With support from and in partnership with OSF’s Early Childhood Program, ISSA is pleased to release a new publication: Growing through Sharing Together: Needs and Aspirations of Romani Early Childhood Professionals. During 2012, OSF, ISSA, and ISSA members and partners in the following 10 countries conducted a mapping research to determine the professional interests and needs of Romani ECD professionals and paraprofessionals: Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. Professionals in the study included teachers, educators, psychologists/school counsellors, psycho-pedagogues, speech therapists and pedagogues. Paraprofessionals included school mediators, nursery nurses, community mediators, health mediators, teaching assistants, Roma community workers and Roma community nursery nurses. To implement the study, coordinators from ISSA’s member NGOs used a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to reach participants. The coordinators were able to gather approximately 400 questionnaires and to interview 100 participants through peer group discussions and individual in-depth interviews.
The questionnaires and interviews asked a series of questions to determine the professional needs of participants, as they perceive them. Participants overwhelmingly saw a need for further in-service training which would result in either certifications or diplomas. They stipulated that this in-service training should not take the place of formal training, which was viewed as essential. Participants showed significant interest in study-visits as a form of in-service training, and saw value in participating in a European ECD network. However, interestingly, participants did not place a high value for online networking or mentoring. The implementers of the study think this is likely due to a large portion of the participants’ lack of previous engagement in effective, well-planned online networking interactions.
Given the results of the study, ISSA and OSF/ECP moved forward with launching a new partnership initiative in the second half of 2012. The Romani Early Years Network (REYN) is a network hosted and managed by ISSA, launched as a partnership with Open Society Foundations’ Roma ‘Kopaçi’ initiatives of the Early Childhood Programme. The Network focuses on emerging and established Romani early childhood development professionals, as well as other professionals working in the field of ECD with Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, Sinti, Gitano and other communities. REYN’s main purpose is to support the development of skills and good practice, extend the knowledge drawn from experiences of working effectively with Romani families and children in ECD, establish effective partnerships between Roma and other ECD professionals and paraprofessionals and support professional development for those working with these marginalized and excluded groups.
Within the broad framework of ISSA’s and the OSF/ECP’s shared objectives, ensuring access and equity of care for every young child and of increasing high quality services and provision, through promoting professionalism in early childhood education and care, the overarching goal of this joint initiative is to create opportunities for Romani and other ECD practitioners to develop their confidence and competences for improving the quality and promoting equity of early childhood services that target Roma children and their families.
REYN will address findings that demonstrate a paucity of resources and knowledge for early childhood development ECD professionals, pedagogues and paraprofessionals and few mechanisms to support those working in ECD settings with Romani families and their children, with professional development opportunities and courses. ISSA and OSF aim to address this gap, by launching a network that will promote note-worthy practice amongst those ECD practitioners that are engaged with Romani families, organize training and professional development courses (through an online learning community), offer the chance to share experiences of successful (and not-so-successful) initiatives with other practitioners through interactive ‘blogging’, promote the exchange of knowledge and understanding of Romani communities and cultures with visits and exchanges. The network will particularly focus on supporting a greater number of Romani ECD professionals and paraprofessionals in the field and as practitioners, managers, policy-makers and decision-makers, in line with the principle of KHANCHI P’AMENDE BI AMENGO, “nothing about us without us”, in Romani.
The Network has started from knowledge and experience sharing and will grow to more knowledge creation through the following different channels of communication:
– ISSA’s Online Community for announcements/news and for sharing resources: www.issa.nl/oc.
– Facebook for informal sharing: http://www.facebook.com/groups/romani.early.years.network/
– REYN Blog for reflection and shared learning: http://reyn.blog.issa.nl/.
Whilst all international networks are faced with language barriers, ISSA and OSF are using their experience of bringing together a multi-lingual network, through building on vibrant national networks and the strengths of individuals to create a powerful community of professionals to help improve the lives of Roma children across the region and deeply at the national level.
The report can be accessed here.
Practitioners who are interested in joining the REYN network are encouraged to write to firstname.lastname@example.org. ISSA and OSF look forward to working together with interested organizations in order to create high quality, equitable early childhood provisions for Roma children.