REYN Bosnia and Herzegovina

REYN Bosnia and Herzegovina

According to the Statistical Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2013 Census), there are about 12,000 Roma living in the country. However, the number seems significantly underestimated and civil society organizations (CSOs) as well as the Council of Europe, estimate the Roma population to be between 40,000 and 75,000. According to those estimations Roma would be between one and two percent of the population.

There is a general acknowledgement of the fact that Roma are the most vulnerable ethnic minority in the country. Most of them are concentrated in 30 of the 137 local administrative units. Some presence of Roma is recorded in 71 of the administrative units.

Similar to other countries, Roma are also over-represented among the people facing poverty. The Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees keeps records of people in social need and records approximately 17,500 Roma among them. Civil society assesses that number to be at least twice as high.

Socially excluded Roma are at the margins of society. They are unable to participate to the economic, social and cultural trends. This situation has resulted in poverty and lack of basic educational opportunities and employment. Furthermore, this reduces their ability to generate income, participation in social networks or other activities in the community.


Despite some positive developments, UNICEF (2014) describes the remaining challenges in early childhood education (ECE). In 2006, only six percent of all children were in ECE. The number increased up to 13 percent in 2012. The proportion of Romani children in ECE is however only 1.5 percent UNICEF says, and two percent among children in poverty.

In the same study, UNICEF reports that the participation in preschool education according to the official statistics is only 46 percent, despite this being compulsory. Only 5 percent of Romani children attends preschool.

Among the causes of low preschool attendance we can include: the high fees, insufficient preschool capacities and a lack of qualified staff. Furthermore, a patchy distribution of the network of preschools across the country leaves many small towns and rural areas without this service.

The number of Romani children attending primary school has been increasing in the last couple of years but still lags behind mainstream statistics. While the general participation is 98 percent in primary education and 92 percent in secondary education, the numbers of Roma are 69 percent and 23 percent respectively, with even worse numbers among Romani girls compared to boys (UNICEF 2014). The quoted Country Program Document 2015-2019 of UNICEF identifies a number of barriers in education of Roma and also indicates the early dropouts as one of the challenges. The quality of education of Romani children is lower compared to other children and the support they are provided is insufficient. This goes hand in hand with irregular attendance and discrimination in school and outside. As a result, Romani children suffer from low education outcomes and this undermines both their and their parents’ motivation to continue.

Many Roma organizations and other civil society organizations are actively engaged in improving the status of Romani children and supporting their education. The majority of support is provided for primary education. It is therefore crucial to pay attention to the early years. Early childhood programs are non-existent in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Comprehensive programs, which could provide integrated early childhood development services do not exist either. This care is mostly left in the hands of the family. The importance of parenthood is not completely addressed within the health protection system and the education system; therefore, parents are often unaware of the importance and unable to support the development of their children in the early years. In general, the emphasis at the national level has been put on the inclusion of vulnerable groups in all aspects of society, but again starting with an older age group, focusing on primary school and older children.

A significant number of the primary school teachers and other experts have been sensitized and they are also helping Romani children in schools. However, this support is far too little compared to what is needed, especially as it has not been systematized. Limitations and obstacles exist at all levels – from local to national.

The EU integration process has led to the adoption of numerous laws also addressing the issue of childhood development but many obstacles persist in implementation.  There are issues with the adoption of the necessary by-laws, lack of coordination and cooperation between relevant ministries (health, social protection, education), lack of necessary financial means and in general the importance of development in early childhood is not acknowledged by decision makers. Presently, emphasis and efforts are put on formal educational system structures (kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, etc.).

REYN Bosnia and Herzegovina

REYN Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) wants to serve as an inclusive learning community that supports access and equity of care for every young child and promotes high quality and professionalism in services. Within the network Roma and non-Roma members work together to develop skills and good practice, establish effective partnerships and support professional development.

The ambition of REYN Bosnia and Herzegovina is to connect a large number of education professionals (kindergarten and primary school teachers, psychologists, pedagogues, education advisors), activists of Roma CSOs and other non-Roma CSOs involved in the early childhood development (EDC) of Romani children.


  • Strengthening the network: a national-level learning community of ECD professionals and paraprofessionals.
  • Improving the capacities of professionals, paraprofessionals and other members of ECD through adequate trainings and access to exchange of knowledge.
  • Increasing the awareness on ECD and its importance at all levels (citizens, institutions, decision makers).
Go to the REYN BiH website at

#DreamToGrow Campaign – read Dajana’s story in English and Bosnian.

REYN Bulgaria






Roma people in Bulgaria

Roma are formally Bulgaria’s second largest minority group, representing approximately 325,343 or 5% of those who declared their ethnic identity during the 2011 census[i]. However, estimates range widely and some sociologists claim the actual number of Roma in Bulgaria to be more than twice the official statistic.

