Let’s study together: supporting educational inclusion of Roma children
Activities fall within the framework of the EU Child Guarantee Pilot Project in Bulgaria
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- Do you like to study?!
- Are we going to study together again?
Some thirty children between the ages of 5 and 12 shout out loud joyously, showing what they have written, coloured, drawn and learned today. They have gathered in a small cafe in the Grancharya area near the town of Tsarevo, located close to the city of Burgas. This is the place where in the autumn of 2021, the “Let’s Study together” programme began. It was created and implemented by a mobile team at the Community Support Centre in Burgas (CSC – Burgas), which provides services for the prevention and support of marginalized communities and families. The main goal of the “Let’s Study together” programme is to ensure that, during the pandemic when activities at school or in kindergarten have been irregular, that Roma children within the education system do not lose motivation and learning habits and do not lag behind in their learning.
The mobile team is one of a total of 7 newly created field work teams established as part of the European Child Guarantee Pilot Project. The project is funded by the European Commission and is implemented with UNICEF’s support. To set up these teams, a total of 22 additional social workers and associates were hired in 2021 at the Community Support Centres (CSCs) for risk prevention and support of children and their families in seven pilot municipalities – Burgas, Kazanlak, Kotel, Sliven, Sredets, Stara Zagora and Tvarditsa. (See more about the project here)
At the end of last year, some of the teams developed and implemented their own programmes, which helped children from the Roma community enrol in kindergarten or school, and cope successfully with the tasks there and feel included.
In response to the challenges of online education and closed schools, the team in Burgas created the programme “Let’s Study together”, which was successfully implemented in Tsarevo.
The team from Burgas and the children from Tsarevo together:
Distribution of study materials – pens, notebooks.
Getting to know each child individually and an opportunity for personal attention.
Writing letters and activities in Bulgarian.
Writing numbers and solving problems in Mathematics.
Solving problems from the worksheets provided by the school.
*All activities take into consideration the level and capacities of each child.
In early autumn, the mobile team in Burgas was also working on the programme “Support for what’s new” developed by the team and aimed at families whose children are enrolled in kindergarten or school and are afraid of this new event in their lives. Through meetings with the families and children, talking, persuading and answering all kinds of questions, the social workers try to help them overcome this fear. They also take an interest in the daily habits of each family, and provide games for the children in order to further motivate parents to enrol their children in kindergarten and school. They also work to change attitudes in the community and increase awareness on the importance of education for their children.
Photo: Ivan, 4 years old, with his new backpack, for his first time in kindergarten. His enrolment and coverage in the educational system was achieved with the support of the mobile team.
The team explains to the parents what documents and tests are needed to enrol the children in kindergarten. They hand out containers and explain to the mothers how to take clean samples for these mandatory tests.
The children are very happy with their new backpacks with which they will use to go to kindergarten.
About the programme outcomes: “We receive good feedback from the children’s new educators who report that they are doing very well in the adaptation and socialisation process”, said social workers from the team.
The teams in Kazanlak, Sliven and Sredets also carry out similar programmes , developed according to the needs of the specific community, in order to prepare the children for kindergarten or school.
In Sredets, at the beginning of the school year, the mobile team supported the adaptation of the children in their new school environment through the programme “Preparation for school”. Even before the first day of school, they gathered the Roma children and gave them assignments similar to those they would receive at school. They also had a meeting with the parents and the children and talked about what to expect at school, what the rules and requirements are and how to prepare for them.
The mobile team in Sredets explained that this is a way to avoid the stressful situations of the unknown when the children enter the 1st grade. The programme yields very good results and will be implemented again in the summer of 2022.
“The children are curious, interested and want to study and go to school with their peers. However, sometimes they give up out of fear or because they cannot fit in during the first months. They get discouraged, it is hard for them and in the end some of them drop out of the educational process. With this programme, we believe that we eliminate these issues”, said Elena, a social worker with the mobile team in Sredets.
This project is funded by the European Union.
The information and views set out in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.