The Alternative Education Club (AEC) is a non-formal education program which started in 2010 in the elementary school no.136 and was extended in the following 2 years in 2 other schools (no. 2 and no. 148). Currently it includes over 200 Roma and non-Roma children from Ferentari. The AEC’s aim is to support children to break the vicious circle of marginalization, poverty and hopelessness, through sport and alternative education.
The club is set in one of the neighborhoods well known for drug usage and trafficking, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. Extreme poverty, illiteracy, detention and its consequences are characteristics that the kids we work with, their parents and society in general, have come to consider normal for this community. Children from this area rarely graduate high school or university. No one – not even their parents – considers they are able to succeed in the academic field. Moreover, the children face ethnic discrimination and disdain from the majority of the population on a daily basis. They are being discredited for being part of the Roma community – which is widely discriminated in Romania. In these conditions, their motivation to stay in the educational system is low, since even they end up believing they are not able to succeed and that school cannot help them overcome the obstacles they confront with. They do not have positive role models in life or support from their families or the community and on top of this, teachers discredit them as well.
Unlike others, we believe that education is the only way these children have to break the vicious circle of marginalization and poverty. We use sports, art and remedial education to change their perspectives and opportunities.
The Alternative Education Club Objectives:
• Create a safe, creative and challenging space for the children, inside the school
• Offer counseling and mentoring for a group of children who are actively involved in the project
• Develop innovative approaches focused on school performance improvement and also forming cognitive, artistic and creative abilities
• Create strong sport teams in order to improve discipline, team work, self-esteem and respect for the opponent
• Promote the idea of active citizenship and respect among the Roma and non-Roma children involved in the project
Six days a week, even during the summer holiday, the children have access to a multitude of activities:
• Remedial education – depending on the level of knowledge, the children are supported by members of the team to improve competences like mathematical skills or reading and writing in Romanian or English. The goal of this activity is to support the children to reach the educational level suitable for their age.
• Non-formal education (sports, artistic and cultural activities) – Sport is one of the most popular activities from the club, engaging children in a fun but disciplined manner. We believe that sports can play a crucial role in a child’s development, molding his/her personality and teaching dedication, team work and mutual respect. Currently we have teams practicing: football (the children are coordinated by a Roma trainer from the community), handball, street dance (Born4Trouble dance crew). During the last 4 years the children have also taken other classes like: contemporary dance, basketball, table tennis, volleyball, boxing, gymnastics and also psycho-educational counseling.
• Artistic and cultural activities – drama (coordinated in 2010 and 2011 by the Roma actor Sorin Sandu and currently by the actor Ionut Oprea), music (coordinated in the past by musician Damian Draghici and currently by young Roma musicians), painting, financial education (Aflatoun and Aflateen), health education, photography, quilling, storytelling, educational games.
• Mentoring – this activity aims to consolidate the relationship between the children and the staff of the AEC by counseling them in order to define the personal development objectives. Furthermore this component aims to trace a typology of positive role models for the children to refer to in contrast to the negative role models they have in the community.
• Community organizing – each week we organize meetings with the mothers who participate in the AEC activities in order to identify issues within the community and to find the most suitable solutions to engage and involve the members in the process of change.