Minimum social services
Many of the problems that blight the lives of children in Romania could be forestalled if families and children were able to access basic social services. There are various obstacles to this: in some locations, particularly rural areas, there can be difficulty in finding professionals such as social workers, medicsandthe Roma school mediatorsassigned to vulnerable communities; families may not realise they are entitled to these services; they may lack identity papers; the services might be too far from where they live. UNICEF is working with its partners to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access at least theminimum basic social services, including education, health and social assistance. It is also trying to ensure that the focus is on a comprehensive range of services, rather than promoting selective interventions.
Early Childhood Development
Early education reform
Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)& Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes
UNICEF is also trying to make the BFHI part of a wider network of services that extend into the community and cover perinatal and postnatal care. The organisation is working with Romanian MPs of all partiesand representatives ofgovernment to have a Romanian law based on the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes adopted by the end of 2011The Law will regulate the marketingof breast milk substitutes, preventing the aggressive promotion of these products.
School Attendance Campaign
UNICEF’s major project in the area of education is the School Attendance Campaign (SAC).
The UNICEF & World Bank Crisis Monitoring Second Quarterly Report indicated a rise in reported absenteeism from 5.2% in July 2009 to 8.5% in October 2009 for the analysed communities. The Roma Inclusion Barometer (OSF, 2007) indicated that 23% of Roma respondents have no education whatsoever, 27% have primary school and 33% graduated secondary school – as opposed to 2%, 11% and 24% among other ethnic groups. Taken as a whole, 95% of the Roma have no high school education, compared to 60% among the other respondents. According to Eurostat, in 2007 19.2% of the young people aged 18-24 graduated only 8 classes in Romania. This means that roughly one out of five young people has no qualification. The EU has estimated that 40% of 15 years olds in Romania are semi-illiterate.
Recognizing the gravity of the school dropout situation, UNICEF launched the School Attendance Campaign in May 2010, aimed at getting the estimated 300,000-400,000 Romanian children who do not go to school regularly back in the classroom. In most cases, these children are from families living in poverty, with parents who themselves did not get much education, and often come from the Roma community. The campaign is vital, because education is the best route out of poverty, disadvantage and marginalisation.
The campaign includes interventions at school, family and community level, built around the Education Priority Areas (EPA) approach. The interventions also include community mobilization activities, the National Summer Course on Roma Language and Traditions, and training for Roma school mediators.
The first year of the campaign (school year 2010-2011) covered 38 communities with high drop-out rates. Results showed that 60% of the children at risk of dropout remained in school and that in almost 50% of the schools in SAC the dropout rate decreased by 15-40% as compared with the rates registered in the past two years.This degree of success has encouraged UNICEF and the Ministry of Education to expand the campaign to cover 100 additional high drop-out communities for the school year 2011-2012.
The campaign also had an impact on the schools and the community in general, leading to: increased capacity of school principals to prevent and reduce the causes of dropout and absenteeism; increased capacity of teachers to adapt their teaching methods to the needs of children at risk; increased capacity of school mediators to apply dropout and absenteeism prevention and reduction methods; increased awareness on the importance of education among parents, and more welcoming and friendlier schools, endowed with equipment and teaching materials.