Roma began to settle in Bulgaria as early as the 13th century, coming from the Middle East and subsequently also from places such as Wallachia and Moldova. The three main groups of Roma today are Yerlii, Kardarashi and Rudari. Each is divided into subgroups, distinguishing themselves mainly by the dialect spoken and the traditional male craft.

Romani Children

While Bulgaria has achieved considerable reductions in infant mortality, its rate is still over 80% higher than the EU average (6.6 vs 3.6 deaths per 1000 live births in 2015). There is a significant fluctuation among regions and in settlements with concentrated Roma population, with levels up to 200% higher than the national average[ii].

Pre-term births account for half of all infant deaths in Bulgaria and limited access to prenatal healthcare is one of the leading risk factors. In regions with a high percentage of Roma, less than half of pregnant women receive prenatal checkups before the third lunar month.[iii] The young age of these mothers additionally increases the risk of preterm birth. Ten percent of all live births in Bulgaria are teen pregnancies (compared to 1% for the EU), and this is an issue that disproportionately impacts the Roma.

Malnourishment is another health risk that puts Romani children at a disadvantage. The level of anemia among Romani children aged 6-11 months is 61% compared to 37% among ethnic Bulgarian children. The relative share of Romani children aged 0-3 with growth delays (measured based on the World Health Organization’s criteria for height-to-weight ratio) is 30% compared to 8% for ethnic Bulgarians. Stunted growth results in susceptibility to infectious diseases as well as in poorer cognitive, motor, social-emotional, and neurophysiologic development[iv].

Half of Bulgaria’s Roma live in illegal neighborhoods, with 80% of all residents in these neighborhoods lacking access to sewage and hot water. Many homes also lack running water and electricity[v]. Many live in fear of eviction[vi]. These deplorable conditions result in high incidences of preventable and chronic diseases among Roma children. They also affect their school attendance and economic potential.

Early childhood education and care

At present, 23% of new entrants into Bulgaria’s labor force are Roma or individuals living in marginalized communities[vii]. Roma currently experience great gaps in educational outcomes, with only half finishing junior high, less than 15% completing high school, and less than 1% earning a university degree. Cost barriers, teacher discrimination, pressure from social norms within Roma society, a lack of professional role models, and outdated curriculum and teaching methods all influence this outcome.

To prepare for a possible future where Roma and individuals living in Roma communities make up 46-50% of Bulgaria youth[viii], it is essential that targeted and long-term projects and policies address and reduce these educational gaps. The importance of early education in providing an equal start to school has been gaining recognition in recent years, with two years of preschool currently being mandatory.

The country’s 1,894 kindergartens and preparatory groups at primary schools provide preschool education to 79% of all 3-6 year-old children[ix]. Impressively, enrollment among Romani children has increased from an estimated 45%[x] in 2011 to 68%[xi] in 2015. Today, one in ten municipalities offer free or low-cost kindergarten during at least the two mandatory preschool years. Yet in the absence of a national policy to remove kindergarten fees, financial constraints continue to limit the participation of many children from disadvantaged communities[xii]. The ongoing optimization of educational infrastructure in response to urban migration has resulted in a 10% reduction in the number of kindergartens during the period 2011-2016[xiii]. Villages, where Roma are concentrated, are particularly affected by this process. Urban ghettos suffer disproportionately from a lack of free places at kindergartens.

For Romani children to achieve better cognitive, social, and emotional competencies, the learning environment and kindergarten teacher preparedness may need to improve[xiv]. Currently, 50% of kindergarten teachers are aged 50 and older[xv], and there are few high quality professional development opportunities available. Discriminatory attitudes persist among one in every five kindergarten teachers[xvi]. Very few teachers are of Roma origin, yet entire kindergartens are attended by only Romani children. Greater emphasis may be needed on working with Romani parents to sustain their engagement in children’s learning after enrollment in kindergarten[xvii].


As one of the newest members of the international family of REYN networks, REYN Bulgaria strives to:

  • Offer positive role models in the early childhood development of Roma children by encouraging and supporting students from Roma communities in their pursuit of a career in professional fields such as teaching and nursing
  • Improve the quality of services for young Romani children through professional development opportunities such as training, local and international exchanges, and the dissemination of international best practices
  • Integrate healthcare and early education more effectively, such as through the production of handbooks for educators on how to help parents maintain a healthy diet for their children using easy to prepare, low-cost recipes
  • Unite advocacy efforts to improve access, quality and results for Roma children by supporting its members in promoting success stories and by becoming a respected source for policy recommendations and thought leadership.
Go to the Trust for Social Achievement’s website at


[i] National Statistical Institute (2011). Population Census Main Results 2011. Retrieved on 30.6.2018 from

[ii] OECD/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. 2017. България: Здравен профил за страната 2017, State of Health in the EU, OECD Publishing, Paris/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, Brussels.

