KHETAUN – a step towards inclusion of Romani children in quality preschool education

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Characterized by high unemployment, insufficient infrastructures, poor housing and living conditions and a general lack of social integration, the situation of the Roma has for years been the subject of strong national and international concerns. In recent decades, the segment of Roma minority characterised by the somehow technocratic term as „marginalized Roma communities“ became an object of political debates, policy-making initiatives and general modes of governing the poor and disadvantaged. The field/topic, where we as an ISSA members, could contribute the most is the educational field, especially the Early Childhood Development. Under the leadership of the Developmental Research Center for Pedagogical Initiatives Step by Step at the Educational Research Institute – Slovenia, all together four partners (Center for Education Initiatives – Latvia, Skola dokoran – Wide Open School n. o. – Slovakia and Clovek v tisni – Czech Republic) prepared a 24 months project called KHETAUN (TOGETHER): With Key Steps to Inclusion of Romani Children into Quality Early Childhood Programmes.

The joint project is based on various research supported results and the results of direct findings from the field of the applicant organization, that quality early childhood education and the inclusion of children from disadvantaged groups in high-quality preschool programs is one of the key protective factors that predict success of children in further education as well as later. In the case of Romani children we must focus our great effort on work with Romani parents, because of their various negative experiences from the past, they in majority do not trust institutions, and often do not feel the need to send children in preschool programs, because of high unemployment rate they usually stay at home and also on their scale of values for various reasons, (pre-school) education is not listed high.

On the other hand there are preschool teachers who are professionally committed to the integration of all children in the educational process. Because of specific of target population and the complexity of the Roma issue, teachers must be equipped with special tools and strategies that enable them to successfully integrate Romani children in their classrooms. Preschool teachers are largely aware of the problems and their helplessness and that is the reason why the preschools to which gravitate Roma settlements or which include Romani children, in recent years are implementing the number of projects that address the integration of Romani children in pre-school educational system from different angles. But the problem lies in the fact that there does not exist a comprehensive model that would help preschool teachers work with and include Romani children and their parents in early childhood programs.

The aim of project is exactly this: on the basis of past experiences of partner organizations, to develop a comprehensive model that includes both work with children, parents and the local community and help raise awareness among educators of their implicit theories, which are often an obstacle to the successful implementation of innovations. We are targeting our project on administrators and professionals in preschools (preschool teachers, counselors etc.), Romani parents and children, representatives of the Romani community, representatives of local organizations and other members of the local community. With direct project activities we are reaching up to 350 people.

Activities in the project are based on the implementation of four different courses, which are covering four key pillars necessary for the successful integration of Romani children in preschools and the development of linguistic, cultural and developmentally appropriate multilingual materials for children. Trainings are primarily carried out on an international level, but we have already started  at the national level for preschools and other key persons directly involved in the implementation of the project. The main expertise that we are delivering to project participants is included in four big areas:

  • Programs for empowering Romani families with regard to childcare and encouraging child development,
  • Building trust and connecting pre-school with different actors within the local community,
  • Activities for children, who are not enrolled in pre-schools and their parents
  • Advocacy, informing and awareness-raising about the importance of pre-school education and ensuring social justice in education and training.

The project will create guidelines for policy makers at the national and European level, which will open up possibilities for dialogue and systematically address the issue of integration of Romani children in preschool education, as well as materials for teachers, children and their parents.

By Miroslav Sklenka PhD.

Skola dokoran – Wide Open School n. o. Slovakia

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.