Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month: Celebrating Romani and Traveller culture, history and language

- Blog | Adrian Marsh

We are delighted to publish a guest blog by Dr Adrian Marsh about the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month held every year in June in the UK. For practitioners and early years pedagogues it is an opportunity to celebrate diversity, build stronger relationships with Romani and Traveller families and recognise the rich cultural heritage of Romani and Traveller people to wider European

Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month (GRT HM) encouraged teachers, pre-schools, schools and
children’s centres to explore and investigate Romani and Traveller cultures in positive and surprising ways, discovering just how different the reality of their lives were, compared to the ‘fantasy’ of popular media stereotypes and myths.

GRT HM also gave Romani and Traveller children in the kindergarten or school, a chance to be those with the knowledge about the topic, the ones who could share this knowledge with the non-Romani children and teachers. Individual stories and histories of families or groups, put Romani children and their communities at the forefront of the activities with positive role models from the past and present, encouraging Traveller parents to get involved in pre-schools and schools to share and support the topic and activities.

celebrating cultural diversity

GRT HM was an initiative of the Traveller Education Support Services (TESS) in the UK, first launched in the year 2000, in schools in and around London. In response to the continuing celebration of Black History Month (October), Women’s History Month (March), and a regular multi-faith, cultural programme in schools and children’s centres that celebrated various annual events, such as Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights celebrated in autumn (7th November 2018), the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr (15th to 17th June 2018), the festival at the end of Ramadan, Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights (2nd December to 10th December 2018), Kwanzaa, the pan-African festival of light (26th December to 2nd January, each year).

TESS teachers wanted to acknowledge the contribution of Romani and Traveller cultures to wider European society, acknowledge the experiences of Romani and Traveller communities, and celebrate aspects of those cultures with various activities that positively ‘showcased’ Romani and Traveller people, for children and their families.

Activities in the preschool and classroom

GRT HM is intended to be celebrated by all children, regardless of their origins and ethnicity, and is an opportunity to highlight the Romani and Traveller communities. Stories, story-telling, games, songs, mask-making, drama, imaginative play, drawing and painting using Romani and Traveller motifs and icons, such as horse-shoes, waggons (the Romani word is vardo), wheels, birds, dogs (jukkel is Romani for ‘dog’), woven baskets, kerchiefs, bandanas, pegs, camp-fires and horses (or whatever motifs are common in the Romani community you work with).

Decorating paper-plates with floral motifs, or printing materials with foam shapes of flowers are two more activities that can be done with younger children, whilst making crepe paper flowers with older children, is another.

Find out what the crafts made by your Romani and Traveller community are or were in the past, collect stories from older Romani and Traveller people and make books, with the children illustrating them, get grand-parents and parents to come to the preschool or school and share their memories of the past or stories they were told when they were children.

Romani people and story-telling

Stories and story-telling have long been associated with Romani people and, according to scholars such as Francis Hindes Groome (1851-1902), Romani people brought many of the stories we know as ‘fairy stories’ to Europe from India (‘Gypsy Folk Tales’, 1899), such as ‘Cinderella’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

Modern Romani and Traveller writers, such as Richard O’Neill, have written their own stories that can be used as the basis for preschool and classroom activities. I have developed a lesson plan for use with the story-book, “Ossiri and the Balamengro” by Richard O’Neill, Katherine Quarmby and illustrated by Hannah Tolson. Read a REYN blog dedicated to that.

This story and many others have Romani characters, Romani language and themes, that can be shared with the whole group of children to introduce elements of culture and traditions. Richard O’Neill’s “Yokki and the Parno Gry” brings themes of loss of ‘stopping places’ for Travellers, insecurity of work in ‘bad times’, difficulties in changing traditional crafts and trades, but also hope and the importance of family and kinship.

Other story-books feature real Romani and Traveller children and people, such as “Tom”, or “Where’s Mouse?” These simple stories are designed to improve language and spelling, strengthen reading skills and build vocabulary.

Both Romani and other children can identify with the central character, who, in this story about a Traveller boy called Dylan, has lost his dog called “Mouse”. Other books for young children and early readers feature Romani and Traveller history, such as ‘Moving Pasts’, ‘How Rabbits Arrived in England’ and ‘Uncle Walter’.

The Romani language

All these learning materials have been produced by and with Romani and Traveller people, so they represent the views, experiences and stories of the communities themselves, celebrating Romani and Traveller cultures and communities. The opportunity to introduce elements of language, such as the Romani and Traveller words in the Richard O’Neill stories, can bring an awareness of Romani and Traveller cultures to non-Romani parents and teachers who don’t know that these languages exist, that Romani and Traveller people have a long and complex history and that Romani and Traveller identities are older than many modern European identities; for example, Romani people arrived in Byzantium in the 11th century, well before modern English, Swedish or German identities are formed.

The Romani language is Indian in origin, Middle Indo-Aryan to be precise and older than Dutch, Hungarian and Flemish.

