Adolescence is a particularly vulnerable period in human life. At the same time, it can be the most fruitful period for bringing about positive change in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours, before they are fully formed. However, such change can be difficult to achieve in a socially isolated and poor community where children repeat the choices of their parents, unless there are targeted efforts.
While participating in the program the young people realise that what is happening to them is not just destiny, but to a large extent a function of their own behaviour. Through value clarification and the building of self-esteem the youths learn how to take responsibility, set goals and put efforts into preparing for a better job and opening better prospects for future families.
The program develops the following skills:
- goal setting
- life planning
- keeping rules
- improvement of self-esteem
- time management
- task prioritisation
- taking responsibility
- recognition and avoidance of risky behaviours
- staying healthy
Investing in the social skills of young Roma is investing in the sustainable development of our economy and business. The “soft” skills that the adolescents acquire during the training make them competitive, improve the outcomes from enrolling in professional qualification courses and raise their chances not only to find a job but also to retain it.
Data from various international studies confirm that one’s school achievements, level of educational degree and the likelihood of dropping out are determined by one’s development by the time they are 5 years old. The individual qualities formed at this early stage of development determine not only the child’s academic success, but also the course of their whole life.
Despite the clear-cut conclusion that early childhood education can solve the problems of social and economic inequality, in our country only 20% of the Roma children aged 3-6 are included in a program for early education and development. Participation in these programs subsequently leads to better health, delaying early pregnancy, reduced crime and risky behaviour, improved employment opportunities and higher income.
The program for early childhood development targets two main groups of children (0-3 year olds and 4-5 year olds) and includes two types of services:
• Training of mothers of children 0-3 years of age and pregnant women for improving their parenting skills.
This period is the time when proper care for the children’s physical and mental health (nutrition, health care and hygiene, the setting of daily routines and boundaries, etc.) are crucial to their future development. The training also establishes new norms in the community for raising children.
• Early childhood education for 4-5 years old children from disadvantaged communities who do not attend kindergarten.
The aim is to develop their social, language, cognitive and motor skills as a key prerequisite for successful integration in the classroom and the most effective preventive measure against dropping out. The parents’ involvement ensures that the care for the child’s development continues in the family environment.
The training program for entrepreneurship and design thinking focuses on the participants’ self-perception as individuals who can develop their own idea and turn it into a working product or service. Given the specific context of their daily environment, trainings include basic business skills, as well as guidelines for Internet-based work, information search strategies and useful examples, ways of putting the examples and guidelines into practice, communication skills, ways to attract partners, use of design thinking and creativity as competitive advantages.
A key element in the training is social entrepreneurship, i.e. how to create and develop a business which not only brings revenue to its founder, but also brings positive change to the environment in which it operates. We also place a significant focus on the need to find the value in entrepreneurship through trial and experimentation, in contrast to the self-perception of many young Roma as victims rather than generators of new ideas and development.