Roma parents in Slovenia are seeing the value of early education and care

In the period between the end of 2021 and spring 2022, National REYNs conducted research in their own countries on the situation of Roma families with young children (REYN Research Study). In Slovenia, the Educational Research Institute led this unique process in the country, which implied involving members of the Roma community along the development of the study. They gathered data from Roma parents, ECEC practitioners, professionals who work with Roma families, and from local and national policy makers.

In this article, we would like to highlight some interesting information obtained through questionnaires and focus groups with Roma parents. Mothers and fathers from Prekmurje and Dolenjska, two Slovenian regions with large populations of Roma, participated in the research which examined various topics, such as health and wellbeing, hygiene and nutrition, play and early learning, responsive parenting, family and living conditions, safety and security, and accessibility, availability and affordability of ECEC services. The main focus of this piece will be on how Roma parents feel about early childhood education and care.

Through the research it became evident that Roma parents are aware of the significant impact that they have on their children in the early years. This is illustrated by one of the fathers who said, “If I were to raise my voice to my wife, the children would hear us and this is not right. What kind of a message am I sending to my children with such behaviour?”

The parents also demonstrated an awareness of the importance of being caring and attuned to their children’s needs. It is important for parents to show affection to their children through a caring attitude, talking to them, and spending quality time with them. Especially for younger children, who cannot yet express themselves verbally, it is very important that parents do their best to interact and connect with the child in order to understand what it is they need. Many parents — mainly mothers — confirmed that they had no problems understanding their children and that they had a feel for what their children wanted to tell them. “A mother just feels what the child needs,” one mother said.

The value of preschool

We often emphasize how important it is for parents to view education as a value and to enrol their children in preschool early — enabling them access to quality education and care, and a supportive learning environment.

Participants in the studies agreed that attending preschool indeed supports children’s development. They witnessed advantages in the children in their acquiring a new language, understanding the daily routine, learning about tolerance and good manners, as well as improving their independence during meals (table preparation, serving the food, cleaning the table after eating etc.), hygiene, and dressing. Additionally, parents recognised that in preschool, children are able to make new friends, and learn how to act in society. All of these skills help children have a smoother transition into school.

Another huge benefit parents in the research saw in preschool education was that it gave their children an opportunity to learn the language of the majority. This is one of the most important factors in helping children to be successful later in school. Otherwise, it is likely that they would have difficulties with understanding the teachers’ lessons, their learning outcomes would be lower, and peers might tease them. All of these things have an impact on the child’s development and level of self-esteem.

Furthermore, some parents were inspired by the amount of effort that certain teachers and peers put into helping their children feel welcome at preschool. One couple shared that, ”Our daughter could not speak Slovene, when she entered school. One boy really tried to help her with the language as much as he could understand her. Then her teacher decided to attend a Romani language course to be able to help our children. All of us respected this noble decision. We also had another teacher, who regularly took our children to the playground and worked with them on their physical condition.”

However, there were also parents who expressed uncertainty about preschool. They feared that their children might not be given as much care as they receive home. For other parents it is difficult to take their children to preschool due to their demanding living conditions. In such cases, it is the duty of REYN Slovenia and the other national REYNs to work for and with these parents with the aim of empowering them, gaining their trust, and ensuring adequate conditions to enable them to enrol their children in preschool as early as possible. 

Petra Zgonec, Mateja Mlinar
Researchers at the Educational Research Institute, coordinating institution of REYN Slovenia

The Situation of Young Roma Children in Europe – a New Milestone in Early Childhood Research

Although there is a concern for Roma inclusion at the European level, there is a significant knowledge gap about the status of children under the age of six, particularly the youngest. This lack of data impedes the development of responsive policies and programmes to revert their situation. 

To address this issue, Romani Early Years Network (REYN) Initiative is launching the REYN Early Childhood Research, a study that sheds light on young Roma children and their parents throughout Europe. The study brings together unprecedented Roma-related early childhood data from 11 countries. It catalyzes solid evidence for urgent and effective policies and programs enabling each young Roma to reach their full potential – to grow and thrive!  

REYN Early Childhood Research showcases a unique way of conducting research on Roma-related topics. The study, led by Roma researchers, involved Roma and non-Roma country researchers and early childhood experts gathering data in the 11 countries where National REYNs operate.   

The lack of evidence on young Roma children in Europe picturing their status and needs makes the REYN Early Childhood Research a unique piece of evidence reinforcing the importance of early years as well as influencing the agenda of prioritization and investment in young Roma children.  

REYN Early Childhood Research, carried out with the support of the Open Society Foundations, was initiated in 2021 and has been done in partnership with the Roma Studies Groups (CEG) at CREA – University of Barcelona. 

Covering five key areas that impact a child’s development such as health, hygiene and nutrition, safety and security as well as early learning and living environment, the study analyzes structural and emerging issues that might have widened during the COVID-19 crisis, leading to an increase of inequality and social exclusion. 

Country data is already available (see infographics below) and the final report of the study will be launched soon and disseminated via our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) and REYN newsletter. Stay tuned and subscribe today! 

Photo: Courtesy of Tomáš Rafa


REYN Early Childhood Research Study


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Download Infographic

PhD project on services for Roma communities. Apply now!

- News

The Northumbria University Newcastle seeks candidates to their PhD project titled “Exploring interventions to tackle service provider discrimination against Roma, Gypsy and Traveller Communities”.

Health inequalities and lack of services hit Roma and Travellers disproportionately. According to the Roma Health Report of the European Union (2014), the Roma population has considerably shorter life expectancy compared to the non-Roma population. When it’s about education, only one Romani child in two goes to kindergarten.

To address consistent disparities in the access to services like education and care, The Northumbria University Newcastle is sponsoring a new PhD project. The PhD “will explore how models of service provider education can best be developed and implemented, in order to reduce discrimination and increase service access for Roma, Gypsy and Traveller Communities. Using a collective case study design, encompassing the perspectives of professionals and community members, it aims to collate learning from existing equality and diversity training initiatives.”

The deadline for applications is Friday 25 January 2019.

Find more details here.


New Report on Needs and Aspirations of Romani Early Childhood Professionals

- Blog | REYN Admin

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:

–          Facebook for informal sharing:

–          REYN Blog for reflection and shared learning:

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 ISSA and OSF look forward to working together with interested organizations in order to create high quality, equitable early childhood provisions for Roma children.