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Access to education for migrant children and youth in Romania


Second grader at 17 years old

Ahmed, a Kurdish boy who came to Romania from Iraq, is 17 years old, but he is in the second grade of the "Second Chance" programme, although he never had a "first chance" in Romania.

"Due to the negligence of those responsible for education in Romania and because he did not have documents from his country of origin to certify his studies, this boy is due to finish primary school ten years from now (because he attends classes only two hours a week, according to the programme). So, he would be able to start high school only at the age of 27. Until then, Ahmed can’t receive a qualification, he can’t find a job, nothing, he doesn’t exist!", says Rodica Novac, Project Manager at Terre des hommes Foundation in Romania. The paradox is that Ahmed speaks Romanian very well, unlike other children who come to the country and do not have enough support in learning the language.

At the end of 2019, there were 15,794 children and young people (under 19) who had come from other countries with the right to stay in Romania, according to the General Inspectorate for Immigration. These minors are in Romania due to various reasons, from fleeing war, violence or other life-threatening situations in their home countries to family reunification and mixed families. What is certain is that they are rarely the ones who choose to be here and that often they are already part of a sad story from which only education can save them. The National Education Law of Romania stipulates that migrant and refugee children have every right to education without any discrimination, however, the reality is far from theory.

Who are these children?

Terre des hommes is particularly concerned about the situation of migrant children and young people* from non-European countries, asylum seekers or beneficiaries of a form of international protection. If we assume that students who migrate for educational purposes do not have major integration problems, there are still about 12,000 migrant children** who, additionally to not knowing the Romanian language, also face such obstacles as lack of education documents or missing years of schooling due to taking refuge and the conditions in countries of origin or transit. They also have difficulties in adapting to the new social, cultural and educational context and are discriminated against during their stay in Romania. Romania is a destination for over 10,000 children and young people who need affirmative measures, financed from the state budget, to guarantee them the exercise of the right to education. More statistical data are available here.

*Note 1: The term "migrant" has been used as an "umbrella term" to include asylum seekers, beneficiaries of international protection, foreigners (third-country nationals), stateless persons. Migrant refers to the person who moves away from his or her usual place of residence, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons.

**Note 2: The figures were provided to Terre des hommes Foundation in Romania by the Inspectorate General for Immigration (Romania), as the Ministry of Education and Research does not collect or publish any statistical data on the access of foreign minors, asylum seekers and beneficiaries of protection in the public education system and no data on their school participation exists.

Listen to migrant and Romanian children sharing their dreams

"I went to school and I didn’t understand anything. The teachers told me to read something in Romanian (out loud), but I said I couldn’t. And the teacher said 'The Arabs come here and give money to do what they want…'. I didn't understand anything of this at that time, because I didn’t know Romanian, I just smiled."

Some of the foreign children and young people involved in the projects of Terre des hommes were encouraged by their Romanian colleagues to talk about these issues, but also about how they imagine their future in this video “The dreams of children without a country”:

Problems that children and young people from non-European countries face in Romania:

  • Migrant children are enrolled in school in grades below their age (even with a 4-year gap)
  • In the year when they are only considered “audit students” in school, migrant children do not have access to textbooks, supplies, scholarships, and various programmes.
  • They are excluded from distance/online education, being non-eligible for free tablets (distributed by the Ministry of Education)
  • Some of them have exceeded the age of compulsory education, and the "Second Chance" programme is not adapted to them; they do not receive scholarships and other aid.

Who can help and what can be done?

There are measures that can improve children’s integration and school performance, but they are not implemented in the Romanian school environment, such as: the development of mentoring and cultural mediation programmes, the provision of information about the school environment, the involvement of parents, the provision of additional language support.

The National Education Law stipulates that the state guarantees equal access rights to all levels and forms of pre-university and university education, as well as to lifelong learning, to minors who request or have acquired a form of protection in Romania, foreign minors and stateless minors, without any form of discrimination.

Terre des hommes has developed the advocacy paper "Access to education for migrant children and youth in Romania", that has been submitted to relevant authorities in Romania. Terre des hommes therefore requests, inter alia:

  • Enrolling children and young audit students in the Integrated Information System of Education in Romania (SIIIR), so that are the recommendations of the Terre des hommes Foundation to the agencies responsible for the integration of migrants in the Romanian society?hat they have access to textbooks, school supplies, social scholarships, etc.;
  • Involving special education teachers in supporting migrant children and young people;
  • Implementing a national programme for the integration of migrant children and young people into the education system;
  • Simplifying the procedures and streamlining the process of recognizing diplomas;
  • Organising Romanian language courses in all important cities of the country that have a significant number of foreigners / migrants.
  • Adaptation of the "Second Chance" programme or an adapted curriculum for foreign citizens.


This article was originally published in Romanian on, 13 October 2020. It was developed under the Regional Project "Mentoring for Integration (of third country national children affected by migration)". The MINT Project is implemented under the leadership of the Terre des hommes Regional Office for Europe together with partners from Romania (Terre des hommes Foundation), the Czech Republic (Organizace pro pomoc uprchlíkům, z.s.), Poland (Fundacja Ocalenie), Slovenia (Slovenska filantropija) and its overall objective is to ensure the successful integration in host societies of migrant children and young living in the countries in question, by piloting an innovative and replicable mentoring model.

Funded by the European Union EU Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs: Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). The content of this article represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information