EU help in preventing dropout of Roma children from the education system

Within the project “Early childhood education and care in the function of preventing dropout and increasing educational attainment of Roma children in Novi Sad”, implemented by the Know-how Center in partnership with the Center for Social Work Novi Sad and the pre-school institution “Radosno detinjstvo” in Novi Sad, the foundations for the inclusion of Roma children in pre-school age and their empowerment for continuing education were set up. This project was supported by the European Union with 151,036.92 EUR, while project implementers managed to obtain another EUR 16,781.88 through co-financing.

The project focuses on the problem of insufficient inclusion of Roma children in the educational system, primarily in preschool education system at an early age from 1 to 5.5 years. In addition, the project dealt with another major issue, which is the dropout of Roma children from the school system, and the early abandonment of education. Finally, the project dealt with the improvement of intersectional cooperation in the field of child protection at the local level and public advocacy for the preparation and adoption of a local action plan for the inclusion of Roma.

Within the project, cross-sectoral cooperation (social protection, health, education system) in the area of early development and education and prevention of dropouts at the local level in Novi Sad was established and improved – through training and sensitization of local actors, cross-sectoral networking and transfer of good practices. Through public advocacy for the drafting and adoption of the Local Action Plan (LAP) for Roma including measures related to encouraging early development and prevention of dropouts of Roma students from the education system. In the field of prevention of school dropout, the project insisted on the establishment, development and implementation of school teams for prevention of dropouts and their action plans 9 schools in Novi Sad, direct work with school children and their families through cooperation between schools and the Center for Social Work . Finally, the project provided support to Roma families: direct field work and inclusive workshops with families and children, inclusion of children in preschool, material assistance (hygienic packages, clothing, footwear).

The project achieved its results in all the components envisaged. Instead of 15, 27 parents of children were encouraged to apply for enrollment in a preschool institution, and 15 planned children were enrolled, given the chronic lack of capacity in the pre-school institution. Teams for prevention of dropout and early school leaving were established in 9 instead of the planned 7 schools because the interest of schools in Novi Sad was great. Within the established teams, volunteers were continuously provided with training and supervision.

Cooperation between schools and the Center for Social Work that runs this work package was excellent. By the end of May 2018, 51 children received support in preventing school leaving, and 91.1% returned to school with more or less regular attendance. Material support to schoolchildren was mainly provided in the form of financial social assistance, and footwear and clothing as well as hygiene packages were distributed in full accordance with the project plan.

The KnowHow Center has brought together a group of NGOs that provide support to the Roma population in Novi Sad and re-established an advocacy platform for the preparation and adoption of a local action plan for the Roma in Novi Sad. The City Council of the City of Novi has now formed a working group to improve the inclusion of Roma women and Roma, and representatives of the Center for the production of knowledge and skills, as well as the Center for Social Work, were included in the working group. The Local Action Plan was developed by December 2018 in a working version and promoted at the final conference, held on December 5, 2018. years. It is expected that the plan will be finalized in the spring of 2019 and its adoption by the city council / assembly of the city.

The project is implemented under the grant scheme “Development of efficient services in community areas of education and social welfare at the local level”. This grant scheme with a budget of 5.5 million euros, finances project activities for 30 beneficiaries and covers local self-government, civil society organizations, and relevant institutions at the local level aimed for the promotion of social entrepreneurship and for preventing the dropout children from the school system in Serbia. The project also aims to increase the capacities of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs in the management of the grant scheme, as well as to guide and modernize the process of drafting the Strategy for Social Welfare and other innovative regulatory mechanisms in the field of social policy.