Segregation of Roma is determined by socioeconomic and historical factors, and has a detrimental effect on young children (and their families) in terms of their rights, development, and their future perspectives. This is also reflected in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), as well as other levels of communal life. The latest reports show a dramatic increase of Roma-only classes in spite of the authorities’ commitment to reduce the number of classes with Romani pupils only.
The project ‘TOY for Inclusion’ aims to offer an innovative response to discrimination of Romani children and their communities through the development of community-based early childhood education and care services with a focal point in toy libraries.
TOY for Inclusion promotes the active involvement of Romani and non-Romani communities in ECEC services, through the development of toy libraries and intergenerational learning (IGL). Toy libraries are a successful approach to overcome segregation, provide access to quality non formal ECEC services that improve transition experience to formal education and build the capacity of parents. The project will organise IGL activities within toy libraries. IGL activities involve different age groups, including young children and senior adults, learning together and learning from each other. Previous research demonstrated that such activities challenge stereotypes and all involved experience the values of solidarity, respect and acceptance of the ‘other’. Discrimination against the very young and older adults is challenged.
The project offers an innovative response to discrimination of Romani communities by creating community based ECEC hubs (resource and meeting centres) in the form of toy libraries, which build on the strengths of the Romani communities with regards to IGL and parenting skills, and at the same time improving the capacity of ECEC practitioners with respect to anti-discrimination, which will increase the inclusiveness of ECEC settings.
The project expects to counteract the lack of stimulating educational environments for Romani children in 6 European countries: Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Toy libraries have become a model of good practice for alternative ECEC programming, offering children not only place to play, but also help them develop necessary skills and knowledge for formal education.
TOY for Inclusion builds on 3 existing initiatives:
1) The Romani Early Years Network - REYN - is part of and managed by the partner organization ISSA, and it connects more than 450 early childhood practitioners who work with Romani and Traveller children, families and communities in 32 countries across Europe, the Caucasus and the Americas
2) Together Old and Young – TOY Project, the purpose of which is to create possibilities for senior citizens and young children to learn and have fun together in formal and informal settings, in EU.
3) Toy libraries is a community venue where children and their families can borrow toys and books that are designed to support children’s development and learning. They provide an opportunity for parents and grandparents to develop their skills and to understand the role of play in their child’s development. They also provide an opportunity to build links in the community – both among parents and grandparents, and between parents and services for families of young children, such as pre-schools, and primary schools. Toy Library Operating Guidelines, developed by Roma Education Fund (REF) in 2012, and revised by ICDI in 2016 on behalf of REF and will be an important resource in the project.
Overall goal: to combat segregation of Romani young children and families, and enhance social cohesion through community based inclusive Early Childhood Education & Care (ECEC) services. The project also aims to improve the transition experience of Romani children to schools.
TOY for Inclusion is the result of the cooperation between International Child Development Initiatives – ICDI (NL), International Step-by-Step Association – ISSA (NL) and six members of the Romani Early Years Network – REYN: Developmental Research Center for Pedagogical Initiatives Step by Step – DRCPI SBS (Slovenia), Open Academy Step by Step – OASS (Croatia), Centre for Education Initiatives – CEI (Latvia), Wide Open School – WOS (Slovakia), Centre for Innovation in the Early Years – VBJK (Belgium) and Partners Hungary.