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Erika Szabóová, REYN Slovakia: “Our voice is stronger together”

The Atlas of Roma Communities from 2013 gives a qualified estimate of about 403 000 Roma living in Slovakia, which represents around 7,4% of the total population. Statistical estimates and sociological mappings vary. Some claim there are about 500 000 Roma living in Slovakia. Established in 2014 by Wide Open School, REYN Slovakia advocates for quality early childhood education and care services to be provided for Roma children and improves the professional development opportunities for early childhood practitioners working with Roma children. Today we interviewed REYN Slovakia coordinator Erika Szabóová and learned more about the organization’s initiatives and goals.

Erika, what are the priorities of your national REYN? What are the short-time and long-time goals?

– Both the short-term and long-term priorities of REYN Slovakia are the same. We aim to offer appropriate professional development opportunities to early childhood practitioners working with Roma children and their families, and actively continue advocating for quality early childhood education and care services for every child.

What is the current situation with young Roma children in your country, taking into consideration the COVID-19 situation?

– According to our information, the current situation is pretty stable. The summer has helped to calm people down a little. The vaccination campaign targeted specifically at Roma communities is still underway. No communities are being quarantined right now. We will see if and how the situation will change with the new school year: how many children will enroll in kindergartens, what issues will arise in different children groups (for instance, development delays, lack of interest of parents reported by school staff), whether schools will be able to function in person, whether there will be any developments or problems with compulsory preschool education, etc.

What is the recent intervention that your national REYN carried out?

– We have organized professional development activities – trainings, workshops, study visits – for 120 REYN members during the last months. We find that the newly established cooperation with the Czech network of Early childhood practitioners is very crucial, as our problems and challenges are very similar.

What is your message to the policy-makers of your country – what would you ask them or tell them if you had 1 minute to talk to them?

– I believe we learn the most when we see things, when we can listen to different people and when we work with our own hands and hearts. I would organize a short-term internship of one week in a kindergarten, school, or community center for them. No high-level meetings, just living the plain life of these vulnerable communities. Then my questions would most probably be: do all position papers and action plans match the reality? What can we all do, as humans, not only as politicians, to help in the best way we possibly can? What needs to be done on a societal level, on community levels, to help these people – children and adults?

How does your national REYN engage with the members (individual and organizational)? How many members do you have?

– We have more than 500 individual members and around 12 organizational members. The main channel we use for our communication is our Facebook page, where we post regular updates about our activities or news related to our scope of work. For targeted communication with our members, we also send out newsletters. This channel is useful, especially when we try to communicate longer texts, but also when we need to reach an audience not active on any social network. To engage with our members, we also use the channels and relevant activities of our hosting organization Škola Dokorán – Wide Open School and a close cooperating organization Open Society Foundation Bratislava.

What is the dream of your national REYN for Roma children in your country?

– Our dream is that all children in Slovakia – including Roma children, even from the most marginalized communities – have a possibility to succeed in their lives and to reach their full potential. We also dream that Roma parents become positive role models and agents of change not only for their children, but also for their communities.

Why should one join REYN, you think?

– The shortest answer would probably be: our voice is stronger together. This, we believe, is true at all times. Besides, the more members we have, the more knowledge and expertise we are able to collect, harness, and use for the wellbeing of Roma children.

Read more about REYN Slovakia and follow their Facebook page

Romani and Traveller kids deserve heroes too

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

Marley Dias loves books, but finds it weird that within their pages there were no black-girl heroes to which she can relate. Born from frustration this 11-year-old started a campaign called #1000blackgirlbooks, which attracted international attention. A year ago, The Guardian and other big media outlets brought Marley’s campaign to a wider public.

This week, Marley Dias, now 12, is in press again. Following the publicity garnered by her campaign she has signed a book deal with children’s publishing company, Scholastic. She will be an author and the main character of her own book. We keep our fingers crossed for her and wonder how many other children, including young Roma and Travellers, have similar experiences?  How many children explore literature but fail to find characters that reflect their own lives and experiences?

Growing up as a Czechoslovakian-Romani child, I too, lacked the chance to read about Romani heroes. Only years later did I discover Romani fairytales and later other heroes, like Rukeli Trollmann. But we are missing stories for the youngest children. There are some authors, albeit grown-up-ones, who have stepped up to help Roma children find themselves between the covers of a good book.

Richard O’Neill is a Romani storyteller who, in 2016, published two books; “Yokki and the Parno Gryand “Ossiri and the Bala Mengro”. Both books capture young children’s imaginations by presenting stories from Romani and Traveller communities. Yokki lifts the spirits of a struggling Traveller family while Ossiri, a Traveller girl, creates her own musical instrument from a willow branch and lots of recycled objects. And through these beautiful stories, Richard O’Neill reminds us of the ancient Romani art of storytelling.

