The services of the extracurricular educational program of the You Belong! System, the You Belong! Stúdió, are already operating in the city of Ózd. In addition, we are constantly developing our early developmental, nursery and elementary school services.
The System has to be developed and efficiently operated, where most social problems are present and where these problems are addressed the least. Such a place is Northern-Hungary and the city of Ózd, where we can encounter several aspects of the problems.
The Harlem Children Zone model, which has spread all over the US, has reformed and united the integration efforts, for many years. The You Belong! System shares mutual fundamental principles and goals, even if its locally adjusted services were developed in Hungary in the small city of Ózd, independently.
Based on the results of the 'Talent test' developed by a team of pedagogues and psychologists, the following criteria were applied when accepting our first classes of pupils. We were looking for motivated and talented students between the age of 9-14, living in deep poverty and attending segregated schools. The Stúdió offers a preparation for the further studying in inclusive, quality high-schools and provides a safety net for these children and their families. The development of their abilities happens in a supportive environment, through compensating, social, education and health disadvantages.
The basis of our pedagogy is a modern, reflective educational work built on our specific curriculum. We provide an education using creation as a tool, which is adjusted to the abilities and knowledge of the children, as well as the personal and effective development of the school results and skills required for further education. We offer ‘patronus’ services for the families and the children, during the social and education case management.
Social and education case management: Facilitators (‘patronuses’) individually deal with every child on a weekly basis. They monitor the development of the children at school and at the Stúdió as well as the status of the families. Each ‘patronus’ is responsible for about 10 to12 students . In addition, they cooperate with every actor, who affects the development of the children. This process is supported by a specific follow-up IT system.
The chances for further education for the Roma children living in deep poverty are constantly decreasing, which consequently lowers their chances for entering the labour market. In order to respond to this problem, possibly leading to social and economical crisis, we developed a complex extracurricular education service, operating in Ózd from 2014.
Our direct aim is the development of the cognitive, language and school competences as well as improving their motivation self-esteem and future orientation. Furthermore, we have to support the process of changing schools and the continuing development of our pupils. This could happen through an extracurricular, complex pedagogical work, an individual developmental program, on a daily basis. Finally, after their admission, dropping out must be prevented.
The progress of the children studying further is monitored by the ‘patronuses’, in cooperation with their new schools and with the help of our IT system.
All together we are building a supporting network between the accepting schools, the original schools and the You Belong! Educational Program. A central methodological element of our work is community building and a close, inclusive relationship with the families. In addition, nurturing talents and compensating for inherent disadvantages are a crucial part of our work for which we have undertaken Core Assessments with each family.
The You Belong! Stúdió was started in 2014 with the support of the Danish Velum Foundations.
The building of the Creative Centre lasted from January to October 2014. The Centre is situated at the border of the segregated areas and the centre of the city. It creates a familial environment for studying. Pupils use the equipment (kitchen, furniture, books, toys etc.) as if it was their own thus experiencing a lifestyle worth studying and working for.
The remaining part of the budget is spent on salaries, utilities and transportation. We provide transportation between the schools, the centre and their homes, who would not otherwise even get to our supporting services. Everyday meals provided are covered from donations and other occasional resources.
In parallel with the construction of the Creative Centre the selection of teachers, social workers, artists, and the talented Roma and non-Roma pupils was happening.
We have contacted the local schools and asked the teachers to recommend us talented, motivated, disadvantaged children between the age of 9-14. Out of the recommended 150 students, 77 got into the program, after the 'Talent test' and the personal interviews. The work with these children began in October2014, which offers a preparation for further studying in inclusive, quality high-schools as well as, provides a safety net for these children and their families.
We selected the teachers and the social workers/’patronuses’ via interviews. There are Hungarian literature and grammar, English, Maths, Science, History and Music teachers. The organization appears in Ózd as an employer too. For example, the cleaning personnel and two of the ‘patronuses’ were unemployed before their work at the Stúdió. Our staff includes 6 ‘patronuses’, 12 teachers, 1 special needs teacher, 12 volunteer professionals and 2 creation-oriented program leaders, who work in 6-hour shifts from Monday to Saturday.
Our aim is for the children to get used to such a cultural, verbal and intellectual environment that is natural for a middle-class, intellectual family. Apart from the knowledge transfer we are constantly developing the social and emotional competencies of our pupils. The artificial family of our Stúdió, enables children to perform well in inclusive educational institutions and workplaces. During the six years, hundreds of children will have attended the Stúdió and its surroundings, who will mean support for each other. When they grow up, they will also share a mutual identity, established by their Stúdió experiences. We try reinforce their self-esteem, which has an impact on their families and their school class-mates. The Stúdió encourages other children to enter, each year we have new pupils. The children in the Stúdió, would like to get their friends and siblings into the program which is a really positive feedback for us. We hope the multiplier effect will prevail inter-generationally.
