Nelutu - ‘Education for All’
On average, Roma children in Romania spend 6.8 years in school, whilst the national average is 11.2 years and unschooled Roma children represent about 80% of the total number of unschooled children in Romania. Fundatia Inocenti believes that children have the right to a quality education, whatever their socio-economic or cultural background.
Nelu is now 12 years old. He lives in Glina with his mother; stepfather and three half-sisters aged 4, 5 and 7. Both his mother and stepfather are unemployed and illiterate.
Glina is an extremely poor suburb of Bucharest, situated near the city’s landfill site. A high percentage of the population in Glina corresponds to Nelu’s family picture and survives by collecting rubbish from the landfill site. It is here that Nelu used to spend his mornings working at the dump helping his parents; while in the afternoons he was busy taking care of his little sisters. He had no time for normal childhood activities and did not attend school.
When Nelu reached 8 years old, he would be have been too old to enroll in school. He would have missed his chance at an education. No formal education would mean losing the most important opportunity to improve his life.
Initially, Inocenti managed to persuade the local authority to agree to admit him into 1st grade. Unfortunately, a few short months after his enrollment, as the curriculum became more complex, Nelutu began missing classes and eventually stopped attending school altogether. At the time, Inocenti Foundation’s social worker liaised with his teachers and family in an attempt to get him back to school, but he had lost his self-confidence and was needed at home. Inocenti staff realized there was profound need for a structured community intervention, not only for Nelutu, but also for every child in Glina.
In March 2012, the Educational Support Center opened its doors with the ultimate goal of helping children continue their education for as long as possible and for at least 4 years. The center represents the first private social service established in the area.
Without this program and the social workers’ daily presence in the community, Nelutu would have become a national statistic, another name on the school abandonment lists. The daily activities offered at the center are helping Nelu fill the gaps in his education and to pass his grade level exams to help them succeed in school, become active citizens and facilitate social development.
Nelu is now attending third grade. His life is more organized and enjoyable. Three years ago, Nelu was collecting junk to help his family – attending school was only a dream. It was a year of challenges and ups and downs for Ion, but with the support and guidance from the Inocenti Educational Center, Nelu now has a chance to succeed in life and break the cycle of poverty.
There are currently 16 other students and families who, just like Nelutu, have been enrolled in school and are benefiting from the program.