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Studiu de caz: Castelu

Studiu de caz: Castelu

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Published by: Proiectul SOS on Mar 23, 2011
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03/23/2011

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Case Study: How One Community was Able to
Get Every Child 
 
in School 
Usually the school population peaks in September andgradually declines over the course of the year as somechildren move away and others, especially those livingin poverty, attend sporadically. In Castelu, the oppositehappened. On September 14, 2009 there were 32 firstgraders, and 120 children enrolled in pre-school. In June2010, 46 children successfully completed thefirst gradeand 180 were attending pre-school programs.
1
 Approximately 20 percent of the population of Castelu, a“comuna” of 5000 people in Constanta County, live inpoverty. The poorest neighborhoods are located onStrada Garoafelor , Salciilor and Ferma. Approximately350 people live in this area in 60 dwellings. Most of theinhabitants have no access to public utilities. The streetsare little more than rutted pathways. Untreated water isobtained from a nearby pond for all cooking andpersonal hygiene needs.Most adults living on these streetsconsider themselves tobe Turks, but both the local Turks and the local ethnicRomanians consider them Gypsies. The majority of these adults speak a blended Turkish dialect. Thus, manychildren cannot speak or understand Romanian whenthey go to school. Because these families are destitute,they either do not attend school at all or they enter late.If they do enroll, their lack of preparation leads to earlyschool abandonment, often after only four or five grades.The Castelu School principal, Antoneta Prodan, wasaware that children who receive quality early educationdo much better in school than their peers who first enterthe education system at age eight or nine. She was alsoaware that many of the poorest children in hercommunity were not attending kindergarten, enteringschool late, attending sporadically and dropping out
1
1
“Preschool” and “kindergarten” are used interchangeably for educationalprograms for children aged 3-6.
 
before they reached fifth grade. Meanwhile, thekindergarten principal, Mariana Musat, often encouragedthe poor families to send their children to pre-school –but with little results.Castelu hadn’t the resources – human, financial orconceptual – to tackle this multi-faceted problem single-handedly. After Ms. Prodan saw the
Scoala te face mare
 public service announcements on TV, she called OvidiuRom to ask for assistance. Executive director MariaGheorghiu visited the community in late August 2009 toascertain how Ovidiu Rom could help.
Ovidiu Rom’s 4 Steps to Getting
Every Child in School 
 
1.
 
Community Action
 
After site visits in which Ms. Gheorghiu talked withvarious stakeholders including parents, she helpedestablish a public-private partnership between theschool, the kindergarten, comuna administration, electedcomuna council, a local NGO - Fundatia Porti Deschise- and the General School Inspectorate of Constanta. Atthe first meeting a “Local Action Group” was formedconsisting of the principals of the school andkindergarten, mayor, chief of police, social worker, localcouncilman, community representative, andrepresentatives from the area’s two main religions, theOrthodox priest and the Muslim imam. After severalmeetings, this group agreed to take responsibility forclosing the gap in the educational attainment of theTurkish/Roma children and most of the other children inthe comuna.In September, Ovidiu Rom organized a recruitment driveto enroll all children aged 6 or over in first grade.
 
2
Members of the Local Action Group went door-to-doorencouraging parents to send their young children tokindergarten and their six year olds to first grade.Elisabeta Kubassek of Open Doors walked through thecommunity with a megaphone announcing
“Education isfree. We can help you obtain the necessary clothes and shoes and supplies.”
 Children began to show up at school the very next day,but formal registration was a protracted process, whichin some cases took most of the school year. Ultimately,two solutions were identified:
Immediate Action
Unschooled children between age 6 and 9 wereidentified and registered. This resulted in the need for anadditional first grade class for 19 students. (Therealready were two first grade classes.) Limited spaceforced the three first-grade classes to take turns holdingclass in a former gas station located across the streetfrom the school for a few weeks. It wasn’t an idealsolution, but the children thought it was fun.In September, the local council gave clothes and shoes tothe 19 new first graders as well as 14 other poor childrenwho were already attending school. Ovidiu Rom coveredthe salary of the new teacher in October. In November,the School Inspectorate allocated her salary. In January2010, the local authorities inaugurated three rooms in anew building (which had been started the previous yearbut not finished due to lack of funds) as the“Kaleidoscope” Resource Center. Sponsored byCarrefour
2
and managed by Ovidiu Rom, Kaleidoscopeopened its doors on January 29. It gave the poor childrena place to do their homework and get tutorial help. TheAfter School Program was staffed by the new teacherand paid for by Ovidiu Rom.
Strategic Solution
In January, now that the space problem had been solved,the Local Action Group moved its attention to the manychildren age 3-5 in the area. The principal called on alocal council member, Sebaidin Salim who had beentrained as a school mediator in 2007, but never hired.Working together, Ovidiu Rom and the school mediatoridentified 80 additional children aged 3-10 and enrolledthem in the pre-school program. The school mediator’ssalary was paid by Ovidiu Rom with funds fromCarrefour, with the understanding that his salary wouldbecome a line item in the local budget as of September2010. Educational supplies were provided by OvidiuRom for the 80 new kindergarten recruits.
2
Carrefour “Adopted” Castelu School. See more details under Adopta School, p.3
2. Educational Measures
Teacher Training
 To prepare the teachers for a large influx of childrenwith no prior school experience and languagelimitations, Ovidiu Rom began a series of four teachertraining workshops. The training focuses on practicalclassroom application of current learning theories. Theworkshops also prepare teachers to utilize Ovidiu Rom’ssyllabi and education package, the core of which is a 48page full color workbook 
The Treasure of the Eight Mirrored City
, structured as a narrative story withexercises, diary entries, and games.
Sotron: once a week kindergarten 
Ovidiu Rom helped the school staff set up a programcalled “Sotron” to introduce the young children and theirparents, who had themselves never attended pre-schoolto both the benefits and day-to-day requirements of formal early education. Sotron includes: a guided familytour of the kindergarten, once-a-week classes for bothchildren and parents, and on-the-spot registration for thenext term’s kindergarten class.
After School Program
 This daily two hour session for 30 first graders (the 19children and 11 others who were selected by theirteachers as needing extra help) makes it possible forhigh-risk children to complete their homework in anattractive learning environment, to get extra help asneeded, and a snack provided.
Summer Workshops
 These two week programs serve to familiarize bothchildren and parents with the school environment.Ovidiu Rom provides the educational material and a newlocal NGO provides snacks. Basic numeracy, literacy,and thinking skills are introduced and reinforced.
 
