Czech project helps Romani parents with early childhood education
Open Society Fund Prague is currently supporting seven projects that focus on early childhood care for Romani children up to the age of 6. Nonprofit organizations are assisting families in socially excluded localities in the cities of Brno, Karlovy Vary, Ostrava, Prague and their environs with learning about the importance of education for pre-school aged children and how to strengthen the educational role of the family itself.
The foundation has supported the Jekhetane organization in Ostrava; the Romodrom and STŘEP – Czech Center to Save the Family organizations in Prague; and the Nová škola (New School) organization in collaborating with a nonprofit in the Karlovy Vary region. In Brno, Ostrava and Prague, supported organizations have established centers for mothers or for parents that help them become more competent in their parenting.
These centers are not intended to replace nursery schools, which mainly aim to make it possible for parents to work while teachers oversee their children's development. On the contrary, these centers require the active participation of parents. Mothers attend preparatory courses to increase their ability to care for their children's health, to cook on a low budget, to consider various approaches to child-rearing, and to better orient themselves in the economic and social welfare systems.
When parents and their children participate in activities jointly, it contributes to children's cognitive and social development. In the future, the Romani mothers will also design part of the centers' programs on their own so they can be charged with responsibility, improve their capacity to organize their children's time, and perhaps even better monitor their own living situations. An integral component of the project is field social work directly with the families, who are advised by trained staffers on how to manage specific problems.
The financing and know-how are being provided by OSF Prague and the nonprofits as part of the Open Society Foundations' Early Childhood Program. Advice to Czech organizations will also be provided by external consultants experienced in how such work is done in ethnically diverse, excluded, impoverished localities in Great Britain and the USA. "I am pleased that Romani mothers are interested in working on themselves and helping their children get a better education," said Zena Brabazon after a recent visit to the Czech centers. Brabazon has initiated similar child development centers at the national level in Britain and the USA.
The program focuses on socially excluded communities because a high percentage of the children in such communities do not attend preschool and their parents' complicated situations lead to their children not developing sufficiently. The development of parental competencies contributes to the gradual amelioration of the disadvantage these children experience when starting school because they live in situations of economic and social exclusion. These efforts may reduce the number of children being enrolled by their parents into practical primary or segregated primary schools.
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