It is crucial to ensure that Romani and Traveller children from an early age can identify with the heroes they read about. It is important for the development of healthy identities and it is better than giving up on book because they cannot relate to the characters. And so, while we wait for more young children to publish their own books, just like Marley Dias, we at REYN are extremely happy to see adult authors write about Romani children, for Romani children.

Only parents can beat segregation

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

On the 6 month anniversary of the birth of his son, Stanislav Daniel Junior, REYN Co-ordinator, Stanislav Daniel reflects on what it means to be a parent standing up for your rights.

 

A year ago we published a blog post about the legacy of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, the case that brought the segregation of Romani children on to the international agenda. On November 13, another anniversary will pass and another cohort of young Romani children in the Czech Republic, and elsewhere, will start their schooling in segregated schools, learning from their very young age that, because of their ethnicity, they will be put on a different track: a slower one.

Nine years have passed since the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. Since then, Court rulings on segregation of Romani children have been issued against Greece, Croatia and Hungary.  A number of domestic courts, for instance in Slovakia, put segregation outside of the legislative framework. For years, civil society organizations and international institutions have been pushing for the implementation of these judgments. Recently, the European Commission joined in these efforts and started infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia for segregating Romani children.

Reading through the 2007 judgment, a lot of attention was given to the role of parents who consented and sometimes even requested their children to be enrolled into segregated school. Their reasons for doing so included avoiding abuse from non-Romani children, keeping the children from the neighborhood together, but sometimes – even if not explicitly – lack of interest in education. But should they to be blamed?  In the atmosphere of omnipresent discrimination preventing even qualified Roma from getting adequate jobs?  Frustration, not tradition, stood behind their decisions.

But as long as we admit that segregation is rational, the cycle of poverty and exclusion will not be broken. In most countries, parental consent is required to place a child into a particular school. Simply put – if parents do not agree with segregated school, they can object and schools or any other authority should not push them. Most of the issues, also those listed above, can be addressed if parents get organized and demand their rights, for their children and for themselves. As hard as it may be, we must stand up and reject discrimination in all its forms.

On the day that I write this blog, my son turned 6 months old. Today, I do not write as coordinator of Romani Early Years Network, but as a father who wants the best for his child. I refuse to believe that other Romani parents do not want the same and we need to demand it now. If we are afraid that our children will be discriminated at schools, we should address discrimination, not take our children to low-quality segregated schools.

As an activist, I have spent years in advocating for better living conditions for Roma, particularly young children and their families. But being a father brings a different perspective to my approach. Strategies and action plans may provide us with a framework for doing the right thing. Strategies and action plans may provide us with framework for inclusion. But we need to insist on inclusion in the first place. And we can only do it if we always ask for nothing less than the best for our children. Be it quality early childhood services, inclusive primary schools, high schools developing their talents or colleges increasing their chances to turn their talents into a living.

Let’s invest in young children, they will pay us back.

Creating Equitable Societies through Personal Transformation

- Blog | REYN Admin

Embracing Diversity – Creating Equitable Societies through Personal Transformation

Diversity RomaUnder the auspices of ISSA and the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s (BVLF) partnership project, “Capacity Building of Roma Supporting Partners”, ISSA Senior Program Manager Zorica Trikic, and Professor Jelena Vranjesevic from the University of Belgrade delivered training on “Embracing Diversity – Creating Equitable Societies through Personal Transformation”, in Rome in early November.

Embracing Diversity training promotes anti-discrimination and demonstrates how to build a society respectful of diversity. Hosted by ISSA’s Italian member, Associazione 21 Luglio, the three-day event welcomed 30 Roma and non-Roma trainees from all over the country, including some young Roma and Sinti activists.

The training was a poignant and rewarding experience both for trainees and trainers. Based on the honest exchange of first-hand experiences participants unpacked their personal stories highlighting how bias and stereotypes are taught, reinforced and perpetuated before working on how to uses their experiences to promote a more equitable society where diversity is valued, respected and protected.

Professionals from different universities and NGOs, including OsservAzione Popica Onlus, ABCittà, Mops (Movement for International Cooperation), ASCE (Association of Sardinia against marginalization) and University of Salento also participated.

ISSA trainers are available to delivering Embracing Diversity Training throughout the network.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Extending the deadline for applications for REYN Study Visit to Slovakia till March 5th 2014

- Blog | REYN Admin

We are happy to meet request of some candidates for additional time and extend the deadline for applications for REYN study visit to Žiar nad Hronom in Slovakia , which will take place from April 7th to April 11th 2014.

The theme of the study visit is Working with the most disadvantaged and marginalized Romani communities – empowering parents and enhancing their parental skills and knowledge”.

