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Equal opportunities for all children

BIJELO POLJE, 5 December 2017 – On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro, Osama Khogali, and the US Ambassador to Montenegro, Margaret Ann Uyehara, visited Bijelo Polje, a municipality that has been giving strong contribution to building an inclusive society for years.

A boy playing during the event organized with UNICEF support within the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program - UNICEF Montenegro / Dusko Miljanic / 2017

Khogali reminded that children with disabilities, unfortunately, are still often stigmatized around the world. “Together, we can really ensure that every child with disabilities has a chance to make the most out of their lives. By doing so, we build a better world for all of us. So much about their ability, and not disability”, said Khogali, who, together with Uyehara, visited the Special Olympics programme organised in “Duso Basekic” preschool, supported by UNICEF and the Marimo Berk and David Drummond Fund.

After spending time with preschool children in Bijelo Polje, Uyehara stressed that equal access for children with disabilities is a moral imperative for the whole society. “The world has benefitted from people with disabilities, men and women. They made such a positive impact on contribution to our societies. I am happy to see that children in Bijelo Polje have such bright future ahead, thanks to the support provided by UNICEF, the US Government, their parents, teachers and communities“, said Uyehara.

Mayor of Bijelo Polje Aleksandar Zuric reiterated the determination of their municipality to continue improving the position of children in Bijelo Polje. “We have to make them all feel part of the community; this should not be something we only do to meet the standards. We have to commit fully to these children, regardless of whether they are part of our own family or not“, noted Zuric who also spent time with preschool children participating in the Special Olympics programme.

The programme entitled “Young Athletes” is intended for children aged three to eight. It started to be implemented in Montenegro as of this year, and so far has included 150 children with and without disabilities. The programme is already giving significant results, according to the national Special Olympics director, Ivan Radović. “The experience so far has shown that children make progress in physical and motor abilities for as much as 70 per cent over a very short period of time“, noted Radović.

The programme results are also acknowledged by Ljubiša Martinović, father of Mirjana, a girl with disabilities. “I think she has improved by 40 to 50 per cent. She learned to eat on her own, to call daddy and mommy“, he said. Progress is also visible for Boris Drobnjak, the father of a four-year-old girl, Mirjana’s best friend: “I am very pleased with her progress, and how she has accepted the child with disabilities“.

UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Osama Khogali (second from left) and US Ambassador to Montenegro Margaret Ann Uyehara (second from right) during their visit to Special Olympics Young Athletes Program organized in "Duso Basekic" preschool in Bijelo Polje - UNICEF Montenegro / Dusko Miljanic / 2017

Tamara Milic, the representative of the Ministry of Education that accredited the Young Athletes programme, noted that, apart from the progress in physical terms, children also make progress in their social and emotional development. “Learning through play stimulates intellectual development and communication skills; thus, every aspect of child development progresses through play“, explained Milic.

Director of the “Duso Basekic” preschool, Ida Cetkovic, pointed out that the quality of education provided by their institution had improved significantly thanks to the Special Olympics. “It would be great if the programme could become part of regular activities of all preschools”, concluded Ćetković.



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