Three years ago the children from Bacău County decided for themselves the investments they and their schools needed
Last week, „Terre des hommes Foundation” in Romania officially concluded a project that aimed to improve the education infrastructure in the rural area of Bacău County and to create safer and more welcoming schools for 11,000 students.
The project ended with an online conference, which was attended by teachers from the communities involved, children, Foundation partners, mayors, as well as Mr. Sorin Ion, the Secretary of State for Pre-University Education, and H.E Mr. Arthur Mattli, Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation to Romania. Also, prof.dr. Sergiu Băltățescu presented at the conference a sociological survey on child welfare, a study conducted among children from 7 communities in Bacău.
In 2017, the Terre des hommes team started the SHINE project (Support for social infrastructure, health and education) by going to Bacău County and asking 800 children what their main needs were related to education. At the top of the children’s list were “colorful schools, roads, toilets in schools, better school buses, a place to have lunch.”
The Terre des hommes Foundation assessed these needs on the spot and found that in some communities, some schools had toilets on a hill, students played sports on gravel or depended on random means of transportation and lost hours on the road to and from at school.
Thus began the two and a half years of work, i.e. making a total of 50 investments in 37 communities, according to the wishes of the children, as follows:
- 21 investments in school furniture and equipments in Asău, Berzunți, Blăgești, Căiuți, Colonești, Corbasca, Dămienești, Dofteana, Letea Veche, Lipova, Moinești (two investments), Oituz, Poduri, Răchitoasa, Sănduleni, Stănișești, Târgu Ocna, Urechești, Zemeș
- 11 sports fields made in Bogdănești, Căiuți, Colonești, Găiceana, Moinești, Motoșeni, Slănic Moldova, Târgu Ocna, Vultureni, Zemeș
- 6 rehabilitated buildings and / or equipped with heating installation in Bogdănești, Berești-Tazlău, Berzunți, Moinești, Ungureni, Vultureni
- 6 playgrounds created in Gura Văii, Negri, Pîrjol, Racova, Sarata, Scorțeni
- 3 bathrooms made in Dealu Morii, Horgești, Motoșeni
- 3 school minibuses purchased in Asău, Buhuși and Strugari
In total, over 11,000 children have benefited and will benefit from the investments within the SHINE project, and 37 schools in Bacău will be waiting for students with a better infrastructure.
Involving the children
The SHINE project meant not only investments, but also a process of encouraging children to express their opinions and demand their rights. Hundreds of children were involved from the beginning in choosing the type of investment, then in the design of playgrounds or school furniture.
The Terre des hommes Foundation organized non-formal education activities with the students, which helped them to get to know each other, to express themselves. Last but not least, they prepared them to use the goods and investments in the schools responsibly, to ask for access to them and to report any irregularities. H.E. Mr Arthur Mattli, Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation, remarked at the conference that “Terre des hommes has invested not only in infrastructure but also in educating small leaders”.
“Through this process through which the Foundation’s team always consulted the children at every stage and through the non-formal education activities carried out with them in schools, the children understood that they are the most important in the educational process. And beyond the concrete achievements, this is probably the most important success of the project, because these children will grow up aware that they have essential rights and will claim them “, says Tudor Roșu, who leads the Eastern European Delegation of the Terre des hommes Foundation.
Involvement of local town halls
The Terre des hommes Foundation has invested $ 1.7 million according to the needs indicated by students, but the total value of the investments is almost double, if we include the amounts by which town halls participated in some communities. “Sometimes they had the funds, but they needed to be consulted about their use,” says Marian Dămoc, Terre des hommes Field Monitoring & Evaluation Officer. “So we were a <spark> that triggered the desire of the mayors to help and we showed them how to make other investments for children.”
However, at this moment, pupils in Bacău do not benefit from these facilities, due to the pandemic, and their problems have been aggravated: poverty, domestic violence or violence directly on them, low educational level. When they return to school, these will come to the surface again, in the absence of coordinated support from the authorities. Terre des hommes thus draws attention to the need for all children, especially those in the most disadvantaged areas, to be supported to continue their education.
About the Terre des hommes Foundation in Romania
The SHINE project was implemented between 2017 and 2020 by the Terre des hommes Romania Foundation and funded by the Botnar Foundation in Switzerland. Terre des hommes Foundation is the most important Swiss organization for the protection of children’s rights and it defends the rights of children in Romania and implements at least ten projects dedicated to them every year, with an average of 10,000 beneficiaries. Tdh has been contributing for over 25 years to the improvement of the child protection system in Romania, to the reform of social assistance and it facilitates the participation of children in the development of their own community.