After learning that she was being bullied by her classmates, the President of North Macedonia took an 11-year old girl with Down syndrome to school in a heartwarming gesture.
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 where a person has an extrachromosome. It can cause health problems, learning disabilities, and distinctive facial characteristics.
President Pendarovski also visited the family to discuss the challenges they face every day and offer 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 complained that Embla was at the same school as their children, even boycotting classes 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 the RheinischePost, this is despite Embla’s caregivers at a nearby center for children who have special needs confirming that Embla didn’t display any aggressive tendencies.
Embla’s parents fought for their daughter’s rights, and the school agreed to let her back into her class.
However, parents were furious and boycotted the classes. Embla had been alone in a classroom since February 1, so they protested.
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 had previously announced Embla’s return to 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 explained that the problems began in November, when Embla’s children and their parents complained to the principal. They claimed that the girl had interfered with the teaching process, and asked for her to be removed.
“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 in her classes by an education assistant. He would have alerted her parents if that were the case.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights made a comment on the situation:
“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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