Preschool for Every Child

According to the 2018 MICS, only 16 percent of Roma children aged 3–4 attend any early childhood development programme

Tina Dimić Raičević
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019

23 December 2019

NIKŠIĆ, 27 NOVEMBER 2019 – According to the 2018 MICS, only 16 percent of Roma children aged 3–4 attend any early childhood development programme.

Three-year-old Melisa Ajvaz is one of them. She started preschool in September. A smiling, cheerful and curious girl, she enjoys playing with her preschool mates the most.

UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
Three-year-old Melisa Ajvaz in the preschool, in Nikšić, in December 2019.

I like it best when we learn new songs together and colour in drawings that our teacher brings.

Three-year-old Melisa Ajvaz

Following the workshops for parents organized with the support of UNICEF, the Austrian Development Agency, the NGO Pedagogical Centre and the Ministry of Education, Melisa’s mother, Suzana Ajvaz, decided to enrol her daughter in preschool. She is already seeing the results of Melisa’s preschool education.

UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
Melisa’s mother, Suzana Ajvaz, decided to enrol her daughter in preschool following the workshops for parents organized with the support of UNICEF, the Austrian Agency for Development, the NGO Pedagogical Centre and the Ministry of Education, in Nikšić, in Dcember 2019.

She is much more open now; she is also very well accepted by the school mates and teachers, she is already drawing much better, and she has learned a lot of songs and new games.

Suzana Ajvaz, Melisa’s mother

Through collaboration with the NGO Pedagogical Centre, Melisa’s preschool “Sunce”, in Nikšić, has managed to become one of the champions in reaching out to Roma families and encouraging them to send their children to preschool.

“So far 30 Roma children have enrolled, and we are working on motivating more parents to send their children to preschool. This is the reason why we have set up parent counselling services. The preschool staff are very committed to working with children. Apart from the skilled teachers, we also have a psychologist, a pedagogue, a speech therapist and a disability expert on our team,” director Radmila Backović noted.

With her positive example, Melisa’s mother is trying to inspire other parents from her community to enrol children in preschool.

UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
Melissa Ajvaz and her mother Suzana are preparing to enter the preschool classroom in Niksic, December 2019.

I talk to other mums in my neighbourhood, tell them how good it is in preschool, that children play, learn, do things together, have regular meals and are safe.

Suzana Ajvaz, Melisa’s mother

She notes how important education is for all children – Roma children in particular. She is glad that Melisa will be quite ready for school when the time comes, in a couple of years.

UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
Three-year-old Melissa Ajvaz with her friends in preschool, Niksic in December 2019.

It also helps me as a parent that she attends preschool, because she will get education and be with all sorts of children, not only ones from the Roma community. I am very happy because of that, for her to spend time with Roma and non-Roma children, all of them together.

Suzana Ajvaz, Melisa's mother

Preschool gives the best possible start in life to every child. Melisa’s example should be an inspiration for all parents to enrol their children in preschool and increase their chances of success in school and in life.