Bucharest, 20 January 2016 – Asociația OvidiuRo (OvR) announced the passage of the Government Decision approving the secondary legislation for Law 248/2015 regarding “preschool participation stimulation for destitute families and distribution procedure for the social coupon incentives”. The secondary legislation underwent the required 10-day public consultation procedure from 5-14 January and the program will officially start on 15 February 2016 – the first day of the second semester.
The Fiecare Copil in Grădiniță (FCG) Law comes as an important element of Romania’s efforts to meet the Europe 2020 Strategy objectives of reducing school abandonment, poverty and inequity. In 2014 the school dropout rate had risen to over 18% and it is estimated that presently only one in three poor children benefit from any formal early education, despite the fact that over 80% of all Romanian children do attend at least one year of preschool.
Law 248/2015 encourages the regular attendance of 3-6-year-old children in grădiniță by granting €11 per month in food coupons (conditional on the child’s daily attendance in preschool) to households where the monthly income is under 284 lei (€63) per family member. The Ministry of Labor estimates that 111,000 children are eligible to receive the kindergarten food coupons.
This national program adopts the central mechanism of the FCG pilot program designed for children in impoverished rural areas and financed from private donations. Now the food coupon incentives will be furnished from the state budget, while the responsibility for effectively implementing the program will rest with mayors and school directors.
“Law 248/2015 and the secondary legislation establish the legal framework for inclusive pre-school education in Romania, but the program’s success will depend on local deployment. We learned during the pilot period that it is essential that the local community actively recruit and genuinely welcome all children into preschool and then strictly enforce the daily attendance requirement. The local team’s capacity to collaborate and find solutions to whatever snags come up is key,” declared OvidiuRo cofounder Maria Gheorghiu.
Between 25 January and 12 February, OvidiuRo will conduct a series of information sessions for mayors and school directors in each county. These sessions will clarify the program mechanism and its deployment in accordance with local conditions and issues. To this aim, OvidiuRo recently launched the resource-page www.fiecarecopilingradinita.ro.
“OvidiuRo is happy to share its expertise culled from five years’ implementation in pilot communities and 15 years’ experience addressing poverty and school abandonment. And until a more sustainable solution is supplied by the authorities, we will cover the food coupons for the estimated 3000 children who meet the poverty criteria but due to various legal issues do not meet the government’s requirements.” Gheorghiu added.
Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță became a national program as a result of the widespread support of lawmakers in the importance of early education for all. OvidiluRo’s gratefully acknowledges the contributions of:
Gabriela Achihai, Ecaterina Andronescu, Gabriel Berca, Ana Birchall, Claudia Boghicevici, Monica Bradu, Emanuel Cernat, Cezar Cioată, Bogdan Liviu Ciucă, Sorin Cîmpeanu, Marin Cojoc, Ionuț Cojocaru, Claudiu Coman, Daniel Constantin, Claudia-Ana Costea, Aurelia Cristea, Valentin Cuibus, Adrian Curaj, Ștefan-Petru Dalca, Ligia Deca, Mihai Deaconu, Adrian-Nicolae Diaconu, Ion Diniță, Vasile-Cătălin Drăgușanu, Georgică Dumitru, Constantin Galan, Cristian Ghinea, Mihaela Grecu, Iulian Iancu, Robert Ion, Florin Iordache, Vicențiu-Mircea Irimie, Gabriel Ispas, Catălin Mardare, Viorica Matei, Liliana Mincă, Ioan Moldovan, Nicoleta Molnar, Rodica Nassar, Margareta Neacșu, Marian Neacșu, Cornelia Negruț, Cristina Nichita, Daniel Vasile Oajdea, Andreea Paul, Mihai Păunică, Rovana Plumb, Tudor Rareș Pop, Gabriela Popescu, Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, Viorica Preda, Liliana Preoteasa, Codrin Scutaru, Livia Liliana Sibișteanu, Ovidiu Ioan Silaghi, Adrian Solomon, Laurențiu Ștefan, Angel Tîlvăr, Raluca Țurcan, Dorinel Ursărescu, Istvan Vakar, Gabriel Vlase, Valeriu Zgonea.
Evolution of Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță
2010: In 13 rural communities OvR initiates the “Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță” program with the Ministry of Education, inviting mayors to apply for a grant to help get impoverished children in preschool and improve their attendance. The “Școala te Face Mare” Public Awareness Campaign focuses on communicating the importance of early education for impoverished children.
2011: OvR extends FCG program to 20 communities.
2012: OvR’s public awareness campaign emphasizes the importance of early education with the slogan “Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță is the responsibility of each of us”. Nine Ambassadors to Romania (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, UK & US) join OvR to create the Ambassadors’ Early Education Initiative to raise awareness of the importance of early education in the fight against poverty.
2013: OvidiuRo signs a two-year partnership with the Ministry of Education to analyze the impact of FCG. Sibiu and Cluj extend program to new communities. Denmark, Norway and Sweden join the Ambassadors’ Early Education Initiative.
2014: Cluj includes food coupon incentives for preschool attendance in the county budget. EEA Grant from Norway, Liechtenstein & Iceland fuels expansion in Brasov, Dambovita and Dolj. Inter-Ministerial Task Force comprised of Ministries of Education, Labor, European Funds & Finance plus county and local authorities is created to prepare the way for scaling up nationally. FCG reaches 2200 children in 11 counties.
2015: Minister of Education Sorin Cîmpeanu and State Secretary of the Ministry of Labor Codrin Scutaru participate in the fourth annual meeting of the Ambassadors’ Initiative. OvidiuRo and the Ministries of Education and Labor sign inter-ministerial agreement paving the way for the national expansion. FCG reaches over 2400 children in 12 counties.
March: MP Daniel Constantin proposes a bill to clear the legislative framework pertaining to tichete sociale and “promote participation in preschool of children from destitute families”. Nineteen deputies and senators from across the political spectrum co-sign bill.
June: Senate passes bill (117 votes in favor, 0 against, 2 abstentions).
August: OvR launches public awareness campaign: ”Without education, dreams vanish!”
September: Upon favorable opinion from the Government, The Labor & Social Protection and Budget Committees amend the proposed legislation and transform the food coupon mechanism into a “program of national interest” financed from the state budget.
October: The Chamber of Deputies passes Bill 248/2015 with 289 Deputies in favor, 5 abstentions and one no vote) financing a national program to encourage 3-5 year old children living in poverty to regularly attend grădiniță. Based on the FCG model, families under the poverty line will receive food coupons worth €11 per month if their child attends preschool every day.
President Klaus Iohannis signs Law 248/2015.
November: Law 248/2015 is published in Monitorul Oficial.
2016: 19 January Secondary legislation is finalized.
15 February Law 248/2015 goes into effect across Romania.
About OvidiuRo and the Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță (FCG) Pilot Program
OvidiuRo’s mission is to make quality early education available to every poor child so they have a chance to become active contributing members of Romanian society. The Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță pilot program was initiated in 2010; by 2015 FCG had extended to 43 rural communities and small towns in 12 counties. Throughout the five years of the pilot, over 4500 children benefitted from one to three years of preschool attendance. 98% of these children immediately matriculated to primary school and 65% continue to have good or very good attendance. Local Councils provided sets of clothing and shