Envisioning what might be a more effective system is one thing; doing it to scale is something else.” O’Day & Smith, Quality & Equality in American Education, P. 329
Years of investment by OvidiuRo, the Romanian corporate sector, and concerned individuals resulted in a major policy shift when the “FCG Law” was passed. But the gulf between legal entitlement and effectively implementing a progressive program is immense. OvidiuRo is committed to seeing this investment pay off—by helping FCG become an integral part of the fabric of local community life throughout Romania.
The Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță Law was a remarkable breakthrough for Romania’s most marginalized young children. Turning OviduRo’s pilot program into a national initiative happened several years ahead of the 2020 goal OvR had set for reaching this objective. (Follow the story of FCG’s organic growth from 13 to 45 communities here.) Facilitating the scale-up from 2500 children in 45 communities to 100,000 in 3000 communities is a challenge, to say the least. And although the government allocated the necessary budget for food coupon incentives – it allocated no financial or human resources for launching and enforcing the program or providing other basic program elements – like training local teams in kindergarten recruitment techniques, parent education, or even the basic data entry procedures demanded by the regulations. It also did not cover related essential costs like appropriate clothes, school supplies, and program monitoring.
Consequently, soon after the FCG Law passage, OvidiuRo took on the proactive role of FCG implementation facilitator, assisting communities in correctly administering FCG and optimizing its impact.
The responsibility for day-to-day operations now rests entirely with mayors and school directors. OvidiuRo’s role is to inspire, guide, trouble-shoot, and monitor the process so the program is well received and communities maximize its potential to help marginalized children enter primary school with the skills they need to succeed.
1. Facilitating Communication between
Government Agencies & Levels within Agencies
“The odds of success are increased if a policy operates in a supportive environment where its internal and external leadership are all pulling in the same direction.” O’Day & Smith
The most glaring need the OvidiuRo team observed in its road-shows was for the timely transmission of accurate information and for collaborative problem-solving – both up and down the chain of command and between agencies. It is a long, circuitous, and perforated route from a kindergarten classroom in Maramureș to the Government conference room in Bucharest where policy is made – and where, when needed, policies shall be changed. OvidiuRo has been working towards maximizing the law’s application and recommending changes as necessitated by the program’s real world application in a variety of settings. OvidiuRo will work as a liaison between government agencies and local teams — expediting the communication process, quelling misinformation, identifying problems early on, and sharing solutions.
During the first year of implementation, OvidiuRo served as the initiative’s de facto rapporteur, reporting back to the key government ministries and county officials about problems, proposing solutions, and then communicating the outcomes back to the local implementation teams.
2. Directing a Public Awareness Campaign to
Target Parents & General Public
“To create and sustain meaningful policies and practices requires more than technical solutions and an engaged profession. It also requires public constituency and mobilization.” O’Day & Smith, P. 345
National TV & radio campaign to encourage poor parents to send their children to kindergarten every day. Despite the abject living conditions in poor Roma settlements, most households have a satellite dish and access to multiple channels. OvidiuRo’s previous five campaigns on approximately 50 TV and radio stations since 2009 have effectively reached all segments of society – and brought OvidiuRo’s mission to public attention. See more about our latest campaign here.
3. Keeping in touch with the local communities through the FCG Read-Aloud Caravans
“Language development is affected by everything that happens to a child – including whether the child is ready to or expected to ask and answer questions and engage in dialogue.” O’Day & Smith, P. 321
“Read-Aloud Caravans Powered by Carrefour”
Over the summer of 2016, the OvR staff visited 99 communities in 15 counties interacting with: 5700 children, 3100 parents, 200 teachers, 85 school directors, 63 social workers, 52 mayors, and an assortment of other stakeholders.More info about the Read-Aloud Summer Caravan here.
The Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță Read-Aloud Summer Caravan Map
The 2016-2017 school year Read-Aloud Caravan, also largely funded by Carrefour, utilized picture books and activities focused on healthy nutrition to:
- Engage children in the pleasures of reading.
- Demonstrate good Read-Aloud techniques to teachers & parents.
- Investigate the reach of the program in the community.
- Involve local leaders.
- Report to county authorities on the week’s findings and discuss options for addressing any problems that came to light.
Between October and June, the caravan reached 202 communities in 25 counties. Over 6000 children attended read-aloud sessions and almost 3000 parents were told about the importance of preschool, good eating habits, and the food coupons they could qualify for (by daily kindergarten attendance). Children took home 8000 picture books and 700 teachers received Big Books, and 4,500 kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables were sampled by children during the sessions.
OVR Monitoring Caravans Reach (as of June 2017)
4. “Start-Up” Grants to Communities
“At the heart of the differences in implementation outcomes is their variation in local capacity. Human capital, material capital and program coherence are not equitably distributed across schools and districts.” O’Day & Smith, P. 310
To support the most dedicated communities, a fund will be available for special needs and program enhancements. Communities can apply using a simple two-page application to receive up to €2500 special purpose grants – as the ones offered by OvidiuRo to schools who prove the recruitment of preschoolers for the formation of a new kindergarten group in a marginalized community. More details about this OvidiuRo grant here.