Safe Spaces for Learning in Romania

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Goldin Global Fellow (2018)

Here at the Education for Change Association in Romania, we have started the year by launching a new project: “Building a Safe Learning Context for Children”. Following my completion of the GATHER curriculum in 2018, I was able to secure a corporate partner who was able to support Education for Change again this year. Considering we had no financial support in 2020, as most funders priorities shifted towards addressing the COVID-19 situation, this is great news for us!

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The project started in March 2021 and it will run until November 2021. We hope to mark the end of the project by connecting with the Day of Prayer and Action for Children on November 20th.

The project, building a safe learning context for children, will involve 60 teachers and over 1800 children from over 25 schools who we work with across Romania. The project aims to strengthen children’s socio-emotional competencies by engaging them in sessions on how to respond to bullying, managing emotions (such as anger), assertive communication and how to solve conflicts peacefully. We expect children to be able to address effectively bullying and conflicts by themselves. One of the problems affecting children at the moment is cyberbullying, which has increased as a result of the pandemic and virtual learning and increases in the use of digital technologies. By learning online, most children have forgotten how to interact and engage with their peers.

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With this project, we also hope to reduce child violence in schools—a long-standing problem in Romania. Another aspect of this project will be to empower teachers to adapt our pedagogical approach to help their students deal with emotional and physical violence. We will produce booklets for teachers which include clear guidelines on how to educate children and manage cases related to child violence.

While the monthly training will be taking place online in Bucharest, our team members in other regions will be holding in person sessions with teachers and students. On the Day of Prayer and Action, we will have children sharing their insights (through art or videos) to inspire other children and promote what they have learned.

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Children are the best messengers for other children.

In line with the requirements from the corporate sponsor, we are implementing effective monitoring and evaluation steps to assess the overall impact of the project. Each month, children will be completing survey forms to provide feedback.

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The quotes below show some of the feedback received from the children involved so far:

′′I feel safe in these activities because we have discussed the rules in my group. I know, unlike at school, other students will not laugh at me when I have a different opinion." —student, 14 years old

′′If all teachers had your pedagogical approach, I would absolutely love all the materials." — student, 17 years old

′′I am from a Roma family and I used to feel judged by others for this. In your activities, I never felt uncomfortable or discriminated against... I feel listened to, and my opinions are being considered." —student, 17 years old

"I became more open, attentive to the needs of others and interested in other cultures. I have become more confident that I can help and inspire others to do so. Here I’ve discovered that I can be a leader." —student, 14 years old

′′I feel more confident to interact effectively, with respect and empathy, with people from other areas or backgrounds′′ — student, 17 years old

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