Let's Unite for Children!
© UNICEF Romania
Edmond McLoughney, UNICEF Representative in Romania
Some children eagerly look forward to getting back, others less so – it often depends on the attitude of parents, personality of teachers, school environment and many other factors. But however they feel, it is mandatory to go to school. It is part of growing up, part of a child’s life, an essential part of human development. It’s where children spend a substantial part of their waking hours having their futures shaped.
But for an estimated 300,000-400,000 children in Romania, there is little or no school. This is the astonishing number that do not enrol or attend. It represents up to 20% of the country’s future going to waste. For what chance is there of a decent life without a basic education?
The children out of school usually share a few common characteristics: they come mainly from families living in poverty, with parents who themselves had little or no education. In many cases, they come from the Roma minority.
UNICEF has joined forces with the Ministry of Education and NGOs to do something about this unacceptable state of affairs. The approach is to target the counties, and within them, the communities which have the worst record of non-attendance at school. Accordingly, 38 communities with high drop-out rates have been selected for concentrated attention this school year 2010-2011. Action will focus on three key elements: (a) the families will be visited to persuade them to send their children to school; (b) the schools will be persuaded to be more welcoming to poor and disadvantaged children; and (c) the communities will be persuaded to support the families and schools to ensure every single child gets the basic education which is his or her right.
So there is a lot of “persuading” to be done among families, schools and communities. Will it work? That’s the big question of course, but we think it will because this approach obtained very good results when piloted in Giurgiu and Călăraşi counties. Now it’s time to take the approach to the country at large, starting with these 38 communities. Good results there can spark a momentum which could see similar initiatives take off in other communities with school attendance problems. If this scenario pans out, it would make a huge impact on the drop-out problem and get children into school where they belong.
This edition of the newsletter looks at the strategy of the School Attendance Campaign from different viewpoints. We will be bringing you further updates during the course of the school year.
In this issue, we also take a look at the successful fundraising campaign for the children and families who suffered the effects of the devastating floods in the north-west of Romania in June of this year. And we have an update on the situation in Haiti six months on from the terrible earthquake for which the Romanian public contributed so generously to the relief effort earlier in the year.
UNICEF Representative in Romania