In a heartwarming gesture, the President of North Macedonia walked an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome to school after learning she was being bullied by her classmates.
President Stevo Pendarovski held Embla Ademi’s hand as they walked to her school in the city of Gostivar.
“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 the president, according to a press release.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. It causes health problems, learning disabilities, and distinctive facial features.
President Pendarovski also visited the girl and her parents at their home to talk about the challenges they encounter on a daily basis and discuss solutions.
Turns out, it wasn’t only Embla’s classmates who were bullying her—their parents were also being discriminatory toward the young girl.
Some parents had complained that Embla was in the same school as their kids, even going so far as boycotting classes that she attended.
They claimed that Embla was “aggressive.” As a result, she had been separated from the other children and was forced to work in a cold school hall with a small heater beside her.
According to a report from the Rheinische Post, this is despite caregivers at a local center for children with special needs confirming that Embla had not exhibited any aggressive tendencies.
Embla’s parents fought for their daughter’s rights, and the school agreed to let her back into her class.
However, angry parents protested against it and boycotted the classes, which meant that Embla had been sitting alone in a classroom since February 1.
Upon learning of Embla’s predicament, President Pendarovski stepped in to make things right.
“The President said that the behavior of those who endanger children’s rights is unacceptable, especially when it comes to children with atypical development,” the president’s office said in the news release.
Jeton Shaqiri, the Minister of Education and Science, had previously announced that Embla would rejoin her classes.
“They should not only enjoy the rights they deserve, but also feel equal and welcome in the school desks and schoolyard,” said President Pendarovski.
“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.”
Embla’s father, Ilir Ademi, confirmed to NovaTV that she would attend her regular classes.
However, this news hasn’t received a “positive reaction” from the parents of the other students who petitioned for Embla to be out of school. But the local government assured the worried dad that Embla would be able to attend regular classes and that this incident won’t happen again.
Ademi said the problems started in November when a group of parents whose children were classmates with Embla complained to the principal. They said that the girl interfered in the teaching process and asked to remove her from the class.
“My daughter was assigned to study in shifts, and to attend classes for two weeks in three different classes,” Ademi said.
But the parents’ claims couldn’t be further from the truth. Embla is accompanied by an educational assistant throughout her classes, and he would have alerted them if that was really the case.
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights weighed in on the situation, saying:
“The petition of parents against a child with Down Syndrome is the latest defeat of our society when it comes to the attitude towards the most vulnerable among us.”
The country’s ombudsman and Commission for Protection against Discrimination decided to open a probe into Embla’s case, which was approved by the president.
Now that’s a true leader! Hopefully, President Pendarovski’s show of solidarity would change his country’s false judgments toward individuals with Down syndrome.
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