News

Radka from Bulgaria Got the Opportunity to Learn and Grow

Radka’s 4-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter were among 28 children who started their pre-school group at the kindergarten “Spring” in the city of Yambol in Bulgaria. It was the first pre-school group in 20 years for the kindergarten because the eastern wing of the building was closed and needed complete renovation.

Restoring one of the pre-school groups in 2019, so that all children could have the chance to enroll, was the decision of the kindergarten principal Svetlana Zlateva. She was convinced she could find the funding for this task. She also wanted to involve parents, increase their motivation and improve attendance of children.

After several month of negotiations with the municipality of Yambol, as well as renovations, the building was renovated and ready to be opened. That is where Svetlana Zlateva met Radka and her children.

Meeting the kindergarten principal was  very important for Radka. The mother had many problems, and dealing with the documentation in the municipality was one of them. Soon after the principal found out that Radka had financial difficulties and could not afford to buy new clothes for her children or pay for their medical examinations, required for attending kindergarten, Svetlana Zlateva decided to help Radka, lending her some money and arranging clothes for her children. Svetlana lent Radka money and arranged clothes for her son and daughter. Moreover, she offered the young mother a position as health officer at the kindergarten.

While working together, Svetlana Zlateva and Radka got close and the principal learnt more about Radka’s past. Radka was born in the village of Ravnets in the Burgas municipality. She dreamt about finishing her education and finding a job. However, at the age of 14, after finishing the 7th grade, Radka was faced with the unfortunate path of many Roma girls – she was stolen and married against her will.

With the support of the kindergarten staff, Radka has a job now. She also has motivation to continue her education after so many years. Now she is a student of the 8th grade.

This story was shared by Svetlana Zlateva, who, together with kindergarten “Spring” and its staff, is a long-term member of the REYN Bulgaria Network. Over the years, the kindergarten, led by Svetlana Zlateva, has taken part in many projects developed and initiated by REYN Bulgaria, and thus managed to help many Roma in Bulgaria and the Yambol region. Mrs. Zlateva continues to work towards helping as many people and children as possible, as she believes that everyone should be given the opportunity to learn and grow.

REYN’s trip to Sofia, Bulgaria

- News

REYN partners and National Networks met last week in Sofia, Bulgaria.  About thirty REYN advocates from eleven countries attended a three-day advocacy training. Together we enriched our campaign strategies, shared lessons learned and best practices. REYN National Networks prepared plans to support the achievement of the network’s objectives in their respective countries.

At the same our international partners, the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), renewed their commitment to advocate for the education and care of Romani and Traveller children at national and at international level.

All united, the participants echoed the REYN slogan and mission: no more lost Romani and traveller children!

FAKULTETA, Sofia

The coordinator of REYN Bulgaria and host of the meeting, the Trust for Social Achievement (TSA), also brought us to Fakulteta one of the largest Roma settlements in Europe. According to estimations between 25 thousand and 50 thousand Roma live there.

REYN National Networks had the chance to meet some Romani mothers and children. Interestingly, TSA showcased one of their projects, the Nurse-Family Partnership, which brings direct support to young mothers and their children by improving pregnancy outcomes, increasing the parent’s economic self-sufficiency and by nurturing the child’s health and development.

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Slovakia: arguments for compulsory preschool sound loud again

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

Politicians want preschool attendance compulsory for Romani children, however they should probably make education accessible and affordable first.

Not long ago, there have been many discussions about compulsory preschool attendance as one of the measures supporting Roma inclusion in Slovakia. After getting off the agenda for some time and possibly inspired by practices from nearby countries, policymakers are putting the topic back on the table.

On Wednesday, May 2, EduRoma – a leading NGO promoting inclusive education for Roma in the country – organized a public discussion on the topic trying to answer some of the key questions. Is preschool available to all children today? Are preschools ready to co-educate Romani and non-Roma children?

Once and forever

There is a solid pool of evidence showing that building kindergarten capacities without investing in quality of provided services does not boost the potential of the children. While academia continues to build knowledge base for quality inclusive and affordable service, policymakers stick to the argument of obligation. Several EU Member States included it in their national Roma integration strategies.

So where did this obligation come from? We can only assume it emerged from the negative stereotypes against Romani parents. Local anecdotal experience shows that where service was provided and Romani parents were actively engaged, attendance increased and parents were happy to benefit from the service. In a situation, when the services are not even accessible, it sounds weird to discuss its obligatory character. And who says that the obligation will increase the educational achievements?

