Accessing basic education in Romania: Possibilities and limitations for NGOs working for educational change for Roma children
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The Roma are facing serious disadvantages in education in Romania, where segregated schooling and lack of quality education are two main factors contributing to de facto exclusion from the education system. In an effort to compensate for this missing commitment of the formal education system, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provide non-formal education for Roma children, often under the label ‘afterschools’. This paper explores the work of an NGO running an after-school programme for out-of-school Roma children in Romania. While the after-school programme started out providing the children with informal education, it soon became involved in enrolling the children in a second-chance school. This process of enrolment is analysed as a three-stage process in this paper: preparing for access, providing physical access and supporting continuous access. Despite success in enrolling children into the formal education system, the approach taken by the NGO and the second-chance school had serious flaws. In particular, this paper discusses the lack of a child-friendly environment, compromised safety for the children, a lack of cultural sensitivity, racist attitudes towards the children and a pedagogy that did not give the children a fair chance to succeed in their education. These flaws are used to discuss the possibilities and limitations for NGOs to bring about educational change. This paper argues that while such programmes can do more harm than good, they can also use their knowledge and position to advocate for change in the formal education system.
KeywordsRoma Informal education After-school programmes Second-chance schools NGOs
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