[iii] UNICEF (2011). Children and Women in Bulgaria – 2011: Situation Analysis

[iv] NCPHA, RHI (2007) National Nutrition Survey of infants and young children up to age 5.

[v] Dimitrov, D., Grigorova, V., Decheva, D. 2013. Civil Society Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012 in Bulgaria.

[vi] Mihailova, D., Kachamov, A. 2017. Roma Evictions and Demolition of Roma Houses: A Sustainable Solution for Roma Integration or a Problem of Roma Discrimination in Bulgaria?, at

[vii] de Laat, J. (April 2010). Economic Costs of Roma Exclusion. World Bank

[viii] Ilieva, N. (2016). Projection of the Roma Population (2020-2050). Trust for Social Achievement.

[ix] National statistical institute (2017). Kindergartens, children, pedagogical staff, places and groups in the kindergartens by statistical zones, statistical regions, districts and municipalities Downloaded on 19.04.2018

[x] The World Bank. Toward an Equal Start: Closing the Early Learning Gap for Roma Children In Eastern Europe. 2012.

[xi] Huillery, E, de Laat, J. Gertler, P. (2017) Supporting Disadvantaged Children To Enter Kindergarten: Experimental Evidence From Bulgaria. World Bank Group.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] National statistical institute (2017). Kindergartens, children, pedagogical staff, places and groups in the kindergartens by statistical zones, statistical regions, districts and municipalities

2016/2017 year. Downloaded on 19.04.2018

[xiv] Huillery, E, de Laat, J. Gertler, P. (2017) Supporting Disadvantaged Children To Enter Kindergarten: Experimental Evidence From Bulgaria. World Bank Group.

[xv] National statistical institute (2017) Pedagogical staff in kindergartens by age Downloaded on 19.04.2018   от

[xvi] The Psychological Society of Bulgaria. (2011) National representative survey: Stereotypes and Prejudices in textbooks, teaching aids and educational programs and plans preparatory and basic education. Commission for Protection against Discrimination

[xvii] Huillery, E, de Laat, J. Gertler, P. (2017) Supporting Disadvantaged Children To Enter Kindergarten: Experimental Evidence From Bulgaria. World Bank Group.

REYN Belgium

Although Roma make less than half percent of the Belgian population, number of towns in the country have experienced significant increase in the number of Roma. Many are escaping poverty in their countries of origin and moved to Belgium in search for better living conditions. Towns like Ghent reacted adequately and introduced number of services to assist the newly arriving families. One of the services, mediators for intra-European migration, have been possibly the best known among the local Roma.

REYN Belgium was originally established by the municipality of Ghent and in close cooperation with the mediators working with Roma, mainly those coming from Bulgaria and Slovakia. Currently focusing on stronger cooperation with non-governmental organizations and Romani activists around the country, REYN Belgium, hosted by the Centre for Innovation in the Early Years (VBJK), and is building new relationships and developing more cooperation across sectors.

The network has been recently adopted by the Ghent-based Centre for Innovation in the Early Years, VBJK. The organization keeps track of developing research and trends in the provision of early childhood services and promotes innovation in daily practice affecting all children, including the youngest Roma and Travellers. In the membership, REYN Belgium is currently focusing on building partnerships between Roma communities and Roma civil society actors.

Website & Social Media

REYN Hungary

The conditions for early years development in the system of public education is very weak in Hungary. In particular, with regard to the disadvantaged regions in Hungary, the institutional system of early years is not yet established. Even when it is established, professionals are often lacking possibilities of professional development. REYN Hungary is focusing on these regions and offers course for professional development of staff working with Romani and/or disadvantaged children

The number of Roma professionals in Early Childhood Education (ECE)

The percentage of Romani professionals in the sector is extremely low. REYN Hungary offers for one Romani professional staff a scholarship and employment at an early years institution in 2017. Moreover, REYN also conducts an online survey and an advocacy campaign to increase the number of Romani ECE professionals.

Multisectoral cooperation

Multisector cooperation between institutional systems and professionals is lacking; especially in the fields of early childhood development, education, social affairs, and healthcare institutions, primarily at local, municipal level. With REYN advocacy campaign and professional development, cooperation will be tailored to multisectoral cooperation and professional development. REYN encourages that civil society organizations should be involved in multisectoral cooperation in the area of ECE with special attention to Romani and/or disadvantaged children.

