The Teacher, the Educational Psychologist and the Social Worker
Our teacher, Patri, works just outside Alba Iulia at the foot of the Romanian Carpathians. The educational psychologist, Dana, is based in Bucharest, the capital city. And Flavius, the social worker, is trying to make ends meet in Arad, in the west of the country, on the border with Hungary. Children are in the care of all three. Two of them are employees of the state. The psychologist, Dana, works alongside FICF*, an NGO. On the one hand, all three have been personally affected by the crisis. On the other, they have seen the effect the economic slump has had on those they work with.
In a number of cases, FICF had helped children reintegrate into their biological families but some have had to return to the state system because their parents cannot afford their keep. These children, many of them in their teens, feel uprooted. They rebel, get into fights, refuse to attend school and end up begging on the street. Understaffed and underfunded state residential homes cannot cope with these cases. They cannot afford to call in professionals who might be able to help either. Other children and staff are deeply affected and it is a downward spiral for all concerned.
Dana is also of the opinion that social awareness in Romania is wanting. There are individuals who engage in charitable acts out of a strong belief in God but at the level of the community little has been done. ‘It is important to educate the population and develop a community consciousness. I have participated in a project supported by UNICEF which aims to bring stakeholders in the community together to deal with problems which concern everyone at local level. Businesses are not making enough profit at the moment and hardly any sponsorship is coming from that direction. Individuals normally remember to give only when the big religious festivals are approaching. With the exception of Christmas and Easter, when donations are ample, the rest of the year is bleak for NGOs which depend on public generosity.’
Community consciousness is oiling the wheels of the small primary school where teacher Patri has worked for the past two years. She is a philology graduate from a good university and could have found work within the private sector but ever since her first undergraduate year she has been volunteering with children charities. She has a calling and she has luck.
Many of her colleagues have been disillusioned with their jobs not least because of the 25% cut in public sector salaries last year. Patri is young and does not have a family of her own yet so money matters do not preoccupy her excessively. What she most cares about is the wellbeing of the children she teaches.
Her small rural school is an example of what can be achieved through community cohesion. The Transylvanian Saxons who form a tiny percentage of the local population have come together, using their contacts in Germany, to ensure that all the pupils at the local school, regardless of ethnicity or class, are fed, clothed and have good supplies of stationery and textbooks. The community provides an after-school club, a bus service for children living in more remote locations and assistance to parents who are struggling financially.
‘It’s difficult to tell that there is an economic crisis if you visit our school. Everything’s in order. The place gleams with cleanliness. We have everything we need and, most importantly, the children are happy.’
Is there a moral in the stories of the three professionals? Should we look solely to the Government for solutions to the social and economic difficulties which Romania is currently experiencing? Or does the solution lie with individual and collective social responsibility?
*International Foundation for the Child and Family