Nursery schools for all children!

Nursery school is central for a child’s learning development – especially for disadvantaged children. However, in the Cantons of Sarajevo and Zenica-Doboj in Bosnia-Herzegovina, many children do not have access to a nursery school. Caritas carries out educational work, supports the communities in improving the range of nursery schools and the services they offer, and invests in the training of nursery school teachers.


Country / Region / Place
Cantons of Sarajevo and Zenica-Doboj, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Target group
Children of pre-school age (nursery school), especially children experiencing poverty and/or marginalisation (Roma)

Funding requirement
About 835'000 CHF per year

Project duration
Long-term child sponsorship

Project number

Project objective
Access to high-quality pre-school education (nursery school) for all children, especially for children from disadvantaged families and those who live in remote areas and/or have no nursery school nearby; improvements in the training of nursery school teachers by means of broadening the subject range and modern teaching methods.

Project coordinator
Berry Kralj, Tel: 041 419 24 91, bkraljnot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam


Background information

The international legal order has recognised the right to an education as a basic human right for 70 years. The UN Convention on the Right of the Child establishes the basic right of each child to education. It highlights in particular early childhood education as essential for the development process and for realizing the child’s full potential. ‘Early childhood education’ refers to nursery school, which exists both in Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina. For children living in difficult circumstances, nursery school education as a preparation for school is even more important, since they often have little stimulation at home because the parents’ lack awareness and/or resources.

According to Bosnian law, all children must have attended one year of nursery school before they are enrolled in school. In the Canton of Zenica-Doboj, the compulsory nursery school attendance consists of 180 hours and is taught on three weekdays between March and July. In the Canton of Sarajevo, the law requires 150 hours of compulsory nursery school attendance. This takes place from September until July, the same as the normal school year, and consists of three hours a week. In addition to the compulsory nursery school, there is also the option of attending a non-compulsory nursery school. This normally operates on a part-time basis and must be paid for. For children from economically or socially disadvantaged families, the law in both cantons provides that the municipal or cantonal authorities must also cover the fees for the non-compulsory nursery school. However, the municipalities often fail to meet this obligation. And even if there were sufficient places in the non-compulsory nursery schools, this type of childcare is not affordable for many families in Bosnia.

Despite some progress in recent years, the need continues to be very great, as shown by the latest official surveys: The number of children who regularly attend nursery school is much too small; information about children from particularly disadvantaged families is lacking completely, as are specific details about children of the Roma minority. They are especially affected by a complex combination of exclusion, marginalisation and discrimination. The Ministries of Education of the Cantons of Sarajevo and Zenica-Doboj recognise the need and are ready to tackle the problem in cooperation with Caritas.

There are many reasons for the low level of nursery school attendance: Insufficient public awareness, particularly in more traditional societies (e.g. Roma), of the importance for child development of attending nursery school; inadequate public resources; not enough suitable and properly equipped premises; shortage of teaching staff; outdated learning methods. 


What are we doing?

The project concentrates - initially – on the Cantons of Sarajevo and Zenica-Doboj. In both cantons, Caritas can fall back on long-term, good cooperation with the public authorities, including the Ministry of Education. Moreover, the competent authorities have expressed their interest in cooperation and declared their political will to see changes in the area of nursery schools.

The project pursues a three-pronged approach:
Firstly, through increased educational work, the importance of nursery school attendance for child development is to be more strongly anchored in the public consciousness and nursery school attendance should become a matter of course. All children should have the possibility of access to a nursery school, but especially children from particularly disadvantaged families. In communities and districts without nursery schools, such schools will either be set up in cooperation with the authorities, or access to education is made possible by means of a mobile nursery school.

Secondly, the authorities are to be given support in creating an environment adapted to children’s needs in the nursery schools, and in meeting their legal obligation. This can be achieved through structural measures and by providing facilities, or also by funding additional nursery school teachers, social workers and specialists (for special needs, for example in speech therapy or movement therapy). With regard to the marginalisation of the Roma, the Roma mediators introduced in some schools and nursery schools are of great importance: In the past, cooperation with them and with social workers has proved to be extremely effective in Caritas projects to integrate particularly disadvantaged children into primary and secondary school. The current project aims to benefit from this experience.

Thirdly, the training of the nursery school teachers is to be improved. The directors of studies of the universities of Sarajevo and Zenica have expressed great interest in developing and introducing new modules, with the help of Caritas Switzerland. These include, in particular, topics such as social inclusion, children’s rights and contemporary teaching methodology.

In view of the difficult financial situation of the education authorities both at the cantonal and municipal level, the project will contribute to the funding of posts and equipment; however, this will be exclusively on condition of government co-funding, so that the local integration and sustainability of the project activities are ensured. The Ministries of Education of both cantons have expressly confirmed their financial support and signed corresponding declarations of intent.


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Caritas Switzerland
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