The attendees at the Inclusion Festival that took place last week in Skopje, North Macedonia, couldn’t stop their tears from falling. Their tears also dropped with hilarity when after the workshop for creative expression and the workshop for communication skills for persons with or without disabilities, the young dancers and actors took to the stage.
The young dancers from the Eureka Dance Studio, the Trisomy 21 inclusive choir, and the Windmill Collective, a lot of music stars, including Igor Dzambazov, and the pianist Ema Ananievska sent a message that people with disabilities shouldn’t be looked upon as the “Boogeyman” but with empathy.
“Turn the inclusion on and let it stay turned on,” said Gere Tripkov of the Association for active inclusion and appropriate treatment of persons with disabilities Equality, which organized the festival. He stressed that they won’t stop with this event, but will be working towards being heard more.
Among the audience enjoying the ballet and music performances was the EU Ambassador to North Macedonia, David Geer. He said for Meta.mk that it was wonderful to see these young people dancing together and what they can achieve when united.
“I think that the inclusion is a challenge in many countries, but as you can see, it brings many benefits, since it unites people in the community that are trying to contribute positively with all of their skills. There are plenty of things that should be done. This way is wonderful, through individual initiatives, civil society associations and individuals. But there also has to be some action for deinstitutionalization from the government, which will contribute to these people attending schools and being present in the context. There are good achievements, but of course, more can always be done. It would be nice if experiences from other countries from the European Union could be shared,” Ambassador Geer said.
Nikola Stojanovski, a high school pupil with Down syndrome, participated in all the performances with his friends. The joy on his face was palpable. But even though two months have passed since the start of the school year, he is attending school without an educational assistant and is waiting for the Law on secondary education in order to exercise his right.
The latest information that Meta.mk received from the Minister of Education and Science, Jeton Shaqiri is that the new Law on secondary education is underway.
“We have an initial, solid version, created with all the participants in mind and it will be sent for consideration to the government and then to Parliament for a final debate and adoption. I’m hoping that the whole process will end soon and the best legal solution will be adopted that will provide educational assistance for the pupils with disabilities both in the state and municipal secondary schools,” Shaqiri said.
Meanwhile, Denis Jankulovski, who is an Ambassador against hate speech and last year’s winner of the “European of the Year” award, considers that the law that the Ministry of Education says is in preparation, should be adopted as soon as possible.
“Before the summer, some of the parents shared information that allegedly the law will be adopted during August, but it still isn’t adopted. The way of solving the problem with educational assistants is probably one of the most difficult issues, starting from lack of people, but also a major problem will be the financing i.e. the source of financing and the amount. Apparently, it will turn out that the families will have to solve these issues on their own. Firstly, not everyone will be able to find an assistant and not everyone will be able to pay the assistant. Simply put. only they know the troubles they have,” said Jankulovski.
Regarding this issue, Ambassador Geer proposed to analyze the examples and experiences from Italy.
“The support provided by educational assistants can make a big difference. Indeed, to see the people as they develop fast and learn so they can be a part of society. The assistance can be really benefitial in enabling those people to show the best of themselves and to contribute, because they have a lot to give to us,
ambassador Geer said.