Improved conditions for pre-school children in Serbia to learn and play

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Girls in Child Friendly Space in Sombor; photo by Tatjana Ristić, Save the Children

Five-year-old Amina from Iraq, staying with her family in the Reception Centre for refugees in Sombor, Serbia, was impatiently waiting with other children from the Centre for the doors of the new Child Friendly Space to open. As soon as the creative workshop started, she was happy to take the colouring pens, papers and other materials and to build her dream house. “I like it when we all play together and when we have so many colours, papers and toys,” she said.

The Child Friendly Space in the Reception Centre in Sombor is one of the spaces equipped by Save the Children, which has been supporting refugee and migrant children and their families since the beginning of the migrant crisis in the Western Balkans. “It is important to have a place for children in the Centre, where they feel good and where someone else, other than their parents, pays attention to them and takes care of them. Such support is also important for the parents,” said Muhammad from Syria, father of a three-year-old girl, who, as English-Arabic translator, helps the Reception Centre staff communicate with other beneficiaries of the Centre.

In addition to the Sombor Centre, Save the Children also equipped Child Friendly Spaces in all 17 remaining centres for the accommodation of refugees and migrants in Serbia. Simultaneously, 22 groups in 16 pre-school institutions Serbia-wide were equipped with modern early learning tools. This provided pre-school children with better conditions to learn and play by supplying furniture, modern didactic tools, computer equipment and other required tools. 9,5 million dinars were invested in the equipment for the pre-school institutions, while 7 million dinars were allocated for Child Friendly Spaces in Reception Centres for refugees.

Representatives of the Ministry of Education and Save the Children with children and staff in nursery school "Sava Ković" in Bogatić; photo by Marija Janković, Save the Children

The Head of the Group for Pre-School Education with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Ljiljana Marolt, said that pre-school institutions were equipped in those municipalities that needed it the most and that the equipment would considerably improve the conditions for early learning of children in these areas. “Play and activities in improved and additionally equipped working space will have a positive effect on the children and it will be a space where they will feel good and have the opportunity to have fun, play together and learn,” she said.

“We are proud of our programmes in the region, which support good-quality school and pre-school education for all children, especially members of vulnerable groups, and which have been working on including refugee children in regular education. It is important to provide support to children at school and pre-school age, because in this way we help them develop their potentials fully and prepare for formal education. This support is particularly valuable for refugee and migrant children, whose safe childhoods were interrupted when they started on difficult journeys from their home countries,” said Director of Save the Children in North West Balkans, Andrea Žeravčić.

Visit to the nursery school "Suncokreti" in Vladimirovci; photo by Marija Janković, Save the Children

The management of Child Friendly Spaces in the Reception Centres for refugees will gradually be taken over by the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, which will ensure the sustainability of services for refugee children. “Save the Children donation has helped us provide this opportunity for migrant children in all our Asylum and Reception Centres. Child Friendly Space is now a safe space where children can, using the library, didactic materials, sports equipment and other things, develop their imagination and creativity,” said Una Vitasović, Education Coordinator with the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration.

Save the Children and Commissariat for Refugees and Migration staff with children in Sombor; photo by Tatjana Ristić, Save the Children