Our project is focused on preschool aged children living in isolated rural communities with special social and educational issues. Approximately 55% of the population in the North East region of Romania lives in the rural environment; some families are dealing with poverty; some of our target groups are part of a closed community or population which have special ‘living codes’; sometimes, there are people living in rural isolated communities, where the access is extremely difficult due to spatial isolation, landscape or bad condition of roads.
Despite the fact that all Local School Authorities provide school buses there are some families who refuse to let their children in kindergarten, preferring them staying at home (sometime mother is unemployed/house keeper).
In many villages, there is no kindergarten locally and no other educational services for pre-school aged children because there are only a few of them per villages. Besides that living in these villages’ children often need to go to school in another village, or even they have to walk long distances every day. Hence the small ones cannot attend to the educational institution).
This means that their first contact with formal education is when they enter on the first grade of school. Their parents have little time to spend educating them and certainly can’t create a stimulating environment that would facilitate vital cognitive, social and emotional acquisitions. Most of the time, the little ones are being cared for by their older brothers or sisters, or are often taken by the parents in the fields so that they can work and supervise their children at the same time. Considering this, a lot of children face difficulties adapting in school when they enter the first grade, either due to lack of social skills or due to educational gaps, and that results in bad results and even school dropout.
As a pilot intervention in five such villages, Save the Children organisation identified a space that would meet the requirements for running educational activities with pre-school aged children and set five Home Kindergartens. Some of these spaces were rooms inside villagers’ houses, hence the “Home” name. First the rooms were renovated and equipped with specific furniture and educational materials, toys, games etc. Meanwhile, we identified persons at local level who would be willing and capable of taking the role of educators. These future educators got a series of trainings and courses to improve their abilities to work with children. The choice for local persons over qualified educators was made considering the high level of isolation of these communities, which sometimes (during harsh winters or long rainy periods) means that no one can get in and out of the village, and that special circumstances need special answers and alternative ways of educational activities.
This way, pre-school children in these villages get access to educational activities and parents get time to work without being concerned by their children’s safety as the kindergarten would operate during the summer too.
The results were immediate: the following school year, the teacher in the village reported a significant improvement in working with the children that participated in educational activities in the home kindergarten prior going to school. Furthermore talking to parents in the communities revealed an increased satisfaction regarding the living conditions and also a rallying of the parents around a common cause: supporting and involving in the kindergarten’s functioning (they were taking turns cleaning the space, providing the wood for heating the room etc.).
Context of good practice
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