The USAID Roma Education Project (REP), implemented by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia, is a $4.5 million initiative that works with the Roma communities to raise awareness about the importance of education and assists over 1,500 Roma students annually to improve their school performance and completion rates. The current project activities focus on working with preschool and primary grades students. In previous years the project also worked with secondary school and university students and provided scholarships and mentoring. Between 2004-2009, REP has provided scholarships to and mentored 364 secondary school students, and 135 university students. The project also provided training to 400 teachers from eight primary schools on such topics as interactive teaching methods, inter-cultural education, and how to deal with diversity and promote social justice.
REP partners with four Roma centers in Skopje, Kumanovo, and Prilep and prepares up to 250 preschool children each year to start the first grade. The centers also provide after- school tutoring and homework support to 900 students in grades 1-9. Since 2011, the project has been working directly with partner schools building capacity for child-centered teaching methods, improving curricula, and introducing materials that promote cultural diversity and deal with prejudice.
To promote greater cultural awareness and intercultural tolerance, the partner schools are implementing a variety of activities that bring together children from the different ethnic groups – Macedonian, Roma, Serbs. Illustrative slogans include: Bridges of Trust, Differences are beautiful – beauty is different, Together we can do everything, Poetry collection – My colorful dreams.
Achievements and Impact
REP’s comprehensive community-based approach has produced impressive results:
• Over 90% of the preschool children assisted by the project have successively enrolled in first grade and over 94% of primary school children participating in the project have successfully completed their studies.
• 298 secondary school students who received scholarships have successfully completed high school. The Ministry of Education and Science has recognized the success of the scholarship/mentorship model and since 2009 has been providing scholarships to Roma students.
• Since 2004, eighty four scholarship recipients have completed university studies. Most of these graduates are employed in public administration, schools, NGOs, and international organizations and are strong advocates for Roma inclusion and active participants in Roma communities.
• There is a greater awareness among the parents about the importance of education for securing a better future for their children and many are now actively participating in school activities and serve on Parents councils and School Boards.