(CNN) — The president of North Macedonia walked an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome to school after learning she was being bullied.
President Stevo Pendarovski held Embla Ademi’s hand as he escorted her to her primary school in the town of Gostivar on Monday. This happened in February of this year.
Embla has Down syndrome, a genetic condition that causes learning disabilities, health problems and distinctive facial features, and has been bullied because of it, a spokesperson for the president’s office told CNN.
Pendarovski “spoke with Embla’s parents about the challenges she and her family face on a daily basis” and discussed solutions, her office said in a news release.
“The president said that the behavior of those who endanger the rights of children is unacceptable, especially when it comes to children with atypical development,” the statement said.
“They should not only enjoy the rights they deserve, but also feel equal and welcome at school desks and in the schoolyard. 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 genuinely rejoice, share and show solidarity,” the president added.
In a video shared by Pendarovski’s office, the president can be seen sitting with Embla’s family and giving them gifts.
He is also seen greeting the 11-year-old girl at the school gate as she enters the building.
“We are all equal in this society. I came here to show my support and raise awareness that inclusion is a basic principle,” Pendarovski said in the press release.
The president said he “encouraged and supported” Embla’s parents in their fight to protect the rights of children like their daughter.
“Prejudice in this context is the main obstacle to building an equal and fair society for all,” Pendarovski said, according to the statement.
He also stressed that there is “a legal and moral obligation to provide inclusive education, in which the main focus is the development of skills and abilities in children with different developmental processes” and emphasized the need to raise public awareness about this issue.
North Macedonia, once part of Yugoslavia, is a small landlocked country in southeastern Europe with a population of about two million.
Publisher’s note: This note was originally published in February 2022 and was updated in March.