For Roma only

The most dangerous arguments in the discussion are connected to limiting of the obligation only to Roma or the so-called “marginalized Roma communities”, i.e. segregated Roma settlements and ghettoes. In fact, research indeed shows that the most disadvantaged benefit from early childhood services the most. However, there is no justification for introducing an obligation for one disadvantaged group and actually punishing and stigmatizing them for their situation once more.

Zuzana Havirova, founder of the Roma Advocacy and Research Center and a panelist at the event said: “There is no sense in targeting Romani children. If there is an agreement on decreasing compulsory school age, then the key benefit is in bringing the children together so that they can learn from each other and learn to live together in diversity since early childhood.” She sees preschool mostly as a tool to fight segregation: “This may help in dealing with disadvantages and exclusion of Romani children as there is potential that this would put them on track with mainstream quality education.”

Cost free and not free

Accessible and affordable are the terms that are often mentioned in connection to early childhood services. In many countries, including Slovakia, the last year before entering into primary education is without kindergarten fees and policymakers promote this as a measure to help the most disadvantaged. However, in this case the cost free may not be free in fact.

In Bulgaria, the Trust for Social Achievement (TSA) – host of the REYN National Network in the country– conducted a study which reveals that while the service may be free on paper, there are many financial or in-kind contributions families are required to provide to the kindergarten. TSA found that parents contribute in total €30 million to the system annually and there is not much reason to think it is different in other countries, including Slovakia. Instead of pushing for obligations, states should first focus on the available and affordable.

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National REYN launched in Bosnia Herzegovina and Bulgaria

- News

We are happy to announce that the Romani Early Years Network (REYN) has just expanded to two new countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria!

Kali SaraIn Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the news has been shared by the three founding organizations of REYN BiH: Kali Sara – Roma Information Center Association, Center for Educational Initiatives Step by Step and Public Interest Advocacy Center (CPI).

They all presented REYN BiH’s mission and priorities on the occasion of the conference on “Educational Policies for Roma in BiH in the Context of EU Integration” in Sarajevo last December.

Trust for Social Achievement

In Bulgaria, REYN will be coordinated by Trust for Social Achievement (TSA). Last January 24th, they held a consultation with potential members and stakeholders of REYN in Bulgaria. At the event, TSA shared strategic objectives and planned activities of REYN in the country.

The consultation was attended by over 40 representatives of different civil society organizations and representatives of public institutions including: ministries, governmental agencies, foreign embassies kindergartens and hospitals. Stanislav Daniel, Coordinator of REYN International, inspired participants by sharing good practices and lessons learned in other countries.

Attendees provided suggestions to TSA on how to increase impact. REYN was then launched in Bulgaria on February 1, 2018.

OSF seeks new REYN National Networks in Romania and the Czech Republic. Apply now!

- News

Children at an International Step by Step school in Romania. (ISSA/John McConnico)

We are happy to announce that Open Society Foundations’ Call for Proposals is being relaunched for Romania and launched for the Czech Republic.

The call for proposals aims to set up and establish one national network (one REYN) in Romania and one national network (one REYN) in the Czech Republic as a further step in:

 

  •  advocating for quality early childhood education and care for Roma children
  •  improving the professional development opportunities for early childhood practitioners working with Roma children, while increasing the  number of Roma professionals, and general support staff.

Applicants can be one organization, or several organizations creating a consortium and applying together with the leading role of the main applicant.

Submitting your proposal:
Please submit your project proposals by registering on the OSF grant portal and submitting the completed templates at this link. Proposals should be submitted on or before 5PM CET on  August 15, 2017.

For more information read the call for proposals. Download the application form here and the budget template here.

Strategies to combat segregation of Romani children in schools

- Blog | REYN Admin

In Strategies to combat segregation of Romani children in schools, the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights of Harvard University analyzes the interventions employed by civil society organizations active in six EU countries to push and/or support the state institutions in developing and implementing measures to prevent and stop segregation of Romani children in schools.

The report presents six case studies summarizing findings based on an in-depth literature review and from conversations with communities, experts, and stakeholders in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, GreeceHungary and Romania.

To download the report, click here

 

Connecting with professionals from all over the world

- Blog | REYN Admin

by Iva Milichina, REYN member from Bulgaria.

What does REYN mean to me?

REYN, on the first place, is a wonderful opportunity for connecting with other professionals working with Romani and Traveller groups and exchanging experience. Meeting and cooperating with my colleagues from abroad gave me the chance to learn new methods and strategies and to pass my experience to them. If I have to describe REYN with a few words, they would be:

Connections

New professional opportunities

New strategies

Help and support

New friendships