The Head of the European Union Delegation to Serbia, Ambassador Sem Fabrizi, UNICEF Representative in Serbia, Deyana Kostadinova, and Ivica Rakovic, State Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, announced today the beginning the of distribution tablets and laptops within the Bridging Digital Divide in Serbia for the Most Vulnerable Children project.
The Ministry, the European Union and UNICEF have joined forces to bridge the digital divide for some of the most vulnerable children in Serbia through education system support, provision of open source educational resources and technical equipment, as well as through school-based activities aimed at improving learning outcomes of children. The EU funded project is worth €2 million grant and will be implemented in 30 local governments across Serbia.
“One of the priority goals of the Government of Serbia and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development is equal rights and access to education without discrimination. During the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning, we paid special attention to the inclusion of children from vulnerable groups in the education system through an individualized approach, but also through the procurement of equipment in cooperation with various donors. Through the Bridging Digital Divide for Most Vulnerable Children project, we have secured computers and tablets for 30 schools. About 2,000 devices will be distributed to schools and will be available to students. Each of these schools will receive 60 tablets, as well as at least one laptop. In addition, laptops will be distributed to schools for about 200 pedagogical assistants, in order to provide better access to distance learning for the most vulnerable students. Thanks again to the European Union and UNICEF, which supports the development of the education system in Serbia, as well as to UNICEF, which has been helping Serbia improve the position of children in society for years,” said Ivica Radovic, State Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technological Development.
Education and the transformation to digital learning are at the heart of building a resilient future. Creating equal and inclusive access to digital education equips young people with digital skills to prepare them for a competitive labour market. The European Union is Serbia’s largest donor in education sector with over €100 million invested since 2003.
“Difficult times make the digital gap bigger. With the outbreak of the pandemic, the world quickly switched to online education. For many children this has not been possible and has resulted in an aggravated situation. A number of children in Serbia have not been able to participate in distance learning system, due to the lack of appropriate equipment or the Internet during the outbreak of the pandemic. Together with the Ministry of Education and in partnership with UNICEF, we will deliver a total of 2,200 devices of IT equipment needed to organize continued and quality learning experiences in Serbia, which will be distributed to 30 schools and 250 pedagogical assistants. All children must have equal opportunities to have access to education. Education is key for their development as persons, as well as citizens. The EU has supported Serbia’s education for almost 20 years and will continue to support. I hope that this equipment will help our students to achieving excellent results in their schooling,” concluded Ambassador Fabrizi, Head of the European Union Delegation to Serbia.
As part of this project, Education Digital Libraries and Learning Clubs will be supported in selected ‘at risk’ schools; while 900 teachers working in these schools will have the opportunity to strengthen their capacities. Another focus will be on the learning of Roma children with the provision of psycho-social support service. As a result, minimum of 12,000 children will be benefiting in total.
“Together, we can turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity! By joining forces with the Ministry of Education and the European Union, we can reimagine education to create a stronger, more resilient system of inclusive distant and e-learning. We should bridge the digital divide by putting learning, skills and economic opportunity in the hands of every child and young person in Serbia,” said Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.