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UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia Novak Djokovic autographs tennis balls at Pcelica (‘Little Bee’) Nursery School in the town of Smederevo, near Belgrade, the capital. His T-shirt and banners behind him bear the UNICEF logo.

On 26 September 2011 in Serbia, tennis world champion and newly appointed UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia Novak Djokovic visited Pcelica (‘Little Bee’) Nursery School in the town of Smederevo, near Belgrade, the capital. It was his first mission on behalf of UNICEF, and his focus is early childhood education and children’s rights in his native Serbia. Pcelica Nursery School provides inclusive early childhood education for children aged 3 to 5, including from vulnerable groups (children with disabilities, Roma children, and internally displaced and refugee children). “It feels good to see children from different socio-economic backgrounds playing together and learning together. They are developing their skills, acquiring knowledge and learning to respect each other and to live with each other,” Mr. Djokovic said. “Those born into poverty or on the margins of society require our extra support to realize their dreams,” he added. “Preschool programmes are essential to give every young child the maximum possibilities to succeed in his or her further education. They provide them with a winning start.” Early childhood education has been demonstrated to improve outcomes for children. However, fewer than half of Serbian children aged of three and five participate in preschool programmes, and less than 1 in 10 of the most vulnerable children do. The Government, in partnership with UNICEF, has set early education as a key programme priority for the period 2011-2015 and aims to expand existing services, establish standards, strengthen support to families and mobilize communities to give priority to early inclusion. Mr. Djokovic, the number-one ranked tennis player in the world, was appointed a UNICEF National Ambassador th