In 2019, the Institute for Population and Development (IPD), a civil society organization from Bosnia and Herzegovina, conducted a survey involving 127 educators in Sarajevo Canton. The aim was to identify their requirements for additional professional support in implementing the program for healthy growth and development, which receives backing from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Youth of Sarajevo Canton. During this process, IPD recognized the necessity for ongoing work with preschool children. Utilizing the 2019 survey findings and with the guidance of experts, they developed an educational package to enhance the emotional and social skills of children.
This package was specifically designed to address the needs of parents and educators. To provide proper guidance on its utilization and effectively cater to the needs of children aged four to six, IPD launched an additional project titled “Promoting Healthy Growth and Development of Children in Preschool Institutions in the Municipality Center Sarajevo.” This project is being implemented as part of the ReLOaD2 programme, which is financially supported by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
According to project coordinator Amer Džekman, the initiative encompasses 19 preschool institutions and involves 50 educators from this Municipality. These educators participated in two-day workshops aimed at enhancing their skills and competencies required for project implementation. Each preschool institution received a “kindergarten box” containing a selection of practical tools that facilitate engagement with children. Notably, the kindergarten boxes include dolls named Hana and Dado, which have become an integral part of the children’s daily lives in the Municipality Center Sarajevo.
Džekman elucidates that these dolls serve as a playful means for educators to impart valuable guidance on healthy growth and development. Through play, children effortlessly grasp the concepts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, the kindergarten boxes feature worksheets, posters, picture cards, and emotion cards that align with the project’s activities. Moreover, Džekman emphasizes the crucial role of parental involvement in project implementation. “We have created the ‘Healthy Growth and Development’ web platform, enabling parents to participate in online training courses and gain practical insights they can practice together with their children,” Džekman explains.
A total of 150 parents have completed the online training course on “Healthy Growth and Development,” with over 200 accessing consultation and support services through the IPD Facebook platform “Parent Advisors.”
Maja Alihodžić, a mother whose child participated in the program, expressed how the training has helped parents overcome daily challenges in raising their little ones. “For the first time, I felt that children were being treated and spoken to differently. The advice we received greatly assisted in addressing various topics while promoting open conversation and learning together. I believe we now have a better understanding of each other, and I feel more equipped to handle different situations. I hope similar programs will be available in primary schools, making parent participation and child education a standard practice in all educational institutions,” Alihodžić shares.
IPD highlights an increase in violence, harassment, and verbal abuse among both boys and girls, even in lower grades of elementary school. Džekman notes, “Physical violence tends to manifest later among boys, while various forms of verbal violence dominate among girls. Boys who experience early-age physical violence are twice as likely to become abusers themselves, engaging in fights, carrying weapons, and displaying violent behavior in relationships. These concerns emphasize the importance of implementing programs that share common goals with ‘Healthy Growth and Development’ during early childhood,” adds Džekman.
He further asserts that educating children about healthy lifestyles should be systematically integrated into all childcare institutions and agencies. The provision of quality education and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle align with the United Nations’ Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, supported by the EU-funded ReLOaD2 project.
About the project
The Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2) is a continuation of EU-supported initiatives – Local Democracy Strengthening Project (LOD, 2009-2016) and the subsequently expanded Regional Program for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD, 2017-2020). As the previous ones, this project is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). ReLOaD2 is implemented in the Western Balkans, in particular Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
Photo credits: ReLOaD2
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