President Stevo Pendarovski held Embla Ademi’s hand as he took her to her primary school in the town of Gostivar on Monday.
Embla has faced bullying at school due to Down syndrome — a genetic disorder that causes learning disabilities, health problems and distinctive facial features — a spokesman for the president’s office told DailyExpertNews.
Pendarovski “talked to Embla’s parents about the challenges she and her family face on a daily basis,” and discussed solutions, his office said in a press release.
“The president said the behavior of those who endanger the rights of the child is unacceptable, especially when it comes to children with atypical development,” the statement said.
“They should not only enjoy the rights they deserve, but also feel equal and welcome in the classroom and the playground. It is our duty, as a state, but also as individuals, and the most important element in this common mission is empathy. ”
“It will help children like Embla, but it will also help us learn from them how to truly rejoice, share and show solidarity,” the president added.
He is also seen waving goodbye to the 11-year-old at the school gate as she walks into the building.
“We are all equal in this society. I came here to give my support and to raise awareness that inclusion is a basic principle,” Pendarovski quoted the press release as saying.
The president said he “encouraged and supported” Embla’s parents in their fight to protect the rights of children like their daughter.
“Prejudice in that context is the main obstacle to building an equal and just society for all,” Pendarovski said, according to the press release.
He also stressed that there is “a legal and moral obligation to provide inclusive education, with a particular focus on developing skills and abilities in children with different developmental processes” and stressed the need to raise public awareness of the issue.
North Macedonia, which was once part of Yugoslavia, is a small landlocked country in southeastern Europe with a population of about 2 million.