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Novak Djokovic Partners with World Bank in Serbia

Men’s world no.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic and The World Bank have teamed up to provide education and early childhood development to children from poor families. The announcement was made on Aug. 26, 2015, a week before the U.S. Open, at a press conference in New York.

In 2010, only 44 percent of children in Serbia attended preschool, with 29 percent recorded for children form rural areas, 22 percent for poor children and 8 percent for Roma children. Currently, less than 10 percent of children attending preschool are from the poorest households.

The initiative, called Early Wins for Lifelong Returns, will consist of advocating the importance of early childhood education globally, and improve access for disadvantaged children to merit early childhood development.

The alliance between Djokovic and The World Bank is currently engaged in discussions with the Serbian government to begin a $50 million project as the first step of the initiative. There are also plans to build new preschools and refurbish old schools into preschools, and provide financial opportunities for poor families.

The Early Wins for Lifelong Returns initiative will create programs that address physical, socio-emotional, language and cognitive aspects of development in children.

Research has shown that children exposed to poverty at a young age are likely to experience challenges in academia later in life. Investing in early development programs is important in breaking the cycle of poverty in Serbia.

At the press conference in New York, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim stated: “All children deserve an equal chance in life, yet millions fail to reach their full potential due to poverty, poor nutrition, and few opportunities for early learning and stimulation.”

Djokovic added: “Serbia’s education system faces many problems, including insufficient capacity, uneven distribution of facilities, financial constraints on poor parents, inadequate understanding on the importance of preschool education, as well as a lack of diversity of programs and services providers. We hope to change that for the better.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: Novak Djokovic Foundation, UNICEF
Photo: Novak Djokovic Foundation