Our work is often the subject of public discourse in the city, which is already creating a bridge between the excluded, looked down upon Roma and the non-Roma population. The Stúdió is also exemplary because of the diversity of its staff comprising intellectuals from Budapest and the countryside, local unemployed people, university students, teachers in and outside the public educational system, artists, psychologists and social workers, all working together for a more liveable future. In the everyday lives of the Stúdió the parents of our pupils also play a role such as as at the camp organized in Budapest in 2014. We divide and discuss the upcoming tasks within our team. There are no important and unimportant actors, since while one ‘patronus’ gives dancing classes for the younger kids, the older ones are getting ready for next day's test with a teacher. Although we have a pre-formulated framework curriculum, the requests and needs of the children are constantly shaping the everyday life of the Stúdió. We include the children in all activities, filming, taking photos, editing the Facebook page and even spreading out the table. Therefore, they feel that they are part of the success and are willing to take responsibility for the programs in the Stúdió, as well as increasingly endorsing its values.
The problems that are addressed by the VH System are generally characteristic of the Central-European lagging regions.
Thousands of children – regardless of their abilities – fall outside frameworks of mainstream educational and living standards. As such, they become predestined for a lifetime dependency on their families and on society. At the same time it is evident that today and in the future a labour force can only be successful, if it has marketable knowledge and qualifications and can join the employment competition in optimal physical, mental and psychological state.
Hungarian economists of MTA (Hungarian Academy of Sciences) and CEU (Central European University) have shown that there is a relevant gap between the reading and mathematical competencies between Roma and non-Roma students. These differences can be explained with determinative social factors, not the ethnic background. The reasons for the lagging behind of Roma youngsters are the following: (1) the disadvantaged access to that environment which could provide help for the development of skills in infancy and at school age, (2) the bad health condition at birth and during childhood, and finally (3) the unacceptable quality of the education.
Problem indicators in Ózd
It is characteristic of the local problem management that it lacks relevant and exact statistics and research. The strategy of the city and its indicators are a decade old. The 2011 data of the mandatory Local Equal Opportunities Plan (HEP) is fairly controversial.
The population and the ghetto
What we know: the population of Ózd is 37,380 out of which 7,649 live in a ghetto-like environment. The proportion of the 0-14 year olds in the population is 16%. In the segregated areas this proportion grows to 28%. The ratio turns in the case of the 60+ residents (21% in the total population and 11% in the ghettos). Based on national data, people living in ghettos die 10 years earlier on average.
Compared to the proportion of those 32% who finished maximum primary education in the total population, this percentage among the inhabitants of ghettos is 70%. Therefore it is not a surprise that only 2% can acquire secondary education or higher level degrees. In that respect the proportion of the entire region does not reach the national average. It is important to note that according to the scientific research and empirics, by the end of elementary school there is such an insurmountable backlog that it radically minimizes the chances for catching up. If we check the activities of the early developmental programs, it is also appalling that there is even no database of the children younger than 5 years old, living in the segregated areas. Furthermore, there is only one day-care operating in Ózd, which is filled by middle class children, the 108 places are taken by 113 children. Finally, it is clear that the later the intervention comes, the expenses of catching up grow and its efficiency becomes more and more questionable. However, it should be acknowledged that for the family-centered Roma population the current day-care structure is an unkind alternative. In the light of the above will the VH System apply the family services in its early developmental program the Stúdió Familia.
The proportion of quality nursery educational institutions is also disappointing. Out of 20, only 4 kindergartens are going exclusively Roma kids, in 10 Roma children are a determinative majority. In these kindergartens 93% of the kids are endangered, 60% is underprivileged and 34% have multiple disadvantages. These institutions are overloaded in all aspects, in comparison to the remaining 6 nurseries, where the remaining 35% is going, among which there are only a few Roma children.
The quality of education and the level of discrimination is similar in elementary schools as well. There are altogether 11 elementary schools in Ózd, where a total of 3,749 children are registered. Out of these, 2,549 (68%) are underprivileged and 1,239 (33%) have multiple disadvantages. Most of these children attend only 5 institutions. There is a concentration of challenges in the segregated areas, as the 86,6% of the mostly Roma elementary school students with multiple disadvantages as well as the 96% of the endangered kids are their students. Among the students of those 5 schools, 38,3% are severely disadvantaged and 12,7% are endangered. These proportions worsen every year. The quality of education of the endangered, disadvantaged, poor, mostly Roma students is unacceptable. All these institutions can be characterized with their unqualified teachers, underdeveloped educational environment, and outdated methods. These schools are unable to handle problems deriving from social or socio-cultural disadvantages. Therefore, it occurs, even with the talented children, that by the time they reach the end of their mandatory school age, they were able to finish 3-4 grades of elementary school. Most of them drop out definitively in their 7-8 grades. This unacceptable educational situation, the lack of quality educators in the area leading to an early drop out, thus the spreading of functional illiteracy and the reproduction of poverty.