In Central and South East Europe
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Supporting the inclusion of Roma children through school

2017-10-09

In Moldova, Terre des hommes (Tdh) aims to make school a place that welcomes all children, regardless of their ethnicity. By creating toy libraries, running inclusive activities and training around 100 professionals, the organisation has improved education for more than 1,000 Roma children.

Mihai, a Roma father, was suspicious of the education system. Having dropped out himself at an early age, he could not see the point in sending his daughter, Marcela, to school. He was afraid that teachers and students would discriminate against her due to her Roma background.

A history of social exclusion

Mihai’s fears are well founded. According to a study by UNICEF, 16% of Roma pupils suffer violence and abuse at school, compared to 7% of other pupils. It is no surprise that Roma parents consider the education system hostile to their children. Despite efforts by government authorities and national organisations to tackle discrimination, Roma are still victims of social exclusion.

Inclusion through education

For children, education is not only a right; it is the key to a brighter future. This is why our team in Moldova has focused on making school a more welcoming place for children and parents – both Roma and non-Roma. Over the past two years, Tdh has set up toy libraries equipped with educational and recreational materials in around 30 schools in areas with large Roma populations. Following discussions with other parents and teachers, Mihai decided that school could be a positive learning experience for his daughter. “I regret not being able to study when I was younger,” he said. “I want my daughter to go to school and make the most of it.”

Support for professionals

Tdh has also trained teachers and social workers so they can better support children and parents, especially those from the Roma community. As one teacher at a school in Falesti explains, “We work together to make school a more attractive place and to create a more positive environment for Roma children, ensuring that the time they spend there is useful and enjoyable.”

In Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, around 100 people travel abroad to look for work every day. School is often the only point of reference in some children’s lives, and teachers are role models for those left to fend for themselves. Our work in this context is therefore essential. Tdh will continue its efforts to support the Moldovan education system, for both Roma and non-Roma children.