News

Roma education: what the EU Commission report doesn’t say

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

In a recent survey, the European Commission asked for an assessment of the perceived changes in education, healthcare, employment, discrimination, housing and services. The results? In all the areas except education the “no change” was the dominant answer. On Human Rights Day we reflect on a public survey that may harm instead of help Roma education.

The results of the survey on Roma integration submitted to the European Parliament and to the EU Council were published last week. The survey was open to anyone living in the EU or enlargement country. Participants were asked to rate progress towards the achievement of the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS). With a lot of space for criticism and a clear call for urgent improvements, the 240 respondents also perceived education as the area with the most progress, including early childhood education (here).

The danger of surveys

The European Commission had already published its own review of the implementation of NRIS in 2017. Back then, they saw “a clear improvement in early childhood education and care (ECEC).” Since ECEC is described as improving also in the above mentioned survey, we may be triggered to think that education is already on the right path.

Firstly, we must clarify that these are not official data on Roma education; the survey results reflect the opinions of a marginal number of respondents (only 240 people). Secondly, even when the data was used (as in the case of the 2017 European Commission review), the selection of information and the conclusions were still questionable. In fact, in their follow up to the EU-MIDIS II report on education and employment, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency contradicts the European Commission (page 10, here).

It is certainly positive to see the EU asking for people’s opinion. However, more talking about compulsory preschool attendance will not improve the situation of children. Neither will it a higher school access without quality. As long as Romani children will be sidetracked into non-mainstream schools and kindergartens, segregated ethnically or by disadvantage, we cannot speak about progress.

There is a way forward. Let them know about human rights!

There is already a list of promising practices, encompassing science and the state-of-art knowledge, not beliefs and ideologies. Many successful initiatives are backed by data and the only step we need to see is the adoption of systems that work for all, including children.

Human Rights Day, gives us a great opportunity to think about Roma inclusion and its validation. As experts often talk about the economic advantage of early childhood inclusion, some may stick only to economics and forget about the importance of rights in the first place.

Along with the specific measures targeting children, we cannot forget about human rights. All the countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child must ensure the right to education and to a healthy and happy childhood for all children. Tell children that it is their right not to be discriminated and not to be sent to segregated schools. Then there will be progress.

Little Bogdan found his own words

- News

The first years of a child’s life are the most critical for their development. Alarmingly, many Romani children don’t have access to early childhood services that would stimulate them to reach their highest potential. This is a positive story, though: a five year old child who couldn’t talk and couldn’t draw, managed to gain the skills thanks to therapy.

“When Bogdan came to our Roma Community Center he couldn’t talk. Despite understanding everything we were saying, he could only speak out a few words,” says Aleksandra Miletic, Psychologist.

Bogdan is a five year old boy. He was diagnosed with expressive speech disorder and had limited fine motor skills for his age.

“He could not hold a pencil properly. His play was simplified and was not developing. Most often, he was only stacking big building blocks in a certain order and color” Aleksandra says. She works in the Roma Community Center in Kragujevac, Serbia. Many Roma go there every day, children and adults.

“There are three Roma settlements nearby our center. Many people come from there with different needs”, says a representative of Romanipen, the organization that manages the place.

Bogdan comes from one of the settlements. “He is not much different from any other boy”, Aleksandra continues, “the causes of developmental disorders can be many”.

Bogdan and his family worked hard

Since his sessions at the center started, his abilities have improved enormously: Bogdan now speaks out loud and can pronounce correctly almost all the letters of the alphabet. He learned a lot of words and can make simple sentences. Thanks to his family’s commitment, he never missed a single session with Aleksandra and the speech therapist.

His father is extremely happy with the results: “He has improved a lot. I noticed that he voluntarily engages in conversations with others now and he is better at drawing. Also, he is playing more with other children and made some new friends”, he says.

Since April 2017 the Roma Community Center has provided psychological help to over 100 children and adults. With 7 to 10 children accessing their services every day, the center has become of vital importance for the communities around.

When children like Bogdan are reached by services they are allowed to develop to their fullest potential. That is why REYN will keep advocating for the children’s right to access quality education and care. No more Romani and Traveller children lost!

More Roma and Traveller teachers!

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

For most of the teachers, their job is a mission. Low pay and recognition despite high requirements on education are among the reasons that make this valuable job unnecessarily difficult.  

October 5th marks the International Teachers Day, commemorating the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The recommendations apply to all teachers from nursery to kindergarten, primary, secondary, including technical, vocational or art education. And the more we study them, the more we see the relevance to today’s practitioners working with young Romani children.

Familiarity with the life and language of the children

Under educational objectives and policies [IV.10.i], the document lists that “all educational planning should include at each stage early provision for the training, and the further training, of sufficient numbers of fully competent and qualified teachers of the country concerned who are familiar with the life of their people and able to teach in the mother tongue.”

This recommendation is in line with REYN’s call for more diversity in early childhood services, both in practice and in the workforce. Simply put, we want a higher inclusive environment with more Roma and Travellers as teachers and other professionals – building on the advantage of community membership and multilingualism. We want to value the first language, not eliminate it as something useless that needs to be forgotten.

