Although in the political speech, particularly in the Centenary year, education is announced as a national priority, Romanian school remains, almost since three decades, one of the least assumed fields, with an insufficient budget, and even more seriously, which is not transparent, since financing misses exactly the most important players of the system, namely the teacher and the student. Therefore, every year, about 30,000 children in the primary school and gymnasium drop out of school, which means that the society loses on the way its most important resources. They are the children whom the Save the Children Organization tries to identify every year and bring them back to school, by the complex social and educational support programs, whose cause is the core of the Christmas Tree Festival, which reached full age in 2018.
The 18th edition of the Christmas Tree Festival will take place on December 6 at Stejarii Country Club, aiming to raise funds for school education of 4,000 children, beneficiaries of the Scoala dupa Scoala (School after School – e.n.) programs.
The limited access to educational support programs aggravates the phenomenon of the children left out of school, in the context in which Romania continues to be in the top of the countries in this respect, with a percentage of 12.1%, which is worrying at European level. Speaking only about the school dropout, 25,000 to 35,000 children dropped primary and secondary school education annually, between 2010 and 2017, according to the INS statistics. In the 2016-2017 schoolyear, 26,850 children left primary and secondary school.
In the 18 years exclusively dedicated to the cause of the children for whom education remains only a right on a paper, Save the Children Romania has brought to school 34,385 children from 36 counties, of which 7,556 children in Summer Kindergarten programs, 23,083 children in School after School programs, and 3,846 children in The Second Chance program, managing to collect, with the support of the companies, the amount of EUR 4,547,800. They are recovered children, who, once they are helped, really fight for their chance, as the outcomes show.
- Thus: Almost 93% of the children who benefited from the social and educational services of the Save the Children summer kindergartens are brought to school, only 2.39% of them are out of the mass educational system (school/kindergarten), and the rest of them, 4.78% are abroad, due to the economic migration of their parents;
- In the School after School program – 92% of the children registered school progress compared to the situation before participating in the program, 45% of the beneficiary children registered good and very good results at school, while 20% of them received prizes at school contests;
- in The Second Chance program – an average of 85% of the children have passed at least one module at the annual examination sessions.
The CEO of Save the Children Romania, Gabriela Alexandrescu: “Due to the incoherent public policies and the pocket reforms with a short-term validity, the Romanian school, namely the society, loses on the way its most vulnerable members, the children. This is the dramatic consequence of some financing operations that fail to consider exactly the beneficiary – the student -, and which, instead of guaranteeing the equal access to education, they rather condition it to the financial possibilities of the parents. By the educational programs, Save the Children Romania is supplementing exactly this issue: our assistants identify children by children in the communities, actively bringing those who are forgotten by the system back to school and supporting them. This is what the Christmas Tree Festival, which has reached full age today, means”.
At the same time, Romania allocated some of the lowest percentages of GDP, compared to the EU member states. Although the Law no.1/2011 on the national education establishes that at least 6% of the gross domestic product of the year in question must be allocated from the state budgets and the budgets of the local public authorities (Art.8), in 2017 and 2018 our country allocated less than 3% of the GDP (2.86%, respectively 2.98%). The expenditure represented 3.1% of the GDP in 2015 and 3.7% of the GDP in 2016, while the average at the level of the EU member states was 5% (2016).
The poor financing of the education, the many reforms started and abandoned on the way doubled the hidden costs of education in only eight years: from an average amount of RON 1,490 per child, to RON 3,093 per child, according to the latest research of the Save the Children Romania. The parents pay the bill, and children whose parents don’t have the necessary financial resources become vulnerable and they are discriminated from the beginning.
In 2010, the Save the Children survey was showing for the first time that education is only theoretically free of charge in Romania. In fact, parents were forced to pay costs which were not included by any law or educational reform, for which they didn’t receive any receipt, in most of the cases. The average amount brought by the child from home in order to benefit from education was, at that time, RON 1,490. Eight years later, the additional amount to be paid by parents is double: RON 3,093 is the average annual cost of the “free” education of the child, according to the data collected on the field by Save the Children, in a new sociological report; the values are higher in the urban areas than in the rural ones (RON 3,351 compared to RON 2,757).
The PISA data is relevant: only 11.3% of the Romanian teenagers coming from the most disadvantaged quarter of the population manage to achieve results among the top 25%, while the average of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is 29.2%. At the same time, if we look at the percentage of the students who registered at least one episode of grade repetition, we notice that the percentage is three times higher for the children coming from the most disadvantaged quarter (10.9%), compared to those coming from the most advantaged quarter (3.4%).
The CEO of Save the Children Romania, Gabriela Alexandrescu: “This year, politicians are speaking a lot about the Romania’s progress after 100 years. A real celebration would be the one in which the universal education, one of the Romania’s goals, is assumed as a national priority”.