Using the opportunity of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month (remembering to translate this into the most appropriate and culturally respectful language, as many Romani people in Europe do not use the term ‘Gypsy’ about themselves, as they do in England and Wales), offers a chance to bring a positive perspective about Romani and Traveller people into the early learning environment. It is a chance to increase understanding and improve social dialogue between communities, to promote social justice and celebrate diversity. So let’s use it!

Only parents can beat segregation

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

On the 6 month anniversary of the birth of his son, Stanislav Daniel Junior, REYN Co-ordinator, Stanislav Daniel reflects on what it means to be a parent standing up for your rights.


A year ago we published a blog post about the legacy of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, the case that brought the segregation of Romani children on to the international agenda. On November 13, another anniversary will pass and another cohort of young Romani children in the Czech Republic, and elsewhere, will start their schooling in segregated schools, learning from their very young age that, because of their ethnicity, they will be put on a different track: a slower one.

Nine years have passed since the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. Since then, Court rulings on segregation of Romani children have been issued against Greece, Croatia and Hungary.  A number of domestic courts, for instance in Slovakia, put segregation outside of the legislative framework. For years, civil society organizations and international institutions have been pushing for the implementation of these judgments. Recently, the European Commission joined in these efforts and started infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia for segregating Romani children.

Reading through the 2007 judgment, a lot of attention was given to the role of parents who consented and sometimes even requested their children to be enrolled into segregated school. Their reasons for doing so included avoiding abuse from non-Romani children, keeping the children from the neighborhood together, but sometimes – even if not explicitly – lack of interest in education. But should they to be blamed?  In the atmosphere of omnipresent discrimination preventing even qualified Roma from getting adequate jobs?  Frustration, not tradition, stood behind their decisions.

But as long as we admit that segregation is rational, the cycle of poverty and exclusion will not be broken. In most countries, parental consent is required to place a child into a particular school. Simply put – if parents do not agree with segregated school, they can object and schools or any other authority should not push them. Most of the issues, also those listed above, can be addressed if parents get organized and demand their rights, for their children and for themselves. As hard as it may be, we must stand up and reject discrimination in all its forms.

On the day that I write this blog, my son turned 6 months old. Today, I do not write as coordinator of Romani Early Years Network, but as a father who wants the best for his child. I refuse to believe that other Romani parents do not want the same and we need to demand it now. If we are afraid that our children will be discriminated at schools, we should address discrimination, not take our children to low-quality segregated schools.

As an activist, I have spent years in advocating for better living conditions for Roma, particularly young children and their families. But being a father brings a different perspective to my approach. Strategies and action plans may provide us with a framework for doing the right thing. Strategies and action plans may provide us with framework for inclusion. But we need to insist on inclusion in the first place. And we can only do it if we always ask for nothing less than the best for our children. Be it quality early childhood services, inclusive primary schools, high schools developing their talents or colleges increasing their chances to turn their talents into a living.

Let’s invest in young children, they will pay us back.

The letter adventure: Learning to read is fun!

- Blog | Noeleen OHara

boy Aventura worksheetHe is 10 years old and smiling proudly: ‘I can read!’  He has just read his first reading card. The card consists of a short story made up of a few simple sentences. This is enough to give him the experience of reading and the motivation to learn more letters in order to read more. How beautiful to see children developing reading skills, children who thought they would never be able to learn to read at all, especially when they have been part of a class in which most of the others learned to read more easily.

To teach children to read and write in a class with different levels of competency is not easy, especially when most of them have difficulties with concentration for various reasons. In the educational program of the Association Laleaua in Tarnaveni, Romania, Roma children who attend the local primary school get daily remedial lessons after school hours. In 2009 the teachers at Laleaua struggled with the question: ‘How can we help the Roma children who attend our program to learn to read and write in the most efficient and successful way?’ They realized that lessons should be manageable for the children – not too difficult – that a considerable amount of repetition was needed for reinforcement, and that progression through the lessons should be paced for each individual child. A safe environment would be helpful to reduce fear of failure.  Based on these principles, key elements for their proposed way of teaching were:

  • immediate results by enabling children to read simple sentences
  • using stories from the children’s’ own life and environmenttwo boys worksheet
  • individual progress records
  • opportunities for repetition as needed

After starting to write the curriculum and teaching with it, the teachers were motivated to develop it further when they saw how the children were genuinely enjoying reading and writing. As familiar pictures and words from their own environment were used, the children were able to relate to what was taught.  For example, one of the words used is ‘mac’ (Romanian for ‘corn poppy’). A boy who had learned this word, came to the program the following day with a corn poppy in his hand: ‘Look what I found!’

The new curriculum is called Aventura Literelor, ‘The Letter Adventure’. An important guiding principle is: to give children experiences of success in accomplishing a task will lead to competence. Some of the children in the program learned more than the teachers first anticipated and were able to read simple children’s books. There are also some children who make little progress even after years of working with this curriculum. Maybe they will never become fluent readers and writers, but doing the exercises and being part of the class does increase their skills and they will know that it is okay to learn in their own tempo.

Jorine Steen, July 2016.

