Today, October 14, 2022, the results of the three-year project “Stay at School: Action for Inclusion of Roma in Primary Education” were presented. This project was financed by the European Union and implemented by the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia (FOOM) in partnership with the Center for Educational Support “Dendo Vas” and the Foundation for Educational and Cultural Initiatives “Step by Step”.
The project was implemented in the period from October 2019 to October 2022, with the aim of providing equal access to education for Roma children and motivating children to attend classes regularly, but also to help schools provide an inclusive learning environment where diversity is respected and where all children will feel welcome and equally stimulated to succeed.
During the final event, the results of the project were presented through short videos, a brochure, and an address to some of the users and collaborators who participated in it.
The event was opened by the Minister of Education and Science Jeton Shaqiri, noting that one of the key goals of the strategy and work plan of the Ministry of Education and Science is building an inclusive education system that will provide opportunities for quality education to all citizens, with particular emphasis on those who they come from socially and socially vulnerable groups. The project “Stay at School” is part of the activities to raise the level of inclusiveness of the national education system, and the concrete results of the overall activities of the Ministry aimed at the inclusion of members of the Roma ethnic community indicate that the involvement in primary schools has increased, is the regularity during the lessons and the percentage of a successful transition to the next classes has been raised.
The project provided support to 645 Roma students through 1515 scholarships for the last three school years. The scholarship recipients came from 74 elementary schools and 33 municipalities across the country.
Fani Karanfilova-Panovska, executive director of FOSM, emphasized that this was a truly exceptional project, not only because with over 1,500 scholarships for three academic years, it financially stimulated and encouraged the poorest Roma families, beneficiaries of social assistance from the state, to enroll them regularly to send their children to school, but helped them stay in school in the challenging conditions of the pandemic. This project has shown that if Roma children receive the necessary financial and other support they can progress just as well in their studies as their non-Roma peers.
60 assistants for the support of the Roma community helped parents to provide all the necessary documents for school enrollment, motivated children to go to school and fulfill their school obligations, and worked to strengthen the relationship and cooperation between Roma families and schools. Through 20 round tables with local institutions, schools, and parents in 17 municipalities, collaboration between schools, local authorities, and parents was encouraged. Parents were motivated to enroll their children in school and attend classes regularly even in pandemic conditions.
Community support assistant Ramadan Rustemov from Bitola indicated that the project helped many families all over Macedonia to be able to send their children to school more regularly and at least forget a little about the difficult situation they are in. At the same time, he emphasized the need for further support from institutions and the non-governmental sector to implement programs and projects similar to this one that will directly help children and families from vulnerable groups.
At the event, the representative of the Delegation of the European Union, Nafi Saračini, and the director of the primary school “Brakja Ramiz-Hamid” from Šuto Orizari, Alvin Salimovski, also addressed the event.
Within the framework of the project, small grants in the amount of 2,500 euros were awarded to 47 elementary schools for the implementation of initiatives and projects, which, through play and joint participation in extracurricular school activities, aimed to encourage interaction and exchange of knowledge between students. The statements of the participants of the project presented in a video testified that the support of the schools, the community, and scholarships for students are the key support for creating equal opportunities for all students, establishing a positive climate in the school, and creating an inclusive and stimulating learning environment, where every child will feel accepted, motivated and will have the opportunity to develop his potential for learning and advancement.
The event was enriched by the performances of the students from the “Brakja Ramiz-Hamid” elementary school and the Roma Rock School band. The event was attended by representatives from primary schools involved in the project, representatives from international and local organizations working in the field of child development and education, and representatives of state institutions in the field of education and the promotion of the rights of smaller ethnic communities.
—————————————————14 October 2022