Better status for teachers, better quality for children

Why are there so few Romani and Travellers teachers? The reasons are many: early discrimination and lack of qualification later, low pay and recognition despite high requirements on education, difficult working conditions and low budget at kindergartens and schools in general. Many of the reasons affect both Roma and non-Roma.

Most of those teachers, who stay at the position, take their job as a mission. They work hard to ignore the low pay and try to see the higher good – smiling children, learning through play, new methods of teaching and the daily challenge of building new generations. But the enthusiasm has its limits. Without proper recognition, material as well as symbolic, kindergartens and schools will continue to struggle.

Attract and retain

The theme of this years’ World Teachers’ Day is The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher. The work done by our partner the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), to which we have contributed to in the past, testifies the benefits of professionalism in the workforce. They have done extensive work on quality of education, you may want to have a look at some of their publications.

We are grateful!

REYN takes the opportunity to express gratitude to those who dedicated their professional lives to provision quality education to children, in kindergartens or primary education. We can only repeat what the science keeps telling us all the time: the earlier we make that investment, the more benefits we get. Let’s invest in teachers, let’s invest in children.

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: ztrikic@issa.nl
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 membership@issa.nl 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

REYN Training In two languages – English and Serbian on Quality in Early Childhood Services

- Blog | ZoricaTrikic

Investing in the continuous professional development of the network’s members is one of the main objectives of REYN. We strongly believe that all professionals working with Romani children and their families need to commit themselves to lifelong learning for improving their competences in order to be able to make a difference in the lives of those whom they serve.
We are glad to announce that between 15-17 November 2013 we are organizing a two and a half day training on Quality in Early Childhood Services, in Budapest, Hungary, as part of our capacity building program. For more information on the training (goals, expected outcomes and methodology) please look at the document attached with the brief description of the training.
All the expenses for meals, visas, travel and accommodation will be covered by ISSA.
If you are a REYN member and an early childhood practitioner working in early childhood services or in Romani communities, or if you are representing a Ministry or other state body responsible for quality improvement in early childhood services, or if you are doing advocacy work for high quality early childhood services and you want to explore and learn more about what quality in early childhood services means, please fill the attached Application Form by October 14 and send it by email to Zorica Trikic, Senior Program Manager and REYN Coordinator , at: ztrikic@issa.nl.
Applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered.
Note: In order to be able to obtain a Schengen visa for participants who may need it, we cannot extend the deadline.
Only applications coming from REYN members will be taken into account; if you are not a member yet please make sure to register by sending an email to membership@issa.nl, before sending your application.
Please note that the training will be conducted in two parallel groups, one in English and one in Serbian language.
The applications will be reviewed by the REYN Advisory Group and the ISSA management team by October 16th and, based on the information provided in the applications, up to max. 50 candidates will be selected (25 for English speaking and 25 for Serbian speaking group) to participate in the training. If you are applying for the Serbian speaking group you may fill your application form in Serbian language.
The results will be communicated to all applicants via email the latest on October 17th.
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
2. Application Form Participants – Training_on quality_EC services

3. Brief description_REYN Training on Quality in EC Serv

New UNDP publication on inclusive Roma education

- Blog | REYN Admin

A new publication has been released recently by UNDP entitled as ‘Roma Education in Comparative Perspective’, based on the findings from the UNDP/World Bank/EC regional survey.

Among other findings, the report shed light on the low-preschool attendance of Roma students in the CEE region, and on how it contributes to long-term disadvantages and to the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion. It has been reinforced by the report that universal access to quality early childhood education and avoiding segregated schooling has a key importance to decrease these disadvantages and provide equal chances for Roma and non-Roma children.

To read more about the findings, click here.

 

Why I work in early years provision.

- Blog | Adrian Marsh

When I was eleven years old my mother decided to open a private nursery school, that would provide places for children and infants from 2 – 5. These children would mostly be referred from the local municipal social services, the most needy and disadvantaged, some ‘at risk’. Not so unusual you might think, except for the fact that my mother is from the Romani community and my father from an Irish Traveller background. To reflect the link with the past, she decided to call the nursery the ‘Carousel Nursery School’, as the family business was sign painting and decorating waggons, vans and lorries, shop fronts and fair ground rides. I spent time after school and during the holidays, when I wasn’t working with my dad or my uncle learning the trade, doing painting, drawing, mask-making, model making and many arts and crafts activities with the children in the nursery.

I went to work full time when I was 14 and mostly stopped going to school, which by that time I found of little interest as it had nothing about me or my family in the lessons or curriculum. I didn’t stop helping my mum in the nursery until the local authority ‘realised’ who and what we were and forced my mum to close the nursery through constant inspections and spot checks. Eventually, mum gave up and went back to trading ponies and dogs, sewing clothes and curtains and generally whatever else came along in the way of opportunities.

i never forgot what she had tried and succeeded (at least for a while), to achieve – a wonderful, creative, safe and stimulating place for small children to be, who needed care and nurturing. I went to work in ECD and early years and play projects for many years (1982-2000) in many parts of the UK, always inspired by her example. I tell her about my work now and how her nursery gave me the chance to learn how important early years care and education is for us as Romani people. She’s really pleased…