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Breaking the silence: a month of raising awareness about the status of young Roma children in Europe

The REYN Study unveils a critical truth: young Roma children across Europe grapple with challenges that touch every facet of their lives – social, physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. It is a story that needs to be told, and we’re committed to bringing it to the forefront.

In a powerful move to amplify these voices, starting today – International Roma Day (April 8th) – and continuing every Monday in April, REYN will unveil a series of compelling facts on different key areas that profoundly influence the development and overall well-being of Roma children.

This journey is not just ours – it’s yours too. Join us in breaking the silence and casting a spotlight on the lives of young Roma children.



Get involved, make an impact, and be a part of this vital conversation. Use our hashtags #EURomachildren, #InternationalRomaDay to connect, engage, and spread the word. Together, we can turn awareness into action for a brighter future for Roma children.









Promoting social justice and inclusion for young Roma children in Europe

Today, the World Day of Social Justice, is a day to promote social justice and address global issues such as poverty, exclusion, and discrimination.

n this occasion, we aim to highlight the struggles faced by young Roma children and their families in Europe, enduring discrimination, segregation, and social exclusion that limits their opportunities and hinders their potential.

Early childhood development plays a crucial role in establishing a strong foundation for lifelong learning and health, and stark inequalities that Roma children face in these crucial days. However, the lack of data on young Roma children impedes the development of responsive policies.

To address this gap, the REYN Early Childhood Research Study (2023) provides valuable data and insights that can inform policies and practices to improve the lives of Roma children and their communities.

Learn more about the REYN Research and join us in advocating for social justice and inclusion for Roma children and families. Together, we can make a difference and create a more just and equitable society for all. #WorldDayofSocialJustice #REYNStudy #RomaChildren

REYN Study: Stimulating data-informed decisions for young Roma children in Europe

The data collected in the research conducted by ISSA, through its REYN initiative, to analyse the situation of young Roma children and their families across 11 European countries, has led REYN to disseminate its findings urging decision-makers to include young Roma children in transformative early childhood policies and programs. The research has been developed in collaboration with researchers from the Centre of Roma Studies (CEG) at CREA – University of Barcelona.

Data on key areas impacting children’s development
By analyzing six key areas that impact the lives of young Roma children and their families (family status and living conditions, health and well-being, safety and security, early learning, responsive parenting and discrimination), the REYN Early Childhood Research Study (REYN Study) reveals the multiple challenges and barriers that young Roma children and their families face in these areas, such as poverty, social exclusion, poor health, low educational attainment, and limited access to quality services. It also highlights the strengths and resilience of Roma communities, as well as the potential of early childhood interventions to improve their outcomes and opportunities.

Informing and inspiring actions to transform the lives of young Roma children
Throughout 2023, in partnership with key stakeholders in Europe, REYN has organized several events and activities to share the study findings and stimulate decision-makers for the inclusion of young Roma children in transformative early childhood policies and programs. These include:

  • Unlocking the Potential of Young Roma Children in Europe”, a public event at the European Parliament (EP) hosted by Dr Milan Brglez, EP Member, during the Roma Week in Brussels, co-organized by REYN, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Eurochild, and the Minority Initiative.
  • ISSA Connects for Learning, which featured the launch of a cross-country analysis of the REYN research. Held in Opatija, Croatia, the event was attended by REYN Nationals and ISSA Members.
  • Inclusion of Roma children in Early Childhood Education and Care”, an online event aimed at local governments and municipalities, recognizing their role in enhancing opportunities for marginalized groups at early stages, including Roma. This event was organized by Eurocities and UNICEF.

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Breaking the cycle of discrimination of Roma children through early childhood education

“I have had a negative experience with my child’s teacher because of my child being Roma. I repeatedly contacted the school to ask why my child had to sit at the back of the class, and in addition to not answering my question, the attitude was increasingly rude. As a result, my child did not attend school for a whole month.”

Roma parent | Kosovo

The situation described above by this Roma parent in the REYN Early Childhood Research Study (REYN Study) is still very common for many Roma children in Europe. The pressing issue of segregation and discrimination faced by Roma children at all levels of education is still persistent.

One of the most common and complex barriers Roma children face is discrimination. As Aljosa Rudas, Program Manager, International Step by Step Association (ISSA), stated in a recent webinar (“Inclusion of Roma children in Early Childhood Education and Care”- watch the recording) organized by Eurocities and UNICEF: “Young Roma children face multiple inequalities in areas of their lives that impact their development and growth.”

Discrimination both at institutional and individual levels greatly affects access to education for Roma children and therefore, their equal learning opportunities from the start. The evidence is overwhelming: according to the REYN Study, 60% of Roma children under the age of three do not have access to early childhood education and care services nearby, and only 44% between the ages of three and seven (or the starting age of compulsory primary education) are enrolled in early childhood education, according to the European Parliamentary Research Service.1 

A call to end Roma children segregation in education in the European Union

The recent European Parliament’s resolution on October 4, 2023 ‘Segregation and discrimination of Roma children in education’ is a leap forward to tackle the problem of continued segregation of Roma children. It stresses that all children, irrespective of their ethnic origin, must benefit from equal and free educational opportunities, which is not the case across the European Union (EU).

While listing the many issues still to be tackled, the resolution also highlights the urgent need for comprehensive and effective measures to eliminate systemic discrimination in the EU, such as the participation of Roma children in early childhood education.

Early childhood education and care play a pivotal role in breaking the cycle of discrimination and disadvantage faced by Roma children. The REYN Early Childhood Research Study has shown that the participation of Roma children in early childhood and preschool education has a profoundly positive impact. It not only enhances their overall development but also significantly contributes to their future educational attainment, access to quality employment, and improved living conditions, all while breaking the cycle of marginalization and discrimination.

REYN’s research findings indicate that early childhood education and care programs that are culturally sensitive and inclusive have the potential to bridge the educational gap that many Roma children face. By providing accessible and high-quality early childhood education and care infrastructure and services, Member States can create an enabling environment where young Roma children can thrive, develop their potential, and take part in the education system on equal footing with their peers.


Photo: Roma and non-Roma children in a kindergarten in Korca, Albania. Courtesy of Save the Children.


1 Breaking barriers to Roma children’s education and inclusion. https://eurocities.eu/latest/breaking-barriers-to-roma-childrens-education-and-inclusion/

ISSA Member in Hungary Ensuring Roma Inclusion in Kindergartens

Starting in 2020 and funded by the European Union, the project “Inclusive kindergartens for the quality education of Roma – ending Roma segregation” operates in 11 kindergartens, reaching more than 1000 children. The project consortium is formed by the Municipality of Józsefváros (8th district of Budapest) – the most multicultural district of Budapest, Partners Hungary Foundation – an ISSA Member organization and REYN Hungary host organization – and the Rosa Parks Foundation.

The project aims to offer children with different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds quality pre-school education – both for the disadvantaged and middle-class families.  Each kindergarten has to have a balanced mix of Roma, children with special educational needs and foreign children.

With the leadership committed to ending segregation, the municipality provided the methodology framework aiming to combat the discrimination and/or segregation of Roma children, enhanced the integration of students from various ethnic and social economic backgrounds, and adjusted the kindergartens’ pedagogical methodology to be inclusive and of high quality. One of the first steps for the development of the programme was to renovate the kindergarten buildings and make them more attractive to all parents.

The task of Partners Hungary Foundation’was to ensure that both the district level and institutional strategic planning and its implementation are carried out with the involvement of all stakeholders, and that kindergartens updated their methodological tools and offer new services in line with modern educational principles and the expectations of parents.

Among other contributions, Partners Hungary developed a method that was implemented in each kindergarten in the 8th district. The “Micro-project system” lays on participation with a bottom-up approach, motivation and incentives and support (trainings, peer learning exchanges) when it comes to kindergarten teachers.

In addition, the consortium introduced new educational programmes in all 11 kindergartens such as:

  • English (play-based English as Second Language sessions)
  • Magic Kindergarten
  • Minecraft program (educational use of Information and Communications Technology)
  • Superar music program
  • Gastroeducation
  • Green kindergartens (climate awareness)

Altogether a total of 48 microprojects were implemented.

After two years, the collaborative project has already produced a number of excellent outcomes: the focus on early childhood education has resulted in a child-friendly municipality, the kindergartens went through an organisational development process and teachers took part in professional development. New educational programs have been initiated, resulting in renewed profiles of the kindergartens and created more space for innovation.

The complex methodology and tools which were developed and tested within this project will be available to all municipalities and other kindergarten managers  who would like to bring about change to their kindergartens based on the same principles.


Literature:

Ivett Judit Kovács (2023) Young magicians in kindergarten: Skill development through performing magic tricks, Theory Into Practice. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2023.2202130

Kovács, I. J., Deák, É., Erőss, G. (2022). A complex intervention for inclusive kindergartens – analysis of a sozialmarie prize winner innovation in Budapest. Conference paper. ICERI2022 Proceedings. 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, 7-9 November, 2022, Seville, Spain. https://doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2022.0378

REYN Early Childhood Research Study

The European REYN Early Childhood Research Study (REYN Study) provides an examination of the status of young Roma children and their families across Europe. It offers a comprehensive understanding of the multi-layered and intersectional nature of the challenges faced by young Roma children and their families. The REYN Study presents key findings from a thorough analysis of data on key areas of the lives of young Roma children and their families. These areas include family status and living conditions, health and well-being, safety and security, early learning, responsive parenting, and discrimination.


A dream to work with children became reality for a Roma woman

Growing up in one of the poorest regions in Bulgaria, it might seem that there are only a few directions one’s life could take. Marrying young, having children, staying in a small town, and being close to the family, is where life usually takes you. Moving away from this pattern is hard, and requires great support from one’s family, peers, teachers or from the community. This is a story of a young Roma woman, who grew up being told what her life would look like, but never gave up on her dreams, despite all difficulties she had to face.

For Radostina Kamenova from the town of Montana in Bulgaria, life did not look much different than that pre-set path. Since childhood, she would always dream about what life could be like.

©️ Photo: Raycho Chaprazov

“Being a schoolgirl, I dreamed of working with children. In my teenage years, I danced in the Roma folk ensemble “Sham” and imagined how my little students and I would sing together and learn the rhythms and how I would read them fairy tales”, she shares. “The tradition that exists among the Roma population sets the path for the girls to marry young and become mothers and housewives. This is also how my adult life started”.

After graduating from high school, getting married and having a child, Radostina never gave up on her dream of working with young children.

“At first, my husband and my family did not fully support me, as they thought I am not able to study at the university or work and continue with my duties as a mother, wife and housewife at the same time”, says young Roma woman.

Six years ago Radostina started working at a Family-Consultation Center in Montana. Seeing that work does not interfere with her day-to-day tasks, but mostly realizing how important education is for a person’s growth, Radostina’s husband and family encouraged her to apply to university.

“I admit that four years of university were not easy for me”, she shares. “I had to combine my studies with work and take care of children, but I never gave up on my dream, thanks to my family who supported me the whole time.”

Last year, the representative of a local NGO “Association Stars”, Orlin Orlinov told Radostina Kamenova about the REYN Internships, and that they are a great opportunity for young people from various fields of study. Having this possibility would mean completing an internship in a kindergarten to gain practical experience in the field.

With Orlin’s help, Radostina applied for the internship and got it. She participated in the Program in the summer of 2022 at the kindergarten “Sun” in Montana. Its principal, Natalia Tsvetanova, welcomed two additional interns simultaneously and shared that she was very happy with the opportunity to work with young, motivated people who were amazing role models for the children. In 2022 Radostina Kamenova graduated from the university with a Bachelor in Preschool Pedagogy in English degree and was hired by Ms Tsvetanova as an English teacher, after successfully completing the internship.


The REYN Internship program is an initiative of REYN Bulgaria, hosted by the Trust for Social Achievement Foundation. The program aims to give an opportunity to Roma university students from different fields of study to gain practical experience in working in kindergartens and working with disadvantaged children. The length of the internships is usually between 20 and 50 working days, and they are conducted as a triparty agreement between REYN Bulgaria, a local NGO that supports the interns locally, and a kindergarten that hosts the interns for the duration of the internship.