The primary beneficiary of The Alex Fund is Asociatia OvidiuRo, a certified Romanian NGO founded by Maria Gheorghiu and Leslie Hawke in 2004. Today, as the Agency for Early Education, OvidiuRo focuses on mobilizing public and private resources to ensure that quality early education is available to Romania’s poorest children. OvidiuRo provides high-quality educational materials, trains teachers in how to optimize these new resources, and creates “Hubs for Literacy & Quality Early Education” in disadvantaged areas. All of OvidiuRo’s programs are designed to increase the chances that vulnerable children succeed in primary school by enhancing the kindergarten and home literacy environment and increasing access to health care and good nutrition.
OvidiuRo works in partnership with the Ministry of Education and county school inspectorates to provide interventions that expand young children’s vocabulary and improve their language skills.
Since 2004, over 100 companies and countless individuals have contributed to sustaining and broadening OvidiuRo’s reach throughout Romania. Some donors have transformed their initial contributions into major, sustained, long-term investments in early education. This sustained support resulted in the passage of the “Preschool Law” (No. 248/2015), and also has led to major advancements in the national preschool curriculum and to vastly improved educational resources in kindergartens in disadvantaged areas.
OvidiuRo trains teachers, equips kindergartens with literacy-building resources, and gives children books to read at home. In 2019, OvidiuRo provided over 100,000 picture books to poor rural and urban kindergartens and homes. Fifteen hundred kindergarten teachers received intensive training to prepare them to ‘pay it forward’ by conducting literacy-based trainings for their fellow teachers.
OvidiuRo continues to build infrastructure to widen the ‘early literacy net’ so that virtually all of Romania’s kindergarten teachers have quality teaching tools and preschools have plenty of age-appropriate books. OvidiuRo is committed to working closely with public sector officials and kindergarten staff to provide teacher training and educational resources of the highest quality, and to help poor villages create additional kindergarten groups so no child is turned away from grădiniță because of “lack of space”.
A Short History of the Agency for Early Education
In 2016 the Romanian Parliament funded a national program to encourage parents to send their children to grădiniță. Based on OvidiuRo’s Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță model, the law established that parents living in poverty could receive €11 per month in food coupons if their child attended preschool every day. The government allocated €10 million for food coupon incentives – and OvidiuRo took on the crucial role of working with county and local authorities to effectively initiate this landmark early education stimulus package. Today, OvidiuRo focuses on teacher training and providing kindergartens with literacy-building resources and children with books at home.
OvidiuRo’s partner organization, Reality Check, started by OvidiuRo alumni Alina Seghedi and Simona Ilaș, has taken on the important role of monitoring and improving implementation of the “Preschool Law.” In April 2020, Law 248/2015 was revised to simplify the method of granting and double the value of tickets, as well as to oblige local public authorities to organize campaigns to inform parents about the importance of attending kindergarten. More children will benefit from this support and will attend the kindergarten every day when these changes are enacted in January 2021.