16 November 2017

Madrid 2017

Delegates representing organisations from 10 countries attended Eurodiaconia’s Roma Network meeting in Madrid, the main theme being ‘Improving the transition from education to employment’.

After the welcome and introductions, Eurodiaconia provided a ‘briefing for members’ on the subject of: National Roma Platforms: What they are and why do they matter? This was useful as it was recognised that many (pro) Roma civil society organisations, operating at both national and local level, are not always aware of the existence of National Roma Platforms and  how to get involved, therefore the information provided was helpful.

Various presentations were given by some of the delegates attending, sharing some of their successes, the challenges faced and continuing areas of concern. 

It was very interesting to hear of the work promoting ‘Roma inclusion in Spain’ – which appears to be very successful in several key areas. 

  • Living and social conditions – have improved significantly during several decades, especially for Roma who have lived there for several generations, helped by a process of strong internal change – although there is still a situation of poverty, exclusion and social rejection – especially also for the new, recently arrived Roma.
  • There was a field visit to the Fundacion Secretariado Gitano, who are very much involved in Provision of services to the Roma community (education, training and employment, health , housing, etc. ) and also Promotion of more active policies for the integration of Roma population: training of professionals, assistance to public administrations and other entities, awareness-raising activities, studies and research.
  • It was also interesting to hear that there is primary school assistance, encouraging and helping the younger children.  However one of the greater challenges faced, not just in Spain but also in the other countries represented, and probably far wider, is transition from primary to secondary education.  With regard to permanence and academic success in the secondary education level, there is a 64% drop out rate – often due to Roma cultural expectations.

It was also highlighted that in Norway, with regard to access to education there, many illiterate Roma parents are afraid to go to the public offices to ask for help as there is a fear that their children would be taken away from their families.  Once their children are taken into the care system, there is a fear, due to some experiences, that when the children are allowed to leave, they are unable to communicate with their own community, to interact with their own people and are therefore ostracized by the Roma community.

Some of the goals of the organisations working with Roma in Norway:

  • Training for mediators – to have Roma working as bridge-builders in education, raising awareness as to ‘who are the Roma’.
  • To get children to higher education and into employment
  • Train women to have more skills

The Roma Mission of the Reformed Church in Hungary shared some of the activities and possibilities they undertake with their communities:

  • To develop the social-and life skills of Roma children and support their studies and professional career from early childhood to young adulthood
  • To help build inclusive communities – this includes having after school clubs to help children with homework (between the ages of 6 – 18); a programme for girls to help try to prevent them dropping out from school too early; providing free time activity groups to develop social and life skills.
  • In Debrecen- Budapest – there are plans for a multi-ethnic church to encompass both Roma & Non Roma – including all the above mentioned projects, but also providing scholarships, mentors, study trips in order to help language skills.
  • A very interesting idea that has been taken on is for local businesses to present different possibilities for professions in the neighbourhood: ie – florist, car mechanic, farming, cooking – and even to offer the possibility of training and employment where possible.
  • You & me community in Budapest offer students the possibility of earning points by education – ie: visits to different work places, they are then eligible to attend 4 – 6 week courses offered by volunteer professionals, eg: photography, map drawing, music reading.  They take a test/exam at the end of their course to receive a diploma.  It is hoped to encourage further education through this method.  It is also good for the volunteers to receive training as how to work with Roma as well.

All of those making their presentations spoke of similar challenges they face in the areas of education and employment:

  • Segregation within school systems and little vision
  • Lack of information for careers, vocation, lack of social networks
  • Leaving secondary school too early without any qualifications
  • Lack of understanding of working practice
  • Lack of help/resources to find employment

Considerations for the Salvation Army:

  • For Corps and Community Centres to develop educational programmes to aid children transition from nursery to primary school, and also from primary to secondary school.
  • For Corps and Community Centres to aid Roma women with skills assessment and further development and training of skills.
  • For Corps and Community Centres to have adult literacy and numeracy programmes.

Funding should be available in country for these types of programmes.  It would also be beneficial to develop partnerships with schools and/or other organisations involved in similar activities.

Tags: Europe