School Attendance Initiative
In Romania, there are an estimated 300,000-400,000 children of compulsory school age who do not go to school regularly. The EU has estimated that 40% of 15 year olds in Romania are semi-literate. 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. Children who grow up without a decent education, find themselves in a life-long struggle against poverty, social exclusion and marginalisation.
Studies have shown that:
In mid-2010, UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sport, and the Institute of Educational Sciences, launched the School Attendance Campaign (later to be called “Initiative”) with the aim of getting children back to school and supporting them to complete the compulsory years of schooling.
At Family Level parents are involved in school affairs and are made aware of the importance of education. They are trained to develop their parenting skills and to know how to promote their child’s best interests. Specially trained mediators, members of the community, visit households to persuade them to send their children to school.
At School Level the aim is to make the school a more welcoming place for children. Special attention is paid to working closely with teachers to ensure that:
At Community Level the project involves professionals from different sectors who are able to contribute to the decrease of school dropout and absenteeism such as social workers, health professionals and local authorities. School mediators are selected and trained in each priority community.
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 improved their attendance and that in almost 50% of the schools the dropout rate decreased by 15-40% as compared with the rates registered in the past two years. This degree of success 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.
An evaluation showed that the campaign had an impact on the schools and the community in general, leading to: an increased capacity among school principals to prevent and reduce the school related causes of dropout and absenteeism; strengthened capacity of teachers to adapt their teaching methods to the needs of children at risk; higher 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, with proper equipment and teaching materials.