“2020 is a year of challenge for each of us and for our network in particular,” said REYN-Ukraine national coordinator Eleonora Kulchar during the online forum “We are all Children” that took place on November 24-25. “Unfortunately, we cannot look in the eyes of each of you or hug you. But I thank each one of you that you were able to find time for this forum and that you are ready to remember that children have no nationality, social or economic status. All of them are just children who deserve love and support from us, adults.”
During the forum, organized by the Transcarpathian Regional Charitable Foundation “Blaho”, the host organization of REYN, participants discussed strategic goals of the REYN-Ukraine network and how they resonate with the draft of the new National Roma Integration Strategy in Ukraine. REYN International Coordinator Aljosa Rudas spoke about the challenges faced by Roma communities, families and children and highlighted how National REYNs support them. Open Society Foundations Program Officer of Early Childhood Program Szilvia Pallaghy outlined the child’s interests in the new EU Roma strategic framework on equality, inclusion and participation for 2020-2030.
Distance learning is hard to access
The results of a joint study by REYN-Ukraine and the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine on Roma children’s access to education during the pandemic were also discussed during the forum. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Roma children experienced bullying and not fair treatment at school. With the pandemic, this challenges became more severe.The study shows that 51.8% of parents reported that their children were bullied by the teachers, and 47.9% said that children were bullied by other children. In the whole country, distance learning was almost inaccessible to Roma children, as only a third of respondents had a smartphone, tablet or laptop and only 27% use regularly internet. In large families, one device was available for all children with repercussions on their online attendance and performance. In almost every third family, children did not do homework at all.
Encouraging children to dream and grow
This year, under REYN Ukraine, Transcarpathian Regional Charitable Foundation “Blaho” supported financially six projects, and provided advice to two more. These projects were designed and implemented by REYN members in different Ukrainian cities, who shared their experience and best practices during the forum. Among the projects, there is a street school of primary socialization for Roma children living in temporary settlements in the Lviv region, made possible by the integrated work of social workers, juvenile prevention officers and Roma volunteers.
“Children can and should dream about more things than what they have now!” the project implementors said.
Besides, this year, thanks to REYN, the following initiatives started in Ukraine:
- An interactive summer camp in Odessa region for Roma and Ukrainian children took place. The main idea of the camp is the belief that friendship begins in childhood.
- A center for preschool development now exists in a Roma cultural center in Zolotonosha, Cherkasy region.
- Bilingual cartoons are disseminated between the professionals who work with Roma children and also in the schools where Roma children study and in the Roma organizations
- REYN donated notebooks and laptops to preschool age Roma children to support their development and the gradual acquisition of the Ukrainian language.
- An alternative school during pandemic appeared in the Odesa region.
- Because of distance learning, computer literacy courses for parents started in Kharkiv region.
- The promotion of online local initiatives, models and methodologies of preschool development has begun in Uzhhorod.
It is also worth mentioning that in 2020 the REYN-Ukraine network has significantly expanded. Currently, it consists of one national coordinator and three regional coordinators in different parts of Ukraine. The network management includes eight organizations from different regions of Ukraine. The network has 698 members and covers 14 regions of Ukraine.