Young Romani and Traveller children are denied the right to access quality early childhood education and care services, adequate nutrition as well as stimulating and protective environments. Providing them with equal and quality developmental opportunities, would unlock their potential and change their lives.
The evidence is clear. The first three years of a child’s life are of enormous importance for lifelong well-being and success later in life. Most children in Europe, regardless of ethnic background, do not have access to services in their early years (birth to three), the most critical period in their development.
The situation is worse for young Romani and Traveller children, who are often denied the right to equal access to education and care, health and other services. In countries with large Romani populations, Romani children are two times less likely to attend preschool than their non-Romani peers . The biggest differences in the European Union (EU) are witnessed in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where only 28% and 24% of Romani children are enrolled alongside the national averages of 79% and 72%, respectively. In Serbia, only 6% of Roma children have access to early childhood education and care. This compares to 80% of wealthy children.
This cycle of disadvantage is hampering children’s development, destroying the possibility to integrate and develop their full potential for an entire generation.
What we do for Romani Children
The Romani Early Years Network (REYN) is a Europe-wide leading advocacy network that promotes professionalism in early years, access of Romani and Traveller children to quality early childhood development (ECD) services and more diversity in the ECD workforce, including a better representation of Romani and Traveller professionals. We share knowledge, promote best practices, train practitioners and work with our members to achieve quality and equitable early childhood services.
We believe that by leveraging the EU attention and funding we can make a positive difference for children. Thanks to our international supporters we haven been able to build a strong international network with the aim to prioritize ECD in the EU’s political agenda.
Concretely we make the case for the need to include early childhood education and care (ECEC) for children, birth to six years old, in the annual monitoring of the National Roma Integration Strategies by the European Commission (DG Justice). Together with various key partners we support and monitor the work done by the different EU directorates (DG Justice, DG Employment and DG Education and Culture) on Romani and Travellers children.
At the same time we work with our National Networks to improve local services and increase diversity in the workforce at the national level. REYN advocates for pro-diversity policies and cooperates with local partners to develop strategies to attract more Roma in the ECD workforce.
REYN is coordinated by ISSA, the International Step by Step Association.
“Roma” are not a single, homogeneous group of people. They can include Romanichals in England; Kalé in Wales and Finland; Travellers in Ireland (who are not Roma), Scotland, Sweden, and Norway; Manouche from France; Gitano from Spain; Sinti from Germany, Poland, Austria, and Italy; Ashakli from Kosovo; Egyptians from Albania; Beyash from Croatia; Romanlar from Turkey; Domari from Palestine and Egypt; Lom from Armenia, and many others.”