Czech NGO starts campaign to support education of Romani children and non-Roma who are socially disadvantaged
Children's social origins continue to play a big role in their educational success in the Czech Republic, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified these persistent differences, as family isolation and the transition to distance learning have demonstrated how difficult it is to fulfill one of the principles declared by the Czech Education Act - equal access to a quality education by all children - when there is no technology, backup at home, or caregivers able to explain the curriculum to children. As a consequence of such obstacles, just 20 % of children from disadvantaged families in the Czech Republic have been able to achieve more education than their parents did.
For that reason and others, the IQ Roma servis organization is starting a campaign called "They have determination - give them opportunity" in which the NGO plans to present the stories of Romani children and youth (and some non-Roma too) and their educational journeys. IQ Roma servis was established in 1997.
The mission of the NGO is to facilitate support for Romani people's determination, opportunities and options to apply themselves in society and to grow as individuals, as well as to protect their dignity and rights. Education in segregated schools, limited access to information, the low competences of those in their immediate environments, or lack of physical space in which to do homework are all barriers with which children from socially disadvantaged environments have to cope.
Research has shown that residing in housing conditions that are poor quality and unstable means that a child is three times more likely to experience problems in school. Such children are, as a consequence, more at risk of early school-leaving than are their peers who are adequately housed.
IQ Roma servis has been working to transform such inherited inequality among children and youth in the Romani community for 24 years. Annually the organization accompanies about 190 pupils and students through their educational journeys.
"From the current research we already know that distance instruction had the biggest impact on groups who are vulnerable," says IQ Roma servis campaign coordinator Zuzana Siváková. "Children from socially disadvantaged environments are currently three months behind those who could access instruction online, and such differences among pupils will still be visible in the decades to come and will be reflected in their economic participation and incomes as adults."
"We are accustomed to reacting flexibly to problems and the last school year was no exception - despite longterm limitations, we remained in contact with the children with whom we usually work and aided them with overcoming their technical, school-related and psychological difficulties," the campaign coordinator describes. "The kind of support these children receive at this moment can fundamentally influence the rest of their lives."
Kristina Studená, coordinator of the organization's educational program Gendalos, explains that "The results of our work demonstrate how important longterm collaboration and comprehensive support is. As many as 90 % of our pupils and students continue on with us to the next year of their studies or to the next level of education, and seven out of eight of our students graduate from high school."
"Each of their dreams is important to us, and we want to give these young people hope of handling these challenges. It is plain to see that this belief motivates them," adds Studená.
The coordinator of the campaign describes its approach as follows: "We are telling the stories of children and their parents, stories of how together, we are helping them overcome the widest possible range of barriers on their journey toward the school, the job and the life of their dreams. This is also a message for all other children who are losing hope of succeeding - there is a place they turn to for help."
"Last but not least, this is a message of positivity to the broader public that it is possible for them to also contribute to a change that is positive, together with us," the campaign coordinator concludes. Stories of Romani pupils and students and their achievements are being made available through the organization's social media and website during November and December 2021, when the campaign is underway.
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