Asociatia Ovidiu Rom and the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth, and SportÂ (MECTS) have jointly announced a contest among Romanian mayors to get every poor child in their communities in kindergarten this school year.
The contest was the brainchild of American actor Ethan Hawke.Â The Alex Fund, an American NGO started by the actor’s mother Leslie Hawke, has allocated $100,000 to help communities get all their children living below the poverty line into kindergarten this fall. Five communities will each receive a grant of approximately $20,000 (â‚¬ 15,000) to be used to enroll and keep all eligible children in kindergarten for the 2010-2011 school year.
To qualify, communities must fulfill all the following criteria:
- Having a school mediator in the community
- Having at least 50 children who don’t attend kindergarten
- The local community’s capacity to implement the Ovidiu Rom methodology
- The community’s determination to bring every child in kindergarten
Each selected community receives up to â‚¬150 for every kindergarten student whose family lives below the poverty level. In addition to providing food coupons to families whose children have perfect attendance, these funds cover teacher training and educational resources.
Letters cosigned by Ovidiu Rom’s director, Maria Gheorghiu and Secretary of State Oana Badea have been sent to every mayor in Romania, inviting them to apply for the funds. Â Applications will be acceptedÂ until 15 August 2010. Results will be announced on 31 August. More information about the application requirements and process can be found at http://www.ovid.ro/strategy-and-programs/national-contest/
Ethan Hawke, the two-time Academy Award nominee, is a board member of The Alex Fund and a long-standing supporter of the NGO that his mother and Maria Gheorghiu founded in Romania, Asociatia Ovidiu Rom.Â At their spring board meeting in New York, the discussion turned to the need to integrate poor children into the education system as early as possible.Â Mrs. Hawke was explaining that many Romanian mayors and school directors know that early education is important for children’s future success in life, “but they simply don’t have the budgets or know-how to address the problem that few poor parents send their children to kindergarten.Â Very poor people postpone enrolling their children in school and skip pre-school entirely â€” and the result is widespread early school abandonment â€” because these children never catch up academically to their peers.” Ethan suggested that the organization award a prize to the first community that manages to get every single one of their poorest children in kindergarten.
“At the Ovidiu Rom Board meeting in June, Anca Harasim came up with a similar proposal, so we took the idea to the Ministry of Education,” Leslie Hawke continued.
Oana Badea, State secretary at the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth, and Sports declared: “I commend the involvement of NGOs in stimulating partnerships between community, civil society, local, and central authorities. I especially appreciate the way Ovidiu Rom seeks to involve the entire community and raises awareness of education issues. Ovidiu Rom’s success in Castelu, Constanta County, proves the viability of such initiatives. I will continue to support all constructive initiatives of the civil society that address real reform of the education system.”
Mrs. Hawke explained “we have learned that the key to integrating impoverished children in school is to provide modest incentives to their parents.” In communities where it works, Ovidiu Rom gives 50 lei per month food coupons to parents whose pre-schoolers have perfect attendance.Â In one community this spring, 94 percent of the children who were eligible for the food coupons had perfect attendance.Â According to Mrs. Hawke, “That is a really remarkable change in behavior â€” for a very modest investment.”
“When children start school behind, they stay behind. Children who get a good start with high quality pre-school learn how to interact with other people and develop cognitively and emotionally. They are less likely to need ‘special education’ and are more likely to graduate.Â When those children become adults, they are more likely to hold jobs and earn higher salaries, less likely to commit crimes, less likely to be on welfare.” In contrast, children whose young minds have not been challenged before they enter first grade are already so stunted compared to their classmates that they suffer continual discouragement and usually drop out before high school.
“I hear people say, ‘but there aren’t enough places,’ as if that were some immutable law of nature,” Mrs. Hawke added.Â “Communities that genuinely want to get every child in kindergarten â€” they find the space.Â Â We want to support responsible, forward thinking mayors and school directors who really care about the future of their communities, not just about the ‘smart kids’ (who will most likely leave for better opportunities elsewhere).Â I also think there are a lot of companies that would be eager to direct their CSR resources to help make this happen â€” if they perceive a commitment at the local level.”
Asociatia Ovidiu Rom helps schools and communities to successfully integrate children from impoverished families into the educational system. Fiecare Copil in Scoala (“Every child in school”) is a national initiative to get every child in Romania into the education system at an early age. “Scoala te face mare” is a public awareness campaign initiated in 2009.Â Founded in 2001, The Alex Fund raises funds and awareness in the U.S. in support of educational opportunity for Romania’s poorest citizens . The motto of the Alex Fund is “helping people help themselves”.Â Â www.alexfund.org
Contact:Â Nicoleta Popa â€” 0728 77 88 18, email@example.com
Str. Dr. Raureanu, nr. 4, etaj 3, Bucuresti, 050048Â Â tel/fax: 021-315.8806 Â Â www.ovid.ro
 “Early Education for All: A Wise Investment” by Leslie Calman & Linda Tarr-Whelan, April 2005