UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia, tennis ace Novak Djokovic, recently paid a visit to a unique kindergarten or “Pcelica” in Smederevo, some 50 kilometres south east of the Serbian capital of Belgrade.
An excellent example of an inclusive pre-school institution, the kindergarten is attended by the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in the Republic of Serbia, including children with developmental disorders and disabilities and those living in Roma settlements.
“I accepted UNICEF’s offer to become their National Ambassador for Serbia with great pleasure,” said the smiling Djokovic during his visit. “The focus of my work will be on improving the conditions in which children in Serbia live, learn and grow up.”
The kindergarteners were thrilled to meet the tennis ace and excitedly showed him what types of daily activities they participate in. The National Ambassador seemed just as spirited as the children, as he joined in their play with great enthusiasm.
“I had a unique privilege to have a chance to develop my talents,” said Novak. “But the starting line is not the same for all children. My assignment is to help UNICEF in its efforts to secure that every child has an opportunity to be included into some kind of a pre-school programme.”
The latest research has shown that fewer than half of Serbia’s children age three to five attend pre-school programmes. For the most deprived groups, this percentage is even lower – less than 10 per cent.
A key priority
“UNICEF is thrilled to have Novak Djokovic as a National Ambassador for Serbia and particularly pleased that he has chosen to focus on early childhood education,” said Lesley Miller, UNICEF Acting Representative in Serbia. “Our goal is that all children, and especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, have a good start in life.”
During his visit Novak Djokovic brought school materials as gifts for the school-children, posed for photographs with them and talked to the kindergarten’s employees, praising their efforts to reach children from the most vulnerable groups.
In agreement with the Government of the Republic of Serbia, UNICEF has made the education of young children, especially the most marginalised, one of their key programme priorities for the next five-year period.