Ministerial coordination

There is no organizational unit with strong weight in the institutional coordination of early development needs at the ministerial level. This unit must be established in the ministry responsible for education. REYN Hungary launched an advocacy campaign to reach this goal at the end of 2016.

What REYN Hungary does:

  • Building a strong inclusive professional learning community among Romani and non-Romani ECD practitioners working with Romani children by developing members’ competencies and capacities.
  • Increasing the number of Romani practitioners and their reputation and visibility on the national and local level in order to improve quality and equity of ECD provisions.
  • Advocating for inclusive policies and practices, for cross-sectoral activities in the area of ECD, and for increasing the number of Roma ECE practitioners.

REYN Hungary has 507 individual members, mainly preschool educators and health visitors. There are also 22 organizational members, mostly non-governmental organizations active in the field of early childhood development.

Website & social media

  • Visit the REYN Hungary website here
  • Go to their Facebook page here


REYN Ukraine

It is estimated that up to 400,000 Roma people live in Ukraine. According to the OSCE Situation Assessment Report (2014), Roma are a heterogeneous community that lives in different regions of Ukraine. The largest concentrations of Roma live in Transcarpathia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Odesa, Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Cherkassy and Poltava.

Commonly, among major challenges of Roma in Ukraine, experts note the following:

  • low education level of Roma;
  • low incomes and high unemployment;
  • poor housing and limited access to social and health care services;
  • human rights violations, hate speech and discrimination.


The Report on the Implementation of the State Policy towards Roma, released in 2015 by the International Renaissance Foundation, together with the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner of the Ukrainian Parliament, indicated that, 24% of Roma respondents reported having no education, 16% – primary education, and 37% – incomplete secondary education. According to the mentioned survey, 63% of Roma are unemployed (unemployment among women being even higher – 83%), with a further 22% working only part-time.

These numbers clearly demonstrate that the Roma in Ukrainian are disadvantaged. Romani children suffer the effects of all of these issues to an even larger extent as poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, malnutrition, and facing prejudice from a very early age create a vicious cycle and build almost impassable barriers on a child’s way towards balanced development and integration to the society.


Many Roma families lack not only the basic material possessions (such as shoes and adequate clothing) to send their children to kindergarten or school but also do not see the long-term value of the educational system, especially one where their children will most certainly face prejudice and discrimination. As many Roma families have children at a young age, they also lack the necessary parenting skills and have virtually no access to relevant training programs. Many children are forced to leave school early both because of prejudice and bullying and to help their families generate income. Many Romani girls drop out of school due to early marriage.


As a result, an overwhelming majority of Roma children do not receive adequate care and development assistance, especially during preschool and early school years, which are crucial in laying the foundation for a successful future. Most health care and social service providers either do not want to work in the Roma communities or lack necessary capacity and resources to do so, this results into systemic neglect of the Roma children’s basic medical and social rights. This, combined with malnutrition, physical and mental abuse, also contributes to further alienation of Roma from the ‘mainstream’ society starting from a very early age.

The Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation

REYN Ukraine is hosted by the Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation. The main purpose of REYN Ukraine is to create a national network of professionals and paraprofessionals involved in providing and facilitating Early Childhood Development and Care services for Roma children and families. REYN Ukraine focuses on the professional development of its members and promoting exchange of knowledge and best practices.

Besides, REYN Ukraine will look for new capacities and opportunities to develop and implement new projects and initiatives for Roma communities and young children. The network consists of more than 100 individuals, including Roma NGO’s representatives and activists, early childhood professionals, practitioners and teacher assistants.

Website and Social Media

REYN Slovakia

The main focus of REYN Slovakia is empowerment of Romani parents and communities. Simultaneously, through its host organization REYN Slovakia is active in national level advocacy towards inclusion of Romani children and their families. REYN Slovakia is also active in building regional cooperation, mainly with neighboring networks of Hungary and Ukraine, as well as developing network in the Czech Republic.

Slovakia is known for segregating Romani children from their early age and the country has been criticized for this by number of international organizations. In 2015, the European Commission started an infringement procedure against Slovakia for discriminating Romani children based on their ethnicity.

REYN Slovakia is in its developing phase and is currently building its membership mainly among Romani parents and practitioners working with Romani families in the field.

Website & Social Media


REYN Kosovo

The specific objective of the Kosovo Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian Early Years Network is to develop skills and good practice, establish effective partnerships and support capacity building of RAE (Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians) and non-RAE professionals and paraprofessionals working with RAE children and their families for improving their own performance and the quality of provision in general. The aim of this Network was to particularly empower Romani ECD professionals and paraprofessionals working with Romani communities, offering them opportunities for professional development, training, study visits and international networking across the ECD sector.

Website & Social Media