In 2016, the Kosovo Government recognized that the inclusion of children in pre-school institutions lays the foundation for their success later in life, decreases inequalities and grows human capital.
However, the access of girls and boys aged 3-5 years old to early childhood care and education in Kosovo remains low with only 6.2% (2019) of children ages 0 – 5 attended preschool.
By comparison, this number skyrockets to 92.5% for children ages 5 – 6, who attend 2-hour preparatory class / pre-primary education (not full day class). compared to 93.8% in the European Union. This is in part due to a lack of public investment in early childhood education which leads to challenges in child development with specific regard to the cognitive development (low literacy rate, especially among children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities). Save the Children has been supporting the public institutions through establishment of Integrated community-based early childhood care and development centres which deliver services for all girls and boys from rural areas in Kosovo. Between 2015 and 2019, Save the Children in Kosovo (SCiK) piloted ten ECCD centres in seven municipalities. Following a successful implementation of the previous projects, SCiK in 2020 scaled up the support by establishing seven ECCD centres in rural areas providing access to ECCD services to all boys and girls from the villages of Nerodime (Ferizaj), Cermjan (Gjakova) Zhegër and Përlepnicë (Gjilan), Drenoc (Peja), Poslishtë and Gjonaj (Prizren).
We visited the ECCD centre in Gjonaj and spoke with key beneficiaries for the impact that the centre has had in the community among girls and boys, parents/care-givers within the first five months of its establishment at primary school ‘Zenun Çoçaj’ in Gjonaj, Prizren.
Integrated community-based early childhood education in Gjonaj, Prizren
One of five ECCD centres established by SCiK is located in the village of Gjonaj, Prizren at primary school ‘Zenun Çoçaj’. The village is located 12 km away from Prizren which makes it very challenging and bears an economic and time burden for parents to enroll children in private pre-school institutions. One of them is Sebahate Gashi a parent from Gjonaj who was planning to enroll her daughter Luna in a private kindergarten in the city. ‘We were planning to enroll Luna in a private kindergarten in the city but as soon as we learned that this centre was established in our village, we decided to register our daughter here, because it makes our lives easier’ said her mother.. Apart from the fee of 70 euros per month, Sebahate would need to spend about an hour to take her daughter to the kindergarten and back while being exposed to difficult weather conditions especially during winter, whereas with the establishment of ECCD centre, she spends about 5 minutes on foot and is offered free of charge.
Figure 1. Entrance to the Gjonaj village, Prizren
The community-based ECCD centre in Gjonaj was established in September of last year and currently provides services to 57 children 3-5 years (32 boys and 22 girls) in two shifts. This high enrolment rate was made possible through engagement of community mobiliser Liridona Osmanollaj who informed parents/care-givers about the establishment of the centre and facilitated the registration of children at the centre as well as informed them on the importance of ECCD. ‘The community showed great interest to register their children at the centre, as there was a need for a centre like this in our community, and it has had a positive impact especially when it comes to raising awareness and breaking taboos that prevent girls from having access to education’ said Ms. Osmanollaj.
Learning through play at ECCD centre in Gjonaj, Prizren
The learning of 57 children at the ECCD centre in Gjonaj is supported in daily basis by their preschool educator Bukurije Krasniqi. ‘‘I love working at the centre, and look to bring new and innovative approaches to learning’ says Bukurije. After the end of the first term, Bukurije met with her colleague at the ECCD centre in Zaskok, Ferizaj to share good practices and discuss challenges and ideas that support children’s development. ‘I set up a meeting with the educator at ECCD centre in Zaskok, Ferizaj who was more than willing to help me and gave me some tips on how to improve” said Bukurije.
Figure 2. A boy plays during activities at ECCD centre in Gjonaj
During her work, Bukurje wants to implement educational activities which children can touch and interact with them, as it stimulates their learning. “I like to involve children in activities where they can touch-see-feel, and always look to bring the best for children so they get the most out of learning” says Bukurije.
Parents are happy with the results and the work of the educational staff at ECCD centre in Gjonaj.
“I am extremely happy with the work of educator and community mobilizer at the center. I think that even if I would look elsewhere, I don’t think I would have found better for my daughter. I can notice that she is learning a lot, because whenever she is home, she tells us things she learned at the centre such as colors, letters and most importantly made a lot of friends” says Sebahate, Luna’s mother.
Figure 3. Luna playing with her favorite toy
The establishment of this early childhood care and development center in Gjonaj has created more opportunities for girls and boys providing them with access to early learning, as well as parents/care-givers by providing them with a cost-effective, sustainable solution for early education of their children and with parenting support through mother-toddler sessions organized regularly at the ECCD center.
 Kosovo National Development Strategy, Kosovo Government, Office of the Prime Minister, 2016, http://www.kryeministri-ks.net/repository/docs/Strategjia_Kombetare_per_Zhvillim_2016-2021_Shqip.pdf. Accessed: 9 Feb. 2021
 UNICEF, Early childhood development, https://www.unicef.org/kosovoprogramme/what-we-do/early-childhood-development. Accessed: 9 Feb. 2021