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The role of non-formal educational institutions in facilitating school-parent relationship

In one Roma segregation located in the southwest of Hungary, an after-school program serves as a vital link between local community residents and the school. The program, which is part of a state-sponsored national initiative designed to improve educational outcomes among disadvantaged children, functions as a youth community center for children all the way through to high-school age. The center is managed by Romani leadership and support staff are all local Roma parents from the segregation, whose children attend the center and local primary and secondary school.  

A crucial part of the local educational eco-system (consisting of the local primary, secondary school and the center itself), the center plays an important role in building a sense of community and trust in local institutions among local Roma parents, on the understanding that this is vital to educational outcomes for Roma children. Especially important for the center is a focus on supporting children making the transition from primary to secondary school education, where many issues with Roma children occur, often leading to them dropping out of education early. This is especially true in the case of female students. Practices among local Roma families include giving away girls to get married as young as 14. Furthermore, girls are also at risk of getting pregnant, which leads to them dropping out of school before graduating. By focusing on engaging parents, the center works to stress the importance and value of staying in education, in the hope that they will not only complete, but continue their education beyond high-school. 

As part of the center’s remit, children attend the after-school program, where they receive support with their homework and are able to play, besides being able to enjoy a number of programs, including seasonal events which the entire family can engage in. Examples of the kind of activities the center hosts include Easter, Christmas and national day celebrations, and activities like jam and pickle making and art classes. Many of the events organized by the center also have a Roma cultural theme – such as traditional musical performances or dance. With a focus on celebrating Roma history and culture, the center plays a key role in celebrating the identity of the children and their families, reflected by the many works of art created by the children that cover the walls of the center.  

In addition, the center also provides value support services for families, such as donations, and support with children’s learning, such as providing tablets during COVID. To engage harder to reach-parents, the center is focus on providing tangible goods to families to lure them in. The center also conducts family visit to try to help build relations. Looking to the future, the center and the local secondary school are looking to roll-out more programs for local residents, with a focus on activities such as cooking, to create an informal atmosphere where parents and teachers and other community members an engage to further strengthen relations. 

With an open-door policy, local residents are also welcome to come in at any time with any kind of personal problems they might have. One of the key ingredients for success in the after-school program is its visibility in the community. Located one street away from the local nursery, and right across the road from the center, the program provides a vital space where children can spend time outside of their home and school. This is supported by the fact that the center is essentially run by local Romani parents and residents, who serve as a vital link between local Roma residents and the local schools.