Fighting discrimination against Roma children in Romania

It’s time to welcome a new IWitness group, who will be visiting Romania to see how Save the Children uses our funding to fight stigma and discrimination against Roma children—the most vulnerable children in the country.

Daniela Florea, who was a school mediator in the project Raising Children in a Stigma-free Society, explains some of the challenges Roma children need to overcome.

Photo from the project Romania

Romanian Roma children most often come from extremely poor families. Apart from not benefitting from what is considered normal in today’s society—like sanitation, water, electricity, clean clothing and healthy food—these children face another risk that can impair their futures: the lack of education.

Only 20% of Roma children attend kindergarten, mainly because they are discriminated against and lack local services, financial resources and trust in the education system.

Also, 80% of all children in Romania who never go to school are Roma. Many have parents who lack basic education and are illiterate. The children grow up in an environment that challenges their health and development.

Because they don’t have a good early education, they lag behind their peers. Simply because they don’t go to kindergarten, they suffer inequality that deeply affects their later participation in school, community and professional life.

That’s why ensuring that Roma children have equal opportunities and access to education is a top priority for our country. That’s also why we have supported preschool-aged Roma children to go to kindergarten and then elementary school.

Since the project began three years ago, we have accompanied 653 Roma children aged five and six in a basic two-month summer kindergarten programme.  We witnessed things that contradicted all known statistics in our country. According to these statistics, 80% of these children wouldn’t be in school today. But our statistics show that 585 of our 653 supported children—89%—are comfortably attending first and second school grade after taking part in our programme. They get average to good grades, they like their teachers and they make new friends. Most of all, they see life in a new way.

Their parents are surprised by what these children are achieving. They are proud and hopeful. For the first time, against all odds, parents dare to think of a different kind of life for their children—one off the streets and in decent, human, equal living conditions.The project, funded by the IKEA Foundation, has provided so many children with the opportunity to meet, learn, evolve, progress, dream and achieve. Save the Children Romania is privileged to take part in all this, to be able to create changes that lead to better lives for these children and their families. None of it, however, would have been possible without the support and resources the IKEA Foundation have given to us and, in the end, to the children.


    Juli Riegler