Roma Children in Albania Fight Discrimination through Literacy and Language Skills Training
The ongoing social exclusion of Roma communities across Albania is creating significant gaps and deficiencies in education for thousands of children, a problem worsened by extreme poverty and few development opportunities, said the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).
To address this problem, ADRA established an educational and social center for children in a Roma squatter community in Fushe Kruja, near Tirana, capital city of Albania, in 2004, that helps Roma children integrate into mainstream society. Since then, the center has prepared local children for successful transition into the Albanian public education system, by improving their reading and writing skills, and increasing their understanding of the official Albanian language.
Projects like this are essential to the future development of Roma, said Lamar Phillips, country director for ADRA Albania. Very few Roma children attend school, and consequently, few can read or write in Albanian. Although some enroll in local elementary schools each year, most eventually drop out due to their inability to speak Albanian even at a basic level. In many cases, classmates and teachers also isolate them from both social and academic activities, a practice that contributes to the low school attendance rate among Roma.
In October of 2006, the Education Department of Kruja agreed to partner with ADRA to fund the Roma school in Fushe Kruja, turning the center into an extension of the local public school system. Through this ongoing alliance, ADRA continues to conduct literacy classes for first, second, and third grade students and provides social activities for the children and their parents.
"This was a major achievement for ADRA, since this is the first school in Albania that is designed specifically for Roma," said Phillips.
ADRA is also giving two meals a week to every child enrolled in the program. This has already positively impacted school attendance and the nutritional status of students. Financial backing from ADRA Italy has allowed the purchase of new school desks, benches, and basic educational supplies.
The latest phase of this program started in April of 2008, is worth $70,000, and will end in May 2009. Funders include ADRA International, the Albanian Department of Education, the Italian Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, ADRA Germany, and individual donors who have provided support through ADRA's Really Useful Gift Catalog.
"The [continuation of this] project will help lay a solid foundation for the future of Albanian Roma, allowing them to continue their education, further their personal, social, and intellectual growth, and prepare them to enter the job market equipped with the skills that they need to succeed," said Phillips.
Extended financial support for this program will keep the center in Fushe Kruja open and allow the expansion of the program to other Roma communities in Berat, a city south of Tirana.
To help ADRA empower Roma families in Albania, contributions can be donated to ADRA's Really Useful Gift Catalog, by phone at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or online at www.adra.org.
ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.
For more information about ADRA, visitwww.adra.org.
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