An event for Roma and non-Roma Professionals

Over fifty Romani Early Years Network members from 11 countries met last week to strategize on how to improve the lives of young Romani children in Europe.

There’s a lack of quality in early childhood services for Romani children in Europe. This is what Roma and non-Roma professionals have echoed at the REYN Strategic meeting in Zagreb last week.

The event (14-16 October), saw the participation of educators, social workers, policy experts, government representatives and professionals in early childhood development. During the opening, Nandor Čapo, Head of the Independent Sector for National Minorities in the Ministry of Science and Education in Croatia, outlined the inclusion strategy of the government towards Romani children and the challenges ahead.

For the network it has been also a chance to reconnect and strategize on our future actions. The members have identified three common key issues that are an obstacle to Romani children’s development in different European countries:

  • The lack of Romani parents’ empowerment (participation in decision making, voicing, etc.)
  • The lack of Roma professionals and the recognition of their role in the early childhood development professions
  • A low quality of early childhood services

Listening to professionals is key

A special attention was dedicated to listening to Roma professionals: they shared their direct experiences and explained why it is important to give a voice to the Roma community.

“Thanks to the Romani Early Years Network I don’t feel alone anymore,” said Fatime Karamani, REYN Belgium member. When she fled the war in Kosovo in the late 1990s she was still a child. She reached Belgium with her family and was recognized the refugee status. “Me and my family where on our own, we did not speak the language and did not know who to turn to for help.”

Today Fatime works for Kind en Gezin, the national agency for children and families in the country. She assists mothers and babies in vulnerable situations both Roma and non-Roma.

Diversity in the profession

Also, the meeting put the spotlight on promising practices and lessons learned on early childhood development in Croatia with the Open Academy Step by Step coordinator of REYN Croatia.

Severina Orsus is Roma Assistant in primary schools in the country. She helps educators to familiarize with the Romani language so that they can understand better the cultural background of Romani children (watch the video of the project Dă-m sins! below).

“If we want all the children to flourish in our society we need to build the house from the foundations,” Severina said. “All parents want to give the best to their children, just some don’t know how to. We can and need to help them”, she added. 

The video of the project Dă-m sins! Which means “Give Me Five!” in Beyash.

A Learning Community

Other National Networks from Belgium, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine also joined and exchanged their experiences. REYN international was delighted to receive, at the end of the meeting, sincere notes of appreciation from the delegates.

Hereafter, we share Piero Vereni’s message. He teaches at Roma Tor Vergata University; he is a recent addition to REYN Italy: “in Zagreb, thank to your work and your words, I have learnt that culture is important if and only if it is lived as a changing scenario, not as a frozen inheritance of immobile traditions. …REYN is a fantastic place where we can bring together these two needs of our lives, being rooted in our pasts, then to be more strongly propelled to the futures we want to build for ourselves. Together, Roma and non-Roma.”