Uniting Differences - more

“Uniting differences” is a project that wants to make a contribution to overcome the problems with marginalisation and stigmatisation of the Roma population that still persist in almost all European societies. The action is a pilot project and will take place in Medjimurie county (Croatia) where it will address some of the potential root causes that were identified as a starting point for developing a notion of mutual respect that could spread to large parts of society. One of the most important and damaging areas of discrimination against the Roma is access to education, which in Croatia, like in so many other places is characterised by segregation. Estimates show that only 10% of Romani children finish primary school, and that illiteracy rates reach from 15,6% to 38,5%, primarily due to the insufficient knowledge of the Croatian language and segregation, which is supposedly intended to improve the students' Croatian language skills, but is actually based on ethnicity. Roma students are often placed in separate schools (coined as ‘ghetto schools’) or placed in segregated classes in mainstream schools, which follow a restricted ‘inferior’ curriculum. Segregated education denies both Roma and non-Roma children the chance to know each other and to learn to live as equal citizens. It excludes Roma children from mainstream society at the very beginning of their lives, increasing the risk of their being caught in the vicious circle of marginalisation. They receive lower quality education than their non-Roma peers and are later unprepared and uncompetitive in future job markets. This vicious cycle forces the community to remain at the bottom of the social ladder where there is no hope at all for a better future and no reason whatsoever for integration.

“Uniting differences” will build capacities in Croatia that will support equal opportunities for Roma children to successfully undergo education in Croatian schools. More specifically the project seeks to improve the situation of beneficiaries by enhancing the local administrative and schooling capacities with new methodologies, by helping local authorities be more aware of the problems and needs related to the social integration of Roma children in education and by improving access to best practises and sustainable channels of communications between decision-makers, educational authorities and civil society.

In the long run, Roma and society as a whole will benefit from the action. Roma children attending school from a young age will remain within the educational system so that they can then enter the labour market with a marketable set of skills, social and educational qualifications to the benefit of society as a whole. Roma will benefit from a more equal and fair society as well as from better representation at the political and social levels.

Overall objective: To promote equal opportunities in access to education for Roma in Croatia.
Specific objective: To build the capacities of staff of preschool educational institutions in the implementation and diffusion of multicultural teaching methods as a means to support the social inclusion of Roma children.

Direct target group: 1) A minimum of 40 preschool teachers in the county of Medjimurje, including 4 teachers who will be trained as trainers to teach their peers about multicultural values, tolerance and active participation, and a minimum of 35 teachers who will participate in training workshops; 2) 1 partner CSO who will benefit from additional experience and a larger network of contacts to address the issue of Roma integration in educational institutions. Also, local policy makers, who will benefit from the results.

Indirect target group: 1) A minimum of 450 preschool children in the county of Medjimurje who will actively benefit from the implementation of activities in the classroom thanks to the newly acquired skills of their teachers. 2) 3 policy makers who will actively take part in sharing their views with CSOs and be the recipients of advocacy for proposed policies and methods of cooperation. 3) Public school authorities who will actively take part in all activities of the action and sharing of the results.

Final beneficiaries: 1) local actors and educational institutions who will benefit from a newly created network, established contacts and the dissemination of all publications; 2) policy makers in the field of integration of Roma; 3) Roma and society as a whole, thanks to the increased inclusion of all members of society.

Expected Results:

  1. Educational institutions have enhanced capacities to work in cooperation with CSOs and local government in implementing measures to support social integration of Roma children in the education system.
  2. Multicultural preschool teaching methodologies are developed for Croatia.
  3. About 35 teachers acquire the skills to use multicultural preschool teaching methodologies in class and train their peers.
  4. About 450 preschool children are provided with multicultural education.

Activity Plan

The proposed time of the project preparation and execution is 18 months, within which the specific objectives will be achieved. The expected time schedule will be as follows: the inception roundtable will be held in month three, the first six months will be used for work on preparation of the methodology and materials/initial contacts with teachers and invitations to workshops. The second part will last eight months during which the launch of training of trainers and teacher-training workshops (2 Trainings of Trainers and 3 Teachers Training Workshops followed by activities and in-school information sessions) will be carried out. The last period of the action will last 4 months and will consist of the best practices and assessment roundtable (including preparation and follow-up publication). More specifically, the proposed action will consist of the four following activities in the described timeframe below:

