The Second Decade of a Child’s Life
Empowerment and participation of adolescents and young people 11 to 24 years
Education and School to Work Transition
UNICEF in Kosovo ensures that all adolescents and youth, particularly the most marginalized, are resilient and equipped with skills for life and work and have access to high-quality education in inclusive and equitable environments.
Adolescence is a time of significant change, when brain development accelerates and young people are eager to be heard, challenging those around them and engaging with opportunities that prepare them for a bright and prosperous future. For many adolescents and youth in Kosovo, the second decade of life is fraught with structural and social factors limiting their future options. Unfortunately, three fundamental barriers—low quality of secondary education, limited opportunities to access digital learning, use technology or develop 21st-century skills, and limited opportunities for new entries into the labour market—are factors that even adolescents and youth themselves cannot control.
As adolescents and youth in Kosovo progress through their academic studies, the quality of education decreases significantly resulting in low academic performance—among the lowest in the region—and high dropout rates. Insufficient funding for schools, limited access to the internet and technology, inadequate preparation of teachers, and a lack of student-centered teaching all impact learning. Disparities become more pronounced in adolescence, especially for girls and young people from marginalized groups, partly due to lack of parental support for continued education and preference for girls to stay home and marry early. Additional social and structural barriers further limit their access to education, resulting in far worse social outcomes than their peers.
Schools in Kosovo struggle to equip students with crucial 21st-century communication, teamwork, and collaborative problem-solving skills.
Vocational training opportunities are limited and not adapted to the needs of the labor market. Internships and other opportunities to gain exposure to the workplace are scarce, leading youth to enter the job market with irrelevant training or inadequate experience. As a result, 30 per cent of young people in Kosovo are not in school, work or training, and 55 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds are unemployed. These rates are among the highest in the region and even higher for young women, youth from marginalized communities and youth with disabilities.
UNICEF in Kosovo works to ensure that quality education is a top priority for adolescents, youth, parents, local communities, and institutions. We support the reform of Kosovo’s education system to promote high-quality, inclusive, and relevant education—consistent with the demands of the labor market—to better launch graduates into work and adulthood.
UNICEF in Kosovo supports the development of policies that promote inclusion of the most marginalized youth and advocates for increased resources and funding for quality secondary education and effective skills training programmes to help facilitate students’ successful transition from school to employment. We broker partnerships between institutions, civil society, academia, and the private sector to leverage expertise, mobilize investment and scale-up innovative solutions for adolescents and young people.
UNICEF in Kosovo supports the digital transformation of the education sector through provision of technical assistance and increased access to the internet, computers and other required equipment at the school level. We work to ensure there is adequate training for teachers and students so they can effectively teach and learn in the digital ecosystem. Learning Passport, UNICEF’s global solution to provide digital access to education during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been rolled out as Shkollat.org in Kosovo. This platform facilitates distance education for all students. It includes a digital library, video lessons for all subjects in Grades 1–9 and 21st-century skills-based programmes to meet the needs of adolescents and youth in Grades 10–12. LearnIn, a complimentary programme, provides personalized and culturally relevant digital learning opportunities, including teacher training and capacity-building materials.
UNICEF in Kosovo works to help adolescents and youth develop 21st-century skills in both school and community settings.
We provide opportunities for them to gain exposure to the world of work, become social innovators in their communities and establish youth-led solutions to community problems. This includes flagship youth skills-building programmes such as UPSHIFT and Ponder—two programmes that began as non-formal learning opportunities and are now accredited and being adapted for use within Kosovo’s formal education system.
Kosovo’s social entrepreneurship programme (UPSHIFT) engages young people using a human-centered design approach and fosters social innovation and social entrepreneurship. UPSHIFT works to build platforms and empower adolescents and young people with skills and resources to identify problems in their communities and design solutions in services or products. Initially developed in Kosovo, UPSHIFT has been replicated in more than 40 countries.
Kosovo’s programme on critical media literacy (Ponder) promotes skills for young people who are constantly bombarded by media and live in an “infodemic” world. This programme empowers adolescents and youth to identify and examine bias in media and judge the authenticity and authority of the information they encounter. Media-related internships provide a place for participants to apply and practice these skills.
UNICEF in Kosovo also supports Techstitution, an exciting technology-based programme that equips young people aged 14–24 to become part of the greater local tech community. Here, young people learn practical software engineering and coding skills and utilize digital technology to co-create innovative solutions and products to strengthen and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Kosovo’s local and central institutions.
UNICEF works to bridge the gap between education, training, and employment through Generation Unlimited (GenU). GenU in Kosovo (K-GenU) is a partnership platform bringing together private and public sectors which focuses on supporting the school-to-work transition for young people ages 16 to 24. K-GenU aims to successfully launch adolescents and youth into the workplace by increasing their knowledge and skills and preparing them for the job market through internships. K-GenU also fosters multi-sectoral linkages and partnerships with the private sector and other institutions that provide support to host, train, and mentor these young people.
Finally, UNICEF in Kosovo and its implementing partners are utilizing a structured approach to mentorship by integrating it into skills-building and internship programmes. Mentorship for Youth (M4Y) matches young professional mentors from the public sector, private sector and academia who provide coaching and guidance to adolescents and youth participating in UNICEF skills-building and internship programmes.
Adolescent and Youth Empowerment
UNICEF in Kosovo ensures that adolescents and youth have access to platforms and increased capacity to amplify their voices. This means ensuring that youth are connected, actively engaged, empowered, and equipped with skills to create solutions to unmet social needs.
In Kosovo, traditional social norms mean that young people are often not included in decision-making in their homes, schools, or communities. Significantly, 61 per cent of adolescents and youth report feelings of exclusion, perceiving “little” or “no opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. This means adolescents and youth in Kosovo cannot realize their rights due to the lack of capacity, skills, and opportunity to participate in civic, political, and professional spheres.
Today, only 10 per cent of youth in Kosovo believe their interests are well represented in politics. Platforms and mechanisms for youth participation at the local level are either absent or dysfunctional and fail to include marginalized and vulnerable youth. Both local and central institutions still do not consider young people’s development a priority, which is reflected by the dismal budget allocations for youth activities at both levels. The result is a generation of disenfranchised youth and adolescents with little experience or interest in social and civic engagement at local or regional levels.
UNICEF in Kosovo ensures that adolescents and youth have opportunities to amplify their voices on issues that impact them.
Together with Kosovo authorities and the private sector, UNICEF advocates for resources and scaling up programmes that can create opportunities to increase youth capacity and promote active participation in their homes, communities, and society.
One way is through U-Report, UNICEF’s global messaging and polling platform that empowers young people to express their opinions on topics and help inform policy decisions. Advocacy for change (Podium) is another promising programme that provides a platform for adolescents and youth, especially the most marginalized, to learn how to advocate for the needs and rights of their communities. This includes improving their awareness of the power of social change and advocacy, improving their resilience and confidence, and developing skills and tactics to advocate for the needs and rights of their communities. In addition to mentoring and skill development, Mentorship for Youth (M4Y) also exists to increase adolescents’ and youths' capacity to shape policies, participate in decision-making processes—both individually and in their community—and participate in the workforce.
Through these and other programmes, UNICEF in Kosovo aims for youth to be connected, actively engaged, empowered, and equipped with skills to amplify their voices and create solutions to improve their life and society.