In Serbia, compulsory free schooling does not begin until a child is 5.5-6 years old. Due to an underdeveloped preschool system, this means that less than half of children between the ages of 3-5.5 attend preschool. This leaves approximately 93,000 children without a preschool programme to attend.
Preschool education is a crucial component of a child’s education. It promotes their early learning and development. These children will then perform better, reducing their chances of dropping out of school or repeating a grade. It will aid them in socialising as well as in their ability to learn.
Additionally, education is directly linked to poverty in Serbia, with 71.3% of the poor being without education. Early childhood development has other economic benefits such as better health, increased productivity and an improvement in the workforce.
The citizens of Serbia are not without their concern for this worrying trend. Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic started the Novak Djokovic Foundation with an aim to give children the opportunity to receive a quality preschool education.
Private citizens abroad are also doing their part. Brothers Alexis Bailo de Spoelberch and Patrice Bailo de Spoelberch were born to Serbian father, Luka Bailo, but were raised in Belgium. The Bailo de Spoelberch brothers are one of the donors to the Novak Djokovic Foundation, as well as other organisations aimed at aiding children. Alexis and Patrice are also aiming to establish a camp in the region, to provide a safe space for children to learn and participate in activities. Financial aid will be given to those who cannot afford it.
One thing is clear, the Serbian preschool system must be improved. Access to education must be equal, and children must be given the opportunity to prosper.
To learn more about the education system in Serbia, download Unicef’s country profile here: http://www.unicef.org/ceecis/Serbia.pdf.