Tennis champion Novak Djokovic visits kindergarten in Serbia
18 September 2012: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the visit of tennis champion Novak Djokovic to a kindergarten in Lesnica, Serbia..
BELGRADE, Serbia, 20 September 2012 – Tennis champion and UNICEF Ambassador Novak Djokovic visited the Beneath the Linden Trees kindergarten in the village of Lesnica to raise awareness of the importance of investment in early childhood learning.
Mr. Djokovic spent time with the children, talked to their parents and caregivers and met with local authorities.
"I've seen today what a unique and special place kindergarten is. It's a supportive space where children can learn to think creatively and work collaboratively," he said.
Early childhood learning in Serbia
About 44 per cent of Serbian children have a preschool education. For minority children, the number is much lower; for example, an estimated 8 per cent of Roma children go to kindergarten.
"It is unacceptable that over half the children in the country are not included in any kind of early preschool programme. Serbia is neither a big nor a rich country, but it is precisely for that reason that it should invest in its most precious potential, the development of human resources," said UNICEF Area Representative Judita Reichenberg.
Tennis ace and UNICEF Serbia Ambassador Novak Djokovic visits a UNICEF-supported kindergarten in the village of Lesnica, Serbia, to raise awareness of early childhood education.
Parents and grandparents empowered
The kindergarten is supported by UNICEF and its partners. Mr. Djokovic made a personal donation to its construction.
"This is a place where both parents and grandparents are empowered and happy to see their children enjoy and thrive. I am glad to have contributed to that. I hope that others will join me, as well," said Mr. Djokovic.
In honour of Mr. Djokovic's visit, the children improvised a tennis court and racquets. The champion gave them tips on how to improve their game.
Mr. Djokovic also met UNICEF pledge donors and volunteers and thanked them for their support to UNICEF's work in Serbia.
"Your support helps children in Serbia to have sound foundations for their future life of responsible citizens and parents…and maybe even winning a Grand Slam," he said.
Mr. Djokovic joined UNICEF in 2011 to support early childhood development and inclusive preschool education.