President Pendarovski said all kids deserve to enjoy their rights and feel equal and welcome in the school.
After a girl with Down’s syndrome was bullied and discriminated against in North Macedonia, the country's president walked her to school as a show of support. After some of the parents petitioned to have the 11-year-old girl removed from school, President Stevo Pendarovski visited the family at home and walked her to school to show everyone was equal in North Macedonia and to raise awareness on disabilities. In pictures and a video released by the president's office, Embla Ademi, 11, can be seen holding the president's hands and walking to school, reported CNN. Embla's family is from Gostivar in North Macedonia. Pendarovski said "inclusion is a basic principle that we must support in such cases."
Embla had been bullied at school for having Down syndrome, said a spokesperson for the President's office. Pendarovski also brought the girl gifts when he arrived at her home. Pendarovski "talked to Embla's parents about the challenges she and her family face on a daily basis," said his office. "The President said that the behavior of those who endanger children's rights is unacceptable, especially when it comes to children with atypical development," read the statement. "I came to offer my help and support that I can in this position that I am in. If we can, if we raise the awareness people who have special needs are a part of us and we cannot discard them," he said.
He also waved to her as he dropped her off at the school gate. "They should not only enjoy the rights they deserve but also feel equal and welcome in the school desks and schoolyard. It is our obligation, as a state, but also as individuals, and the key element in this common mission is empathy. It will help children like Embla, but it will also help us learn from them how to sincerely rejoice, share and be in solidarity," said the president.
Pendarovski hopes it starts a discussion on the importance of being inclusive. "Inclusiveness as an aspiration should not remain just a declarative principle, but to use the potentials of people with atypical development. Prejudices in that context are the main obstacle to building an equal and just society for all," said Pendarovski. "Prejudice should not be an obstacle to building an equal and just society for all. Empathy is our moral obligation," said the President on Twitter. "We are all equal in this society. I came here to give my support and to raise awareness that inclusion is a basic principle," said Pendarovski.
Parents of other children in her class had petitioned for Embla to be removed from class and educated separately. Embla has returned to her classroom with other students and has also been assigned a personal assistant. The President also encouraged and supported Embla's parents for fighting for the rights of their kid. Pendarovski added that there was "a legal and moral obligation to provide inclusive education, in which the main focus is on developing skills and abilities in children with different developmental processes."
The President was praised for supporting the bullied child. "Thank you, Mr. President, for showing what humanity is all about," wrote one person.