For more information, write to or


Aventura small

NEW PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY! Call for Applications REYN Study Visit in Slovenia

- Blog | ZoricaTrikic

Dear Romani Early Years Network member,
Here we come with new professional development opportunity!
We strongly believe that by connecting our best experiences and learning from each other, we can make a difference for all Romani and Traveller children and their families.
We are pleased to announce that during December 2nd to December 6th, REYN, in partnership with Developmental Research Centre for Pedagogical Initiatives “Step by Step”, are organizing a study visit, to Murska Sobota, Slovenia, as part of our capacity building program. The theme of the study visit will be “Developing High Quality and Culturally Sensitive Early Childhood Education Services”. For more information about the study visit, please look at the document attached with description of programme activitiesBrief_description _REYN_Study_Visit_Slovenia
Here you can also find application form.
Application form_REYN _study visit_Slovenia .
All expenses for the meals, travel and accommodation will be covered by international REYN.
If you are a REYN member working as a practitioner in early childhood development services, primary health care, early years education and care provision, community-work, social work or advocacy/rights programmes, with or in Romani communities, and are interested in learning more about how high quality and culturally sensitive early childhood education and care services can be developed in the context of kindergartens and preschools, please complete the attached Application Form and return no later than 9:00h (09am) November 11th to Zorica Trikic, Coordinator of REYN, at:
Please note that applications submitted after the deadline cannot be accepted. Only applications from REYN members will be considered; if you are not yet a member do make sure to register by sending an email to before sending your application.
Note that the study visit will be organized and conducted in English.
All applications will be reviewed by the REYN Advisory Group and the ISSA management team by November 12th and, based on the information provided in the applications, 14 candidates will be selected to participate to the study visit. Successful candidates will be informed by email on the evening of November 12th. If you have not heard from us by the 13th November, please assume that you have not, on this occasion been successful and we wish you luck in the future.
We look forward to receiving your application and to providing you with an inspiring and exciting professional experience!

Zorica Trikic
ISSA Senior Program Manager and REYN Coordinator

Kindergarten Educators invited to enroll in a free online course in Serbian language

- Blog | REYN Admin

ISSA invites educators to enroll in a free online course, delivered in Serbian language, which aims to help practitioners working in kindergarten settings to understand their role in the processes of discrimination and oppression. This course will be particularly useful to practitioners who work in diverse settings, with a focus on inclusion of Roma children.

The course, entitled Embracing Diversity in Kindergarten Classrooms, is the result of a partnership project. ISSA and UNESCO are joining forces to further strengthen the capacities of practitioners working in kindergarten settings to address diversity, with a focus on Roma children. With funding from the Open Society Foundations and UNESCO, ISSA and CIP/Center for Interactive Pedagogy/Serbia have worked together to develop this course, building on the experience of the Education for Social Justice Program, carried out in the ISSA network. The partnership also builds on ISSA’s previous experience working with online platforms for shared learning among practitioners and in projects aiming at Roma inclusion in early years services.

This course is open to all early childhood educators who are interested in deepening their skills so that their work with children provides a foundation that will better prepare them to live and work in the 21st century, who want to feel more joy and satisfaction in their work with children and their families, and who want to interact with their peers and learn about high quality programs. We particularly welcome educators working with Roma children.

We welcome teachers who are willing to be active participants in the course, who are eager to contribute both to their own learning process and the learning of other participants through discussion and sharing of experiences. In order to join the course, participants will need reliable Internet access. They will also need to be proficient in Serbian.

Every participant who finishes the course will receive a certificate of completion from ISSA.

The course will begin in the beginning of June 2013 and will go through December 2013.

More information in the flyer attached.

The deadline for registration is 24 May, 2013. Hurry! We can only accept 20 participants.

If you would like to register, please contact Eva Izsak from ISSA  to receive the form, fill it in and send it back at

Joint DECET-ISSA Publication Available in English and Serbian

- Blog | REYN Admin

We are pleased to announce that a DECET-ISSA joint publication on diversity and social inclusion is now available both in English and in Serbian.

As part of their ongoing cooperation around shared beliefs and principles, DECET and ISSA launched this publication, which is the result of a joint Working Group on Professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). The development of the ECEC profession is an ongoing process that has recently begun to gather momentum. Professional associations are being developed in several European countries. Other countries can learn from their journey. One of the first tasks in defining a profession is agreeing shared values. What do Early Childhood professionals stand for? What competences are needed in the many roles undertaken by those working with children? The sector has to have these conversations so that it can establish the way forward. The early childhood workforce and the quality of early childhood practice is determined by many factors including the competences of all those involved in the sector. One of the key competences needed in ECEC is linked to the goal of achieving social justice through actively addressing diversity, equality and social inclusion. However, for some countries there is a huge barrier in asking Early Childhood workers to engage in social justice work in their practice when they experience inequality in their profession. The continuing development of the profession must go hand in hand with the wider work of achieving social justice for all children, families and communities. This publication is an important step in this work of defining the competences needed in supporting diversity and social inclusion and in working as a professional in Early Childhood Education and Care. The inclusion of quotes from practice is illuminating. Those working in ECEC seem to have an openness to grow and learn with the children and families in their services. These competences challenge the profession to explore personal and collective values and holistically embrace diversity and social inclusion.