Please fill the Application Form by March 5th and send it by email to Zorica Trikic, ISSA Senior Program Manager and Coordinator of REYN, at: ztrikic@issa.nl.

Applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered. Only applications coming from REYN members will be taken into account; if you are not a member yet make sure to register by sending an email to membership@issa.nl, before sending your application.

The applications will be reviewed by the REYN Advisory Group and the ISSA management team by March 8th and, based on the information provided in the applications, 10 candidates will be selected to participate to the study visit.  If you have not heard from us by March 9th, please assume that on this occasion you have not been successful with your application, but we hope you will consider applying again, and hopefully next time you will be selected.

 For downloading application form and short description of the study visit go to REYN blog:

http://reyn.blog.issa.nl/new-professional-development-opportunity/

We look forward to receiving your application and to providing you with an inspiring and exciting professional experience!

If you have any additional question please do not hesitate to contact us.

Zorica Trikic

ISSA Senior Program Manager and REYN Coordinator

NEW PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY! Call for Applications REYN Study Visit in Slovenia

- Blog | ZoricaTrikic

Dear Romani Early Years Network member,
Here we come with new professional development opportunity!
We strongly believe that by connecting our best experiences and learning from each other, we can make a difference for all Romani and Traveller children and their families.
We are pleased to announce that during December 2nd to December 6th, REYN, in partnership with Developmental Research Centre for Pedagogical Initiatives “Step by Step”, are organizing a study visit, to Murska Sobota, Slovenia, as part of our capacity building program. The theme of the study visit will be “Developing High Quality and Culturally Sensitive Early Childhood Education Services”. For more information about the study visit, please look at the document attached with description of programme activitiesBrief_description _REYN_Study_Visit_Slovenia
Here you can also find application form.
Application form_REYN _study visit_Slovenia .
All expenses for the meals, travel and accommodation will be covered by international REYN.
If you are a REYN member working as a practitioner in early childhood development services, primary health care, early years education and care provision, community-work, social work or advocacy/rights programmes, with or in Romani communities, and are interested in learning more about how high quality and culturally sensitive early childhood education and care services can be developed in the context of kindergartens and preschools, please complete the attached Application Form and return no later than 9:00h (09am) November 11th to Zorica Trikic, Coordinator of REYN, at: ztrikic@issa.nl
Please note that applications submitted after the deadline cannot be accepted. Only applications from REYN members will be considered; if you are not yet a member do make sure to register by sending an email to membership@issa.nl before sending your application.
Note that the study visit will be organized and conducted in English.
All applications will be reviewed by the REYN Advisory Group and the ISSA management team by November 12th and, based on the information provided in the applications, 14 candidates will be selected to participate to the study visit. Successful candidates will be informed by email on the evening of November 12th. If you have not heard from us by the 13th November, please assume that you have not, on this occasion been successful and we wish you luck in the future.
We look forward to receiving your application and to providing you with an inspiring and exciting professional experience!

Zorica Trikic
ISSA Senior Program Manager and REYN Coordinator

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT! INFORMATION ON REYN PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES DURING SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER 2013

- Blog | ZoricaTrikic

We are very happy to announce the REYN professional development activities planned for our members in the next months before the end of the year!

Here are the planned activities:

1.  October 2013 – Study visit to Romania – Thematic focus: Integrated Community Based Approach to Early Childhood Services in Romani CommunitiesHost organization: Ruhama Foundation

2.  November 2013 – Training event in Hungary – Thematic focus: Quality of Early Childhood Services

3.   December 2013 – Study visit to Slovenia – Thematic focus: High Quality and Culturally Sensitive Early Childhood Education Services – Host Organization: Educational Research Institute, Center for Pedagogical Initiatives Step by Step

4.    December 2013 – Study visit to  Slovakia – Thematic focus: Home visiting services – Host organization: Wide Open School

More detailed information on each activity (dates, number of places, call for application, etc.) will follow soon!

All REYN members are invited to apply for participation in these activities. The selection of participation will be conducted by REYN Advisory Group and the ISSA management, aiming at selecting the most relevant applications for the topic of the professional development activity.

Because we would like as many REYN members as possible to participate in REYN activities and also because of the limited places we can accommodate, every REYN member may participate only in one in-person activity per year. 

REYN members may apply for any of the activities, but if they have been selected to participate in one, they should no longer apply for the others.

All costs (including travel costs, visas, accommodation, meals) for participation in activities will be covered by ISSA.

Stay tuned! Soon we will get back to you with more information! In the meantime we look forward to seeing you online on the REYN Blog, Facebook or the ISSA Online Community!

Warmest regards

Zorica Trikic

Interim REYN Coordinator