The Alex Fund supports Fiecare Copil in Gradinita (‘Every Child in Preschool’), Romanian NGO OvidiuRo’s program currently operating in 20 impoverished communities. Fiecare Copil in Gradinita is helping 1400 poor children attend preschool and kindergarten so they will be able to enter primary school with the same skills as other better-off children start school with. OvidiuRo’s methodology encompasses close collaboration with local leaders, teacher training and educational resources, parent involvement and incentives, and educational enrichment such as summer programs.
OvidiuRo’s philosophy of parent involvement starts from the acknowledgment that no one is born understanding the importance of education. In severely impoverished neighborhoods, most people have attended only primary school and some are completely illiterate. There are rarely any local role models of people who have succeeded through education. OvidiuRo provides consultation to teachers and authorities on ways to communicate the importance of school and strategies to the parents for helping their children adjust and achieve.
Basic issues like hunger, poor health and inadequate health care, distance from school, family dysfunction, and lack of cold weather clothing all adversely affect the ability of poor parents to cope and hinder the ability of their children to learn. Support to families – economic, social, and inter-personal – is critical to obtaining parents’ trust and cooperation, which are so crucial to their children’s academic success.
Food stamps for perfect attendance
In 2007, with a small grant from UNDP, OvidiuRo first tested “conditional cash transfers” to severely impoverished parents in the village of Vizuresti (Dambovita County). Instead of cash, monthly food coupons, redeemable at local stores, were provided for the children’s 100% class attendance.
Over the past four years OvidiuRo has found this to be a relatively simple and extremely effective method of involving parents in their children’s education and providing an opportunity for them to form new habits.
Today, food coupons of 50 lei/month are provided for children’s 100% attendance in kindergarten. If a child is sick the parent must promptly inform the teacher and bring a medical note. Food coupons are offered to children from families with income per family member under the poverty line and living in inadequate conditions. Parents also take turns assist the kindergarten teacher in class once a month – this helps them understand better what goes on in the classroom and stimulates their interest in and respect for education.
Parent-teacher group meeting topics include health and safety information and guidance on ways to praise, discipline, teach and care for growing children. In order to receive the monthly food coupons <link to meal coupons> a parent MUST attend the monthly meeting. Individual sessions are scheduled as needed to encourage positive communication between school and families.