The children

Early years

Primary school years




  • 53 per cent of population are under the age of 25 years and 22 per cent between ages 15 to 25 years
  • Less than 75 per cent of children who complete the compulsory education continue to enrol in upper secondary school
  • At the beginning of 2004, at least 101 children were trafficked for sexual exploitation, into, within and through Kosovo.

Kosovo has one of the youngest populations in Europe, with 53 per cent under the age of 25 years and 22 per cent between ages 15 to 25 years. Young people in Kosovo have lived through a period of tremendous instability, change and transformation. It is a generation that was mostly educated in the parallel system in the past, with little expectation of future jobs and opportunities.

While Kosovo is acknowledged to have relatively high rates of primary enrolment, there is a drop in participation in lower secondary (Grades 6 through 9 at ages 11 to 15) and this worsens at the higher secondary school level (Grades 10 through 12 and ages 16-18).  Less than 75 per cent of children who complete the compulsory education grades 1-9 go on to enrol in upper secondary school and the continuation rates for Kosovo-Albanian girls is less than 55 per cent. Only about 40 per cent of girls from non-Serb minority communities enrol in upper secondary school. The lack of availability of schools that cater to other language groups has had a severe impact on enrolment rates for minorities.


In Kosovo, approximately 14 per cent of rural women are illiterate (compared with four per cent of men). Studies carried out among young women aged 16 to 19 indicate 9.5 per cent are totally illiterate and as many as one in four  have poor literacy skills. In addition to severely restricting their own development potential, this poor level of education among young girls and women has direct implications for parenting knowledge and skills and the early childhood development of their children.

A number of factors affecting young people in Kosovo have increased their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. The factors contributing to increased risk include: increased poverty, migration and conflict, falling rates of completion of secondary schools, absence of after-school recreation activities and trafficking.

In addition, the recent past in Kosovo has served to expose young people to new and different social norms in an increasingly global environment. Some of these new attitudes involve risky behavior that would not have occurred in the previous more traditional society. Young people are not equipped with knowledge and skills to cope with this vulnerability. A recent UNICEF study showed that there is an increasing problem of children trafficked for sexual exploitation into, within and through Kosovo.

For children in conflict with the law, there is still much to be done to improve juvenile justice practices.  A Juvenile Justice Code entered into force in Kosovo in April 2004, which introduced several innovations to the justice system, including the introduction of alternative sentences and diversion measures. These measures are new to Kosovar lawyers and justice system institutions. There is an urgent need to continue to work with law enforcement officials and members of the criminal justice service to ensure that they are trained to handle juvenile offenders in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights standards.



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