Six cities and municipalities provide support to parenting

22 March 2021

Belgrade, 22 March 2021 – The “Support to local self-governments in developing and shaping of ECD and Playful Parenting related policies and practices” project, implemented by the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities and UNICEF, has officially been launched today with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. 

Six local self-governments (the Belgrade municipality of Palilula and the cities of Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Bor, Vranje, Novi Pazar) are the beneficiaries of the project, which will place care for the early development of children and support to parenthood as priority areas in these communities. Support will be provided for the improvement of parenting support services and early development through the strengthening of the capacity of local self-government units for cross-sectoral cooperation in ensuring continuity, quality, and availability of parenting support services, especially for vulnerable families.

In addition to the representatives of local self-government, the importance of this topic was recognized by decision-makers at the national level.

Branko Ruzic, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development, emphasized that the activities of preschool institutions have been developed as multifunctional for many years. “Today we can be proud because the integrated system of preschool education is multifunctional: it supports the overall development and well-being of children, it also plays a role in the health and social protection of children, while supporting children to develop basic educational competencies for lifelong learning,” said Ruzic. He added that the government is striving to develop preschool education that will be accessible to all children, that respects the needs and rights of children and families, that is open in building relationships with the family, with other parts of the education system, the local and wider community.

Marija Obradovic, Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, pointed out that the Government of the Republic of Serbia has placed children and their future high on its list of priorities. “That’s why I’m very glad that local self-governments have recognized their role in that process. This project is especially significant now, at a time when we are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, when homes have become both preschools and schools for children, and a place of work for parents. The signatories of this Memorandum of Understanding are working on improving capacities and knowledge in their communities in order to provide parents with quality and sustainable systemic support. These local self-governments are also working to change regulations and policies, and to harmonize them with the regulations that this country already has and to transfer their knowledge to other local self-governments in Serbia,” said Minister Obradovic.

Djordje Stanicic, Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, said that the task of the Standing Conference is to provide support to local self-governments to develop and improve existing public policies and procedures in order to strengthen the support system for parents and guardians in the first years of a child's development. “It’s very important to recognize that the child should be in focus, and that parents must be competent and stable enough to respond to the child’s needs in these difficult times,” stressed Stanicic.

Parents everywhere need systematic support for their parenting journey. This support is crucial for responding to developmental needs and preventing violence against children. I would like to welcome the efforts of the Serbian Government as it has already recognized the need to invest in Early Childhood Development. Now, health, education and social welfare sectors need to work together. We have reason for optimism today. Six towns and municipalities will pioneer integrated policies and budgets for early childhood development. And we hope that they will share their knowledge and experience across the country in the years to come. I'm sure that the Government and local communities, together with UNICEF and with the support of the Lego Foundation, will ensure quality support for the healthy development of all children in Serbia, particularly the hard-to-reach ones. This is essential for thriving. This is crucial for building a sustainable society,” said Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.

This project is part of the “Scaling Up Playful Parenting” programme, which is jointly implemented by UNICEF, the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, the Belgrade Institute for Public Health, the Republic Institute for Social Protection, the Association of Nurses of Preschool Institutions of Serbia, The Harmony Centre for Early Support Development and Family Relations, and the Institute of Psychology at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, with the support of the LEGO Foundation.

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