Backpacks and school supplies distributed to Jovan Ristic primary school pupils, including refugee and migrant children

Hans Friedrich Schodder, UNHCR Representative in Serbia, Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative in Serbia, and the Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, Zoran Djordjevic, distributing backpacks and school supplies to refugee and migrant children on the first day of school in Belgrade, Serbia. ©UNICEF Serbia/Vas

Belgrade, 4 September 2017 - The Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs Zoran Djordjevic, the Assistant Minister for Pre-School and Primary Education of the Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development Vesna Nedeljkovic, UNICEF Representative in Serbia Michel Saint-Lot and UNHCR Representative in Serbia Hans Friedrich Schodder this morning visited the Jovan Ristic primary school in Borca, which is enrolling refugee and migrant children this year. The backpacks with school supplies were distributed to all the pupils attending the Jovan Ristic primary school, including to refugee and migrant children and children from socially vulnerable families.

The Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs had earlier announced a set of new projects and strategies aiming to support the vulnerable categories of refugees and migrants, children in particular.

Minister Djordjevic noted that all the children in Serbia must enjoy equal treatment irrespective of religious and ethnic affiliation and social status, and added that unhindered education of each child represents one of the fundamental human rights.

Djordjevic added that the Ministry is continuously working to strengthen support to children from vulnerable categories such as the children without parental care, children accommodated in centres for minors and refugee and migrant children.

The Assistant Minister for Pre-School and Primary Education of the Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development, Vesna Nedeljkovic, said that after the last years’ participation of this Ministry in the project “Support to Pupils – Refugees/Migrants on the Territory of the Republic of Serbia“, implemented together with UNICEF and other partners whereby 200 refugee pupils attended the Serbian schools, the Minister issued a Professional Instruction for inclusion of pupils – refugees/asylum-seekers into the education system. It provides for systemic preparations for entry of all 645 refugee children into the primary education system which the law stipulates to be mandatory and free of charge. The pupils will be attending schools in 17 municipalities Serbia-wide where the reception centres are located. The teachers in these schools were trained to apply the Professional Instruction.

“This is a moment of real opportunity - to protect the right to education of refugee and migrant children. For them, education is vital, as it provides some stability and a sense of normalcy. It is one of the few things they can take with them into their future lives. UNICEF is working closely with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour, Veteran and Social Affairs, and the Commissariat for Refugees to ensure that at least 700 children will be able to access schools this year in locations where there are Government shelters. We are providing capacity building to schools – to around 500 members of school teams from around 90 schools from 17 local self-governments and backpacks and school supplies for school-aged refugee and migrant children,” stated Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.

 “UNHCR is very happy to see the children from refugee and migrant families starting the school year along with their peers from Serbia. It is indeed a very exciting day for all, and in particular for the children who have come a long way from their home countries. I hope they will all study hard and make many new friends. We thank the Government of Serbia for all the efforts invested over the past months to make this possible,” stated Hans Friedrich Schodder, UNHCR Representative in Serbia.

The primary school Jovan Ristic already took part in many projects, the current one being “Support to Pupils – Refugees/Migrants on the Territory of the Republic of Serbia“. The first group of pupils in the last school year consisted of seven boys from Afghanistan aged 13-15, and 13 pupils aged 7-17 started attending classes in March 2017. Having gained excellent experience, this year it will enrol 12 boys and girls from Afghanistan who will be attending grades four to eight.

Bagpac2©UNICEF Serbia/Vas