Source: Association for Development of Children and Youth – Open Club (ChildPact Member)
Belgrade, November 9th 2012. A two-day conference “Education Fit for Children” was held in Belgrade. It was organized by the Association for Development of Children and Youth – Open Club from Niš, in partnership with CIP – Center for Interactive Pedagogy from Belgrade, Initiative for Inclusion “VelikiMali” from Pančevo, Nexus from Vranje and Užice Centre for child Rights from Užice, within the project “Civil Society for Inclusive Education – Education Fit for Children” supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy. The organization of the conference was also financially supported by World Vision.
In her speech at the opening ceremony, Jelena Marković, the Education and Human Capital Development Coordinator in the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, emphasized that the necessity and the concept of inclusive education should not be questioned, but that it is important to have in mind that we have to work a lot in order to improve the quality of the inclusive education implementation.
Saša Stefanović, Chair of ChildPact Steering Committe and the project coordinator of the Association for Development of Children and Youth – Open Club, said that inclusive education is a question of civilization, not just a matter of the educational system, and that the experiences of the countries in the region show that it is not the money and material obstacles that separate people and children in schools, but that the greatest obstacles and barriers are in ourselves. It is necessary that children and parents get strong support and a message that the investment and development of inclusive education in Serbia will be continued, because development of inclusive education is the essential condition for creation of a more humane and just society.
Tijana Morača, program manager at World Vision, said that in order to achieve inclusion, further reforms are also necessary in other sectors – health and social care. Social services that are tailored to the needs and accessible to children and families in their communities are essential in order for the inclusion to become a real opportunity for realization of rights and improvement of the position of children.
The importance of the implementation of inclusive education is shown by the fact that only 8% of Roma children attend pre-school education, which is 5 times less than the general population; 89% attend the compulsory primary education and only 19% of children attend a secondary school. Children with mental or other disabilities are still being placed in isolated institutions, even though they should be enabled to live in a family and community. In almost 70% of cases the main reason for bringing children into institutions is the inability of parents to meet their needs, indicating that there are not enough services to help parents provide adequate care for children in their own residence.
As for the inclusion in education system, from a total of 797 children and youth with disabilities who lived in institutions in 2011, not one attended a regular elementary or secondary school and only 19.3% attended special schools.