The Roma communities in Albania (which has been ADRA Albania´s target group) are known to be lagging in literacy and formal education. It is estimated that more than two-fifths (43%) of Roma children between the ages of 15 to 16 are illiterate and the majority of these illiterate children are girls. The reasons attributed to this problem range from poverty, lack of parental control and the attitude of the Roman community towards education. In addition, the lack of educational materials, favorable environment for studies, lack of infrastructure, child-friendly curriculum, suitable teaching methodology, discrimination, etc., are some of the issues identified by ADRA Albania. As a result of these reasons, many children (especially in the Roma communities) drop out of school creating a worrying situation of high illiterate population in the community.
This problem gave birth to the “Second Chance” program which was introduced by the Ministry of Education Sports and Youth in 2004. The core mandate of the program is to give opportunities to children who are school dropouts to be re-enrolled into schools to be educated. Even though the intention was good, the implementation is faced with some challenges. Besides the already known educational challenges (stated in the first paragraph) faced by the Roma communities in terms of children’s education, the “Second Chance” program lacked the right structure for its success. Unicef through its monitoring of the program discovered the lack of requisite skills for the teachers to teach school dropouts. The educational needs were much greater than what was anticipated and the methodology employed for the program proved ineffective.
ADRA Albania through its educational advocacy programs has been able to intervene and help many children and families in the Roman communities to be educated. In achieving this, the organization tackled the issue through different thematic areas. These are:
Infrastructure: The organization reconstructed and renovated some school facilities. For example, through the support of some donors, Hajdar Hoxha and Arberie Schools were reconstructed and educational learning materials were given.
Economic: Lack of money in the households prevented children from attending school. Children (especially girls) stay home to help their parents to work for money to cater for the house. Based on the assessments, surveys and
experiences from past projects, ADRA Albania orients families on the need to allow their children to be in school (especially girls) and simultaneously identifying the poor families and helping them register in the socio-economic scheme.
Social: Through the assistance of Austrian development Cooperation (ADC) and ADRA Austria A Chance for Life Project was started in 2016. This project aimed at preparing individuals (including children) of the society for tomorrow by giving them a general education regarding life skills and introducing them to the public services. This is to ensure children become responsible citizens and parents become productive for their children´s development.
ADRA Albania has achieved a lot in education advocacy in Albania and continues to do more. Through the Second Chance project, the organization has registered and enrolled to school 417 dropout children. This example has motivated many families in the Roma communities to send their children to school and ensure their children remain there to be educated. Also, the teachers have been trained and motivated in various ways to understand the need of these dropout students.
Furthermore social workers, through pieces of training organized by ADRA Albania have been encouraged to do more visits in the Roman communities. They are to identify the needs of families and children and help in solving them. These social workers also raise awareness of the need to send children to school and look for cases of abuse to possibly intervene.
Last but not the least, four youth activist groups which compose of youngsters from the majority and Roma/Egyptian community were formed. Their purpose is to participate in non-formal education programs by developing social and life skills.
ADRA Albania is looking forward to doing more for the underprivileged households in the Egyptian\Roman communities to have access to education. The organization hopes to get more funding to build the capacity of its staff to effectively bring positive educational reforms to these communities. In partnership with the relevant governmental agencies and other civil service organizations (CSO´s) in Albania, the organization envisages a future of more underprivileged children having access to quality education and life skills.