REF supports round table on preschool education in Serbia

The serious concern aired in an REF policy note about the potential risk of the Roma children not being enrolled in the new compulsory preschool education in Serbia   has motivated Roma NGOs to gather in order to discuss how to prevent this risk. As a result a round table on “Enrolment of Roma Children in pre-school programs, primary and secondary school” has been held in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 9th 2006.

The round table brought together the representatives of the Ministry of Education and Sport (MES), school administration, local and international non-governmental organizations. Participants had opportunity to express their opinion, experience and recommendations for the enrollment of Roma children in educational system.
Speakers at the roundtable were: Mrs. Ljiljanana Simovic and Bojan Ristic (MES representatives), Mrs.Jadranka Stojanovic (representative of the Open society Fund Belgrade), Rumyan Russinov (REF representative), Angelina Skarep (counselor of the school administration of Valjevo region) and Osman Balic (coordinator of the League for Decade of Roma Inclusion).
  Representatives of the MES emphasized that the preschool program is compulsory with the beginning of the school year 2006/2007 for children born between 1st of March 2000 and 1st of March 2001and this program should be  realized by both preschool and school institutions. The discussion raised by the participants mostly referred to serious barriers to school enrolment Roma children face -  many  Roma children have not only   problems with identification papers but also with access to health care. The participants stressed, that the fact that some preschool institutions are charging attendance fees despite the fact that the preschool program is set as  free of charge, and the  lack of   space in preschool institutions can easily lead to an  increased exclusion of  Roma children form the educational system. In order to prevent such an outcome all participants agreed that there is a need for a collaborative action between all sides.

 The participants have brought the following joint conclusions:
 
1. Mechanism for enrolment of children without documents should be established
2. Instruction should be sent to the Ministry of Health in order to enable all children to be medically examined (without and with documents) free of charge
3. Extension of the enrollment period should be secured for all
4. Mechanisms for preventing segregation of Roma children enrolled in preschool education need to be established.

The round table had considerable media coverage, reports on 2 nation-wide TV stations were broadcasted, and news agencies circulated information on the roundtable. 

As a consequence of the Round table a campaign of a broad network of Roma NGOs on informing Roma parents and assisting them in enrolling their children in preschool education started in Serbia.