We met Una* (14) almost two years ago while visiting her school in Bihac following specialised computer equipment donation aimed at improving access to education for children with disabilities. Her positive energy and “can do” attitude won us instantly. Despite multiple difficulties that don’t allow her to read or write (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia and visual impairment), she does well in school and believes nothing is beyond her reach. Una has the rare opportunity for children with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach her full potential for two important reasons: support from her parents who are doing everything in their power to help her develop and become independent and support from the community, primarily education institutions.

This time, we met her at the opening of the Centre for development of inclusive practices in her hometown, where she co-hosted the opening ceremony.

“I hope this centre will help me and other children to learn. There are many things we can do here, things my regular school didn’t have before,” said Una enthusiastically. She also made sure to share an update with us – she currently holds a red karate belt and soon she will undergo a test for the next level.

Una is one of some 1000 children with disabilities from Una-Sana Canton: a remote, north-western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina that will benefit from the services of two centres for development and inclusive practices opened in Bihac and Cazin on November 23. These centres will provide free-of-charge services with speech therapists; physical and sensory therapy; psycho-social support; rehabilitation treatments for children with physical disabilities; training of teachers and school expert associates; as well as services from the mobile expert team in order to support educational institution staff in Una-Sana Canton and their work with children with disabilities.   

These centres show innovation in the area of inclusion for children with disabilities since their work will be founded on a contemporary approach to working with children with disabilities and their inclusion in communities. Centres are also equipped in compliance with modern accessibility standards with state of the art equipment for therapeutic support. Furthermore, professionals working in the centres will undergo continuous professional training and thus help improve inclusive practices and create unique services in Bosnia and Herzegovina- and beyond.   

 

“Any child experiencing difficulties will receive individual treatment in our Centre as well as through outreach counselling. Our mobile and expert teams will assist pre-school institutions, elementary and secondary schools,” stresses Emina Kadic, Bihac Centre Coordinator.

Centres have been established based on a demand to optimally reorganize expert support and work with children with disabilities and youth in Una-Sana Canton. Save the Children has helped this process by giving financial and expert support through our project “Community-based services for children with disabilities”. The project is being implemented in partnership between Save the Children; the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport; the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Policy; the Healthcare Insurance Fund; the City of Bihac and the municipalities of Cazin, Sanski Most, Kljuc, Velika Kladusa, Buzim, Bosanska Krupa and Bosanski Petrovac.

 

“These services will be available to everyone. This is a big step in development of inclusive education in Una-Sana Canton. It is the beginning of a new phase in inclusion development whose purpose is to provide solid ground for every child to achieve their maximum, with a help from their inspired teachers, their peers, their family and the community,” said the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Una-Sana Canton, Adis Muharemovic at the opening ceremony.

The initiative is also unique due to the fact that significant financial support to Centres will come from the aforementioned governmental institutions.  

“This is the first time that inclusion walks the walk. As of today, for the first time, we are commencing with its institutional implementation. It is my great pleasure to witness this because it means we are becoming a socially driven society. I want children to have a pleasant stay in this school, their parents to have it easier, and the staff to have a successful work, “  said the Minister of Health, Labour and Social Policy, Dzenis Sabulic.

 

For Save the Children, opening of the centres has been the highlight of their years-long cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport. “Following support in drafting the strategy and its adoption, and of a seven-year action plan for inclusion of children with disabilities into the educational system, we are now giving our support to the implementation of a strategy segment, with the establishment of resource centres and centres for the development of inclusive practices,“ stressed the Director of Save the Children for Northwest Balkan, Andrea Zeravcic.

 

The Project is a part of regional initiative of Save the Children, which, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, is simultaneously taking place in Albania, Kosovo (1244), Armenia and Georgia.  The project is financially supported by Margaret A. Cargill foundation.

* The names are changed to protect children’s identity

Watch the video below in order to see our documentation of the opening of the centres: