Technical roundtable: A human rights-based approach to Roma education
The UNICEF Regional Office called together partners in Roma education with the aim of reaching concensus on key technical issues raised at the last Roma Decade meeting, held in Belgrade in 2009. These issues will form the foundation of UNICEF's regional position paper on Roma education. Conclusions were reached around five main themes, as follows.
Early childhood development
• ECD services need to strive for the highest level of quality to facilitate inclusion.
• For children ages 0-3/4 there should be a focus on nutrition and the capacity building of parents.
• Optimal duration of preschool is two years.
• Language development is vital to child development and requires support for fluency in children’s mother tongue. Strategies need to be explored regarding bilingual learning and transition to majority language for Roma children
• There is a need for holistic approaches across sectors including awareness raising about the importance of ECD among parents, families and communities, particularly targeting those most disadvantaged.
• Need for explicit but not exclusive targeting of Roma children, and flexible, creative solutions.
• Improving quality, improves access. Learning environments and curricula must support multi-culturalism and inclusiveness. Access to education means access to quality education.
• Special schools and entrance exams must be phased out and teachers from these schools need to be reincorporated into a reformed inclusive school system.
• Roma teacher assistants and mediators, training of headmasters, and afterschool support are some of the strategies that have been effective in promoting access for Roma children.
• School systems as a whole, as a barrier to access, need to be addressed.
• Address the problems with decentralization and the training of headmasters and other authorities in social justice and multiculturalism. This would include enforcing antidiscrimination laws, and monitoring.
Quality and Respect
• Raise awareness of what discrimination is including explicit and implicit discrimination. This would be among all of civil society, Roma and non-Roma.
• Social justice training should be implemented in all sectors.
• Romani culture, history and language should be respected in schools and school systems.
• National strategies for monitoring need to be created along with capacity and creative ways to monitor human rights violations.
• Roma identity to be strengthened in order to get accurate census data.
• Collection of ethnic data to be accompanied by campaigns and explanations of why it is being collected and how the data will be used.
• Monitoring to be scientific and rigorous and an automatic part of programming.
• Anonymity and proper storage of data are important for protecting the data and survey participants’ rights.
• Interviewers should be properly trained in the collection of data.
Governance and Financing
• Decentralisation must be accompanied with accountability and strategic and long-term funding mechanisms, as well as training and support for local government officials on social justice and inclusion.
• Scholarship funding has proven useful in supporting Roma children’s education.
• Monitoring is essential to assure the proper use of funds targeted for Roma children and inclusion measures.
• Teachers need to be appropriately and sufficiently paid.