them various anti-discrimination scenarios, is intended for professionals who work with children of early preschool age.
“It is really important to reach the most vulnerable children and create opportunities for them to reach out their full potential. By implementing the pilot program EU Child Guarantee, we want to increase the number of children involved in pre-school education, enable more children with disabilities to have access to the services they need and empower more parents with the skills they need to be more prepared for parenting”, said Regina Castillo, Representative of the UNICEF Office for Croatia.
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.
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