SUPPORT IN EDUCATION, PSYCHO-SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND INTEGRATION OF MARGINALIZED GROUPS OF CHILDREN (2004-2022)
The Project Goal is to break the cycle of poverty of marginalized groups by promoting participation in community development through continuing education of children and young people.
The project is designed to help Roma children to finish primary school and integrate better into society. They are provided with assistance to more effectively integrate them into the education system. This is achieved through various activities with young children who need support to join the preschool system, with children already enrolled in primary school, with young people attending secondary school, and also with their parents
The Bread of Life project helps to reduce the prejudices against Roma people which prevail among the non-Roma population in schools, local authorities and institutions. It raises awareness of their responsibility and need for positive action to improve living conditions in Roma communities.
All this implies direct cooperation with teachers in local schools, representatives of local communities who are responsible for education, and representatives of Roma people in local communities and other leaders in various Roma organizations.
More about the programme
The programme began in April 2004 in Belgrade in several locations. It was implemented quickly in two primary schools, in a collective centre for displaced persons from Kosovo in Resnik, and at two locations in Roma settlements in Zemun and Surcin, where it continues to be offered.
The programme initially addressed children from various marginalized groups, both Roma and non-Roma, as well as children displaced from Kosovo, who faced the problem of insufficient social inclusion, or other problems such as learning or regular school completion. In most cases the reason behind this was either poverty, their status as refugees, or other disorders in behaviour due to a variety of causes.
The programme has passed through three phases of development:
- The first phase lasted from 2004 to 2007 under the title Support in Education and Psychosocial Development and Integration of Marginalized Groups of Children.
In the first phase, the programme covered over 400 Roma, local and Kosovo refugee children, as well as their parents. The programme engaged 13 teachers, educators, pedagogues and special educators from various schools and institutions.
- The second phase began in 2008 and lasted until 2012 under the title ‘Support in Education and Integration of Roma Children’.
From the beginning of the second phase, the programme is primarily related to support in the education of Roma children, and includes children of preschool and primary school age.
- The third phase began in 2013 and continues to this day under the title ‘Roma Inclusion through Active Participation’.
- The first document which was a guideline for adopting the goals of our programme, was the Poverty Reduction Strategy adopted by the Government of Serbia in October 2003.
- Then, the Declaration of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 was adopted, signed by the governments of 8 countries in Southeast Europe, including our country.
- Based on the previous document, the Serbian government adopted the document Strategy for Improving the Position of Roma in the RS for the period 2009-2015.
- Therefore, the Government of the RS adopted a new ‘Strategy for Social Inclusion of Roma men and women in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2016-2025’ in order to reduce poverty and combat discrimination against Roma men and women, i.e. to create the conditions for full access to human rights on the part of Roma people.
- Programme for preparation of children aged 5 - 6 years for successful enrollment in preschool
- Supplemental educational classes Roma children attending primary school from 1st to 8th grade are given assistance to master the material and complete homework
- Educational, creative and other workshops for developing various new skills and knowledge in children from 1st to 8th grades.
- Social activities in the wider local community with children from 1st to 8th grades - going to the cinema, zoo, aqua park, organizing educational trips, recreational and educational camps, etc.
- Regular meetings with parents These take the form of informal meetings and various educational workshops with parents of children attending primary school, in order to enable them to give support to their children to persevere in school, especially girls, who drop out of school more often.
- Motivational and educational workshops for young Roma men and women who attend high school, to persevere in school and to better understand the labour market or further education opportunities after high school.
- Training of potential young Roma leaders / local assistants who are attending high school or technical college, to work with younger children or young adults in the programme and to apply a model of support in education of children or young adults in their Roma communities.
In the third phase, the programme is extended to include the support for young Roma men and women who attend high school, and to train them for the role of potential leaders or local Roma assistants, who will then work at the education of children in their own settlements. Bread of Life has devised a training model which will educate, shape and organize the potential of young Roma leaders. This will enable these young people to produce long-term change through working with younger Roma children and young adults in Roma settlements.
So far, over 1,000 children have gone through the programme. Most children were aged 5 to 15 and they were children displaced from Kosovo, or local Roma children from several Roma settlements in the territory of Surčin and of Bački Ilovik, Marija Bursać and Vojni put in Zemun.
About 60 young Roma men and women aged 15 to 18 who were enrolled in high school during the project period also went through the education support programme. Of these, 15 young people underwent training for potential leaders, five of whom successfully completed the training programme and subsequently were employed in the project.
In the last phase, about 170 Roma children and young people aged 5 to 18, as well as their parents, are included in the programme annually..
Strategic document on which the 2004-2020 programme relies
Some results have been achieved in this period. When we talk about education, the inclusion of Roma children in primary education has increased and positive measures have been established in relation to enrolling Roma students in secondary schools and colleges.
However, the main obstacles to the socio-economic integration of Roma men and women have not been removed, and a complete normative basis has not been created for the implementation of long-term measures to reduce poverty and achieve the essential equality of Roma citizens, which were the stated goals of the Strategy for Improving Roma community position 2009-2015.(Comment from the Introduction of the "Strategy for Social Inclusion of Roma Men and Women in the Republic of Serbia for the Period 2016-2025")
The long term goals of the programme
To strengthen the capacities of the Roma community, so that through the education process they can actively influence the creation of a better future for their communities and contribute to greater social inclusion.
Specific goals and activities in the programme
Goal 1 To enable Roma children to be equally included and successfully integrated into preschool and primary school education, to complete primary school regularly and enroll in secondary school, and to exercise their basic human rights by nurturing mutual relations and relationships with others.
Goal 2 To enable young Roma men and women, potential Roma leaders, to actively engage in the effort to create a better future, and improve the living conditions, of the Roma community as a whole, through the education process and the application of models designed to support the educational needs of their communities.
The contribution of the Bread of Life
Given that this project of support in education has lasted more than 15 years, we can say that the project overcame the generational cycle of lack of education , because it allowed children and young adults in Roma settlements in which the project has been implemented, to enter the educational system and complete compulsory primary or secondary school. Some students have even enrolled in high school or technical college. This is not just about learning and working on mastering school materials, but includes general education, good relationships with peers, interactions, encouragement, creativity and exposing children to new ideas, as well as the transfer of knowledge and skills outside school, in family and society.
The Bread of Life contribution to systematic working with children, in order to assist their overall integration into the school system, is an example of sustainability, as these "investments" in children can be measured over time. Ending the generational lack of education is a sustainability factor and a proof in itself.
The programme itself is designed to provide knowledge and skills for specific target groups (not only children, but also women, youth and adults) in order to initiate changes in their local environment. Beneficiaries then transfer their knowledge and experience to their environment, and when they invest time in children's and young adult's education, they provide a long-term contribution to systemic change in the Roma community.
In addition, an increasing number of children enroll, and finish high school after primary school. They become qualified for employment and are able to perform various jobs, including the jobs of drivers, nurses, car mechanics, sales representatives, etc. This breaks the cycle of poverty among these vulnerable groups in our society.
Bread of Life has developed a model to support the education of Roma children and young people which can be replicated in other locations, and thus provide long-term support to the Roma population.
(In a state wide project competition in 2007, the Project received the award from Erste Foundation in the domain of Award for Social Integration)