3
3.
 
Family Engagement and Support
Probably the single most important factor in gettingevery child in Castelu in school was the welcomingattitude of the school and kindergarten principals. Theyactively helped poor families overcome difficulties likemissing registration documents and lack of appropriateclothing.
Attendance Incentives
Ovidiu Rom “incentivizes” impoverished parents to sendtheir children to school on a daily basis by offering 50 leiworth of food coupons for their child’s 100% attendanceeach month. In every community where Ovidiu Rom hasimplemented this strategy, attendance of at-risk childrenhas increased dramatically. Ovidiu Rom initiated theprogram for 30 families in Castelu who qualifiedbecause the family was living below Ovidiu Rom’spoverty threshold defined by income, housing, andparents’ level of education. Before officially beingaccepted into the program, home visits were conductedby an Ovidiu Rom representative, accompanied by theschool mediator. A meeting was then held with thefamilies to thoroughly explain the
50 lei food couponprogram
, in which:
 
Children must have 100% school attendance(unless they have a documented ailment),satisfactory academic performance, andacceptable behavior.
 
Parents of first graders must attend the monthlyparent-teacher meeting in order to receive thecoupons. If a parent misses the monthlymeeting, they have to wait until the next month’smeeting to get the coupons. To underscore theimportance of learning, as well as just showingup, the family receives an additional 50 leicoupon if the child’s grades are exceptionallygood.
Supplies, Uniforms and Snacks
 
The local councill provided clothing and shoes for eachchild in the target group. After-school program snackswere funded by Ovidiu Rom and Carrefour.
Health Issues
 
Early childhood is the best time to detect medical,dental, visual, and speech impairments so they can beprevented from handicapping an individual for life. Anessential component of Ovidiu Rom’s methodology is tomake sure specialized medical care is available forchildren recruited to school. Lower-income children aremore likely to have health problems, and as a result, aremore likely to miss school for relatively minor problems.When the school nurse examined the children in Castelu,many were found to have head lice. This is always aproblem where there is a lack of access to running water.It adversely affects school attendance and acceptancefrom peers, teachers, and other children’s parents. TheSchool mediator obtained treatment from Open Doors,and the Medgidia Health Department, but it was a verytemporary solution. The lack of strategic action from thecounty health department and the local doctor wasdiscouraging, and the problem remained unresolved untilCarrefour offered to co-finance with the local council thecost of drilling a well and creating a water pump on thestreet.
4.
 
Public Awareness
 
Parent Education
Ovidiu Rom and Open Doors went door to doordistributing flyers to parents and personally invitingthem to a meeting at the school. It was necessary to holdhis meeting several times, but ultimately 30 parentsattended sessions led by the principal and the comunasocial worker in which procedures and processes wereexplained. They also discussed the children’s basic legalright to education as well as the parents’ obligations torespect the law. In November, Antena 3 dedicated anhour long documentary to the problem of unschooledchildren and illiterate adults and featured Castelu’scommunity action.
Adopt-a-School
At the 2009 Halloween Charity Ball, the “Adopt aSchool” program was launched to encourage companiesto invest their CSR budgets in educational measures thathelp develop future generations. Carrefour, the firstcompany to Adopt a School, selected Castelu because of the company’s presence in Constanta. Their €10,000contribution equipped the new resource center andcovered teacher training costs, after-school, and summerprograms. A plaque was mounted in the school entranceto commemorate the donation. The food coupons werecovered by Ovidiu Rom with proceeds from theHalloween Ball.

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