Activity 1) Inception Roundtable

The goal of the inception roundtable will be to initiate and further foster and consolidate cooperation between preschools, policy makers, local NGOs and youth centres for future collaboration in continuing and expanding multicultural values as a means of reducing segregation in Croatian society. The two partners, stakeholders and associated schools of Medjimurje county will share their experience in inclusive strategies and the promotion of equality in education, develop common strategies to prevent segregation and develop protocols to record the experience and best practice. The thorough expertise will also cover best practice and experience of other countries in the area of education of disadvantaged children and Roma inclusion, both in connection to Decade of Roma Inclusion and in diverse national programmes, as in Hungary, for example. This activity is linked to result 1 (as described in logical framework), and will have as an output a drafted set of conclusions and a full report on proposed strategies and protocols.

Activity 2) Multicultural teaching methodology development

Based on experience in education and inclusion projects of both partners, thorough research and conclusions of the roundtable developed by associated schools and stakeholders, the partners, with assistance of relevant pedagogical experts, will compile an appropriate set of teaching methodologies and training materials for multicultural classroom settings. A crucial part of the new methodology will deal with the special needs and concerns of Roma children in order to strengthen them in the most suitable and effective way. A baseline study will be conducted to assess the attitudes and needs of Roma children in schools through direct consultation, and to analyse experiences, and problems encountered so far. The new teaching methodology will therefore aim to improve social and personal skills of the pre-school children indiscriminately and their multicultural skills, and to install values of non-discrimination, active participation, tolerance and respect for difference. Additionally, the methodology will include respect for the environment and emphasize the need for responsible and thoughtful behaviour in relation to environmental sustainability. This activity will also ensure that all expertise, experience and practices as presented by the participants of the roundtable and the partners are taken into consideration and no issue is omitted or neglected. This activity will lead to achieving result number 2 (as outlined in the logical framework). The output of this activity will be the creation of teaching materials and an e-publication, which will be used specifically for pilot training, but will be written in such a way that its use will not be limited only to Medjimurje county, but can be used for other teacher training activities and diffused in other counties and countries.

Activity 3) Pilot training

Based on the conclusion of the roundtable on best practices, and making use of the created materials and extensive contacts of both partners, a pilot training of trainers and preschool teachers in multicultural teaching methodology for children will take place. The goals of pilot trainings will be two-fold. First, to both further develop the teaching materials to make them more effective based on practical experience gained during the trainings and reflecting training issues that could not have been predicted. Second, the goals of the pilot training workshops will be to train teacher trainers and the teachers, who will be then directly implementing the methodology in the pre-school teaching institutions. The working methodology for the trainings will be also developed. Specifically, 2 Training of Trainers will take place in Medjimurje county by experts in the field of education and child psychology (the total number of the training experts will be 4), followed by 3 pilot teacher training Workshops (each counting at least 15 participants) in which the most motivated teachers trained in the Training of Trainers workshops will teach teachers. These Workshops will be consequently assessed in order to establish guidelines for future Workshops, which will be implemented based on this model and incorporated as in the new teaching methodology. The output will be the 5 workshops and the Partners’ report on the course of the Workshops, based on a final questionnaire to involved participants and monitored measurable results (or drawbacks) of the workshops. The results linked to this activity are results 3 and 4, as described in the logical framework.

Activity 4) Assessment roundtable

An assessment roundtable will be held to evaluate the success and multiplier potential of the pilot teacher training workshops along with counselling on best advocacy and monitoring methods, which will be followed after implementation of the action. The assessment roundtable will also include a discussion on establishing sustainable methods of cooperation for all the parties involved. It will end with a network agreement, draft policy recommendations on teaching methodology for disadvantaged groups and declarations of interest in future collaboration by school representatives. A communication network will also be created for all actors, creating a spill-over effect, allowing other local actors to benefit from the experience and the project results. The activity will also include preparation and follow-up publications which will be published online in order to facilitate diffusion of the new methodology and allow for the opening of an unrestricted discussion on the topic. This activity is linked to result 1 (as described in logical framework), and will have as an output a drafted set of conclusions and a full report on proposed means of future implementation.

A close monitoring and assessment by the partners and stakeholders (above all associated educational institutions) will be an integral part of all the activities as each one of them will develop an output necessary for the overall success of the proposed action. A project analysis during the last four months will evaluate the project using a control tool and produce a written assessment report. The control tool will be designed to give a clear picture of process and impact evaluation and will consider the Logical Framework Approach to balance planned versus actual results.