North Macedonia’s president walks girl with Down syndrome to school after she was bullied

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Parents at the school had been up in arms about Embla, an 11-year-old with Down syndrome, attending classes with their children.

North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendraovski walked an 11-year-old with Down Syndrome to school this week after he heard she was being bullied by her classmates.

Photos posted by Mr Pendraovski on Twitter show him holding Embla Ademi’s hand as they walked to her school ‘Edinstvo’ in the western city of Gostivar.

“Prejudice should not be an obstacle to building an equal and just society for all. Empathy is our moral obligation,” the president’s office wrote in a press release.

“The President said that the behaviour of those who endanger children’s rights is unacceptable, especially when it comes to children with atypical development.

“They should not only enjoy the rights they deserve, but also feel equal and welcome in the school desks and schoolyard.”

Embla had been sitting alone in her classroom since 1 February after parents of her classmates boycotted classes she attended, according to local reports.

Their protests came after the school announced Embla would be integrated into mainstream classes after a concerted effort from her parents that was years in the making.

Zijadin Nuredini, director of Bashkimi Primary School, said they agreed to “circulate and rotate [Embla] in three classes” at the school.

“At the meeting we had with Embla’s parents, with the institutions that are adequate for this topic, they took a stand and we agreed that Embla should not be left alone in a classroom,” the principal told a local media outlet.

But the move reportedly angered some parents who reportedly complained that Embla was “aggressive”.

A local centre for children with special needs also said Embla had not shown aggressive tendencies, according to local reports.

The president’s office said the common mission of society should be “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,” they added.

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