“Envisioning what might be a more effective system is one thing; doing it to scale is something else.” O’Day & Smith, Quality & Equality in American Education, P. 329
The gulf between legal entitlement and effectively implementing a progressive program is immense. The Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță Law was a wonderful breakthrough for Romania’s most marginalized young children – but the gulf between legal entitlement and effectively implementing a progressive program is immense. Facilitating the scale-up from 2500 children in 45 communities to 100,000 in 3000 communities is a challenge, to say the least. And although the government allocated over €12 million in its 2016 budget for food coupon incentives – it allocated no financial or human resources for launching and enforcing the program or providing other basic program elements – like training local teams in kindergarten recruitment techniques, parent education, or even the basic data entry procedures demanded by the regulations. It also did not cover related essential costs like appropriate clothes, school supplies, and program monitoring.
Years of investment by OvidiuRo, the Romanian corporate sector, and concerned individuals resulted in a major policy shift when the “FCG Law” was passed But that investment can only truly pay off if it becomes an integral part of the fabric of local community life throughout Romania. Consequently, OvidiuRo has taken on the proactive role of FCG implementation facilitator, assisting communities in correctly administering FCG and optimizing its impact. OvidiuRo is also serving as the initiative’s de facto rapporteur, reporting back to the key government ministries and county officials about problems that arise, proposing solutions, and then communicating the outcomes back to the local implementation teams.
The responsibility for day-to-day operations now rests entirely with mayors and school directors. OvidiuRo’s role is to inspire, guide, trouble-shoot, and monitor the process so the program is well received and communities maximize its potential to help marginalized children enter primary school with the skills they need to succeed.
The pilot program that OvidiuRo designed became a national initiative several years ahead of the 2020 goal OvR had set for reaching this objective. Follow the story of FCG’s organic growth from 13 to 45 communities here
OvidiuRo’s entire team of 12 took to the road in three caravans to meet with authorities in every one of Romania’s 41 counties, informing and instructing local implementation teams in the proper procedures for implementing the program, and taking note of concerns that were broached at the town hall style meetings. Separate meetings were held with the County Council, School Inspectorate, and Prefects. Total participation: 8,000 public employees.
Public Service Announcement
OvidiuRo also launched a national TV campaign to encourage poor parents to register their children in kindergarten. The TV spot features FCG pilot program children exclusively.
Maria Gheorghiu, OvidiuRo co-founder and executive director was tapped to be the Prime Minister’s State Counselor on Social Inclusion, spearheading the PM’s “Integrated Anti-Poverty Package of 47 Measures”. Although a loss for OvR’s day to day operations, Gheorghiu’s move to the Prime Minister’s Chancellery gives OvR a direct communication link to all levels of the central government agencies under which the program now operates.
Read-Aloud Summer Caravan
OvidiuRo’s 12 member professional staff split into two teams and spent nine weeks on the road in two “caravans”. The teams visited 99 communities in 15 counties interacting with: 5700 children, 3100 parents, 200 teachers, 85 school directors, 63 social workers, 52 mayors, and an assortment of other stakeholders. More info about the Read-Aloud Summer Caravan here.
2016-2017 School Year Caravan: “Pofta de carte”
Over the course of the school year 10,000 disadvantaged children are getting their own picture books to take home and 1,000 kindergarten teachers are getting “Big Books”.
The “Poftă de Carte” Read-Aloud Caravan powered by Carrefour serves to raise awareness of the value of reading and also of healthy nutrition.
How it works: Preschool age children, whether enrolled or not, are invited, along with their parents, to attend a read aloud session at the local kindergarten. Afterward they get a book of their own (“Să mâncăm multe culori”) to take home, in which the teacher prints their name.
Read-Aloud Caravans Map