Romani people within Slovakia are a very downtrodden and marginalized community. They are a distinct subculture with their own language, customs and traditions. The long history of racism, violence, and systemic oppression of these communities manifests itself in all aspects of Slovakian society. The schooling system traditionally segregates students at the age of 5 into ‘special’ classes or schools, which has long term negative effects on these individuals’ integration into society.
This is often a result of Roma children not being admitted to pre-school between the ages of 0-5 years. The lack of access to quality Early-Stage Development causes these children to be ill equipped for the culture shock of a new school, with strangers who are radically different and speak a different language to their mother tongue.
This makes it very hard for them to integrate seamlessly into school and creates the perception that they are difficult to deal with and unable to integrate into the existing class culture.
The round table is a loose syllabus of activities, skills building, cultural exchange workshops and storytelling, which helps add value to Roma mothers’ lives. The visual chart and activity cards allow for easy identification of activities (even by children), a loose syllabus of workshops allows flexibility based on available time and the engaging activities add an element of fun while teaching valuable skills.
Mothers participate in these workshops within the school building and are never far away from their children. Children are then able to take part in ESD activities in preschool with teachers.
Roma Mothers in the village of 0-5 year old children. We are focused on 10 mothers in particular within a village in Slovakia. These mothers tend to visit the pre-school’s toy library most days with their children, but leave at lunch time and stay home the rest of the day.
Those vital afternoon hours could have a massive impact on the children’s cognitive and emotional development.
Roma communities within Slovakia have a long history of being persecuted, even to this day. As a result, Roma mothers are often reluctant to leave their children with ‘outsiders’ in preschool. This has adverse effects on the child’s development, which in turn affects them the rest of their lives.
As a result of Covid we were forced to work remotely and had no direct contact with the mothers themselves. However, we had several very detailed interviews and interactions with the school’s Headmaster, an ESD expert from Harvard, as well as an activist from a Roma community and other experts on the educational system in Slovakia. We also did extensive desk research of the EU-wide incentives with Roma educational programs internationally.
The mothers in question can check the easy-to-understand visual chart and decide for the day what activities they would like to do. They then pick activity cards and spend the rest of the day working through those cards, activities and subjects. The workshops are also multi-layered, in order to teach job skills while taking advantage of the mothers’ existing skills; each mother teaching and learning from each other. The whole while building confidence and skills.
The program is not a fully formed product at all. It’s created around dynamic situations with people who are generally used to less structured lifestyles. This project will therefore need to develop over 3-5 months with constant testing and iterations.
We developed a strategic timeline for a 5-year roll-out plan from testing, to roll out across regions, the country and hopefully the EU.