Plenty of Work Ahead to Improve Children’s Well-being in Kosovo

International Children’s Day finds Kosovo with substandard education, lack of adequate health care, lack of opportunities to involve all communities in social activities, especially among the children of the communities.

Many non-governmental organizations dealing with children’s rights have called on the authorities to make greater efforts to ensure that children in Kosovo receive quality education and adequate health and social services.

International Children’s Day, observed on June 1st, is usually accompanied by various activities organized by local and central governments, as well as numerous organizations around the world.

In Kosovo, this day is also marked by various activities, but there are few calls from parents or authorities to provide children with conditions for proper growth, including a good education system and equal access to adequate health and social services.

However, there is a commitment from all stakeholders to improve this situation and provide quality health and educational services, ensuring that all children have access to them.

The Education System in Kosovo

According to data from the non-governmental organization UNICEF, children in Kosovo still face significant obstacles in realizing their basic rights, particularly in accessing education. Children in rural areas have fewer opportunities to access education.

A report titled “Key Indicators of the Survey of Multiple Indicator Clusters – MICS,” published in November 2020 by the Kosovo Agency of Statistics (KAS) and the UNICEF office in Kosovo, reveals that only 15% of children aged 3-4 participate in early childhood education programs.

This means that many children do not enter the education system until one year before starting kindergarten, leading to delays in their social and educational development.

Early childhood care and education are particularly critical for young children with disabilities, whose abilities are more limited.

The Coalition of Organizations for the Protection of Children (KOMF) states that Kosovo continues to have the lowest preschool education enrollment rate in the region. The majority of children in Kosovo spend their early years in family environments, primarily with parents or guardians, without any institutional support.

Additionally, Kosovo lacks alternative programs for early childhood development that would assist parents, families, and guardians in educating children in family settings.

Regarding the state of education, the organization Save the Children highlights that low participation rates in preschool education for 3-5 year-olds have a negative impact on their cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Moreover, the lower primary education cycle faces significant challenges in terms of teaching quality, school infrastructure, teacher training, and parental involvement. These issues contribute to poor performance in international assessments such as PISA and TIMSS.

Photo illustration Photo: EPA-EFE/ROBERT GHEMENT

Healthcare for Children

The lack of health insurance, family caregivers, and adequate medical infrastructure directly affects the quality of medical services provided to children in Kosovo.

According to KOMF, there is no “screening test” for newborns in public health institutions in Kosovo. This test is essential for diagnosing various diseases immediately after birth, enabling timely treatment.

A report by the Balkan Sunflowers Kosova Organization on the health condition of the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities in the municipalities of Fushë Kosova, Shtime, Obiliq, and Gracanica states that 16% of newborns and 63% of mothers from these communities did not receive postnatal health visits after hospital discharge.

Furthermore, the “Main Indicators of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey – MICS” report, published in November 2020 by KAS and the UNICEF office in Kosovo, indicates that only 38% of children living in Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities have been fully vaccinated.

Another concern is the absence of many essential drugs from the Ministry of Health’s list.

UNICEF states that child health indicators in Kosovo remain among the poorest in the region, indicating both gaps in access to healthcare and its quality.

In some Family Medicine Centers in certain municipalities, there is a shortage of gynecologists and pediatricians. As a result, patients face difficulties in accessing services and often have to travel to larger municipalities for treatment.

Social Treatment

The Centers for Social Work in Kosovo face various challenges in terms of human and financial resources, which often results in their services not reaching all children and families in need.

Save the Children NGO emphasizes that due to the lack of financial stability and an insufficient number of social workers, the Centers for Social Work are overwhelmed with emergency cases and are unable to prioritize preventive services.

According to statistics from the Kosovo Agency of Statistics (KAS), 5% of children in Kosovo engage in heavy labor, and 8% of children aged 2-17 in Kosovo experience functional difficulties in at least one area. Only 10% of children with disabilities in Kosovo have access to health and social services.

An analysis of the situation of the Centers for Social Work, published by the Ministry of Justice and KOMF in April, revealed that out of the 28 centers that responded to the questionnaire, only one of them has a child-friendly environment for contact or service provision to children.

Other centers reported a lack of dedicated and child-friendly spaces. Even when a friendly room is available within a center, there is often a lack of facilitated access for children with disabilities.

Consequently, in cases where children are victims or witnesses of domestic violence, the centers lack the necessary capacities and facilities for treating/interviewing children.

According to UNICEF, many children in rural areas, particularly those from the Roma, Ashkali, or Egyptian communities, those with parents who have low education, or those from poor families, miss out on opportunities for inclusion, participation, and access to social services.

Social protection expenditures in Kosovo remain below the regional level, limiting the possibilities for reducing poverty and inequality, including the direct impact on children.

Approximately 23% of children in Kosovo live in poverty, with 7% living in extreme poverty.

Steps to be Taken by the Government

In 2020, the Kosovo Government enacted a law for the protection of children, which organizations believe has created new legal momentum.

According to KOMF, this momentum and legal obligation require institutions to take concrete actions to make the provisions of this law functional and implement them, making it the first of its kind in the Republic of Kosovo.

This law also emphasizes the importance of proper education and development of children in Kosovo.

According to this group of organizations, there are urgent steps that need to be taken, including ensuring the inclusion of all children with disabilities in schools and providing them with access to health and social services. It is also crucial to establish new preschool institutions, improve the quality of education and healthcare, and ensure access to health insurance.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has called on the authorities to continue and increase investments in children, ensuring that policies developed to address macroeconomic challenges also protect social services, children, and the most vulnerable families.

Save the Children has stated that there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed, such as reducing poverty and unemployment levels, combating discrimination and violence in schools, increasing the participation of children with disabilities and ethnic minorities, and promoting collaboration among parents, teachers, and the community.

On International Children’s Day, several activities were organized in Kosovo. A march took place from the “Mother Teresa” Cathedral to the National Theater in Prishtina as a sign of respect and in memory of the 1,432 Albanian children killed and massacred by Serbia during the recent war.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Minister of Education Arbërie Nagavci also met with children from various municipalities. Additionally, municipalities organized different events to commemorate the day.

read more: