Working with Roma community in Latvia
There are about 8500 Roma people living in Latvia. It could seem a small number for some countries, but still this group has been acknowledged to be one of the less socially secure and most discriminated groups. The education level of Roma people is low in comparison with other nations living in Latvia – 40% of Roma people have finished 2-3 or 4 grades at school or even less.
Roma’s own reluctance and unwillingness to send their children to school and to communicate with local people is often used as an excuse for the fact that Latvian Roma community is isolated and has a low level of education. However, the real reasons of Roma segregation are most often are associated with lack of tolerance at schools and in the community, including – teachers’ inability to implement multicultural education principles, as well as the local government’s unwillingness to provide meaningful and adequate support for the Roma who live in the municipality territory.
To improve the situation and overcome problems mentioned above, Centre for Education Initiatives is implementing project for developing social integration support mechanisms for Roma community in Latvia. The direct goal of the project is to promote inclusion of Roma children and youth in the system of education as well as integration of their families in the community by promoting cooperation and inter-cultural dialogue to reduce social diversity. Place of realization of the project is 4 municipalities in all regions of Latvia because the Roma community reside all around Latvia and is spread in different regions of the country.
What we do:
- Trainings on diversity management and non-discrimination in education for school and pre-school teachers and school administrations. As pre-school and school are the first formal institutions involving a child, they are models of the relationship what children will use in their relationships with their peers, at school, at work and later in their lives. It is therefore essential that schools model the values that society wants to see in the future.
- Creation of the position of Roma mediators at municipalities. Although the Roma mediators work is widely known in many European countries, it is a new initiative in Latvia. We have trained 10 Roma mediators and 5 of them are working in 4 municipalities, to promote mutual cooperation among local municipality and Roma community. Roma mediators help to integrate the Roma children and their families in the services what already exist in municipalities as much as possible.
- Implementation of innovative inter-cultural events for promotion and better understanding of Roma culture. We organize special informative events, when representatives of the municipality’s institutions and schools are introduced to the role of Roma culture and history in the historical context of Latvia by representatives of Roma community. Also, we organize educational after-school activities for children and young people of different ethnic groups to promote mutual acquisition of Roma culture and culture of other ethnic groups.
- Establishment of the Resource centres for Roma children. Resource centre is based on the idea to create a place where the Roma would come and feel part of it. Centres are places where children can come and meaningfully spend their free time together and places for other types of activities – workshops, meetings, etc.
All project activities are implemented in close cooperation with Roma community and Roma NGOs, involving workers from the Roma community.
Although the situation of the Roma community is different in different countries, the opportunity to learn from each other, provided by REYN, is very important tool to find the best solutions for each situation and to help Roma children to get quality education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live. This is the first step for a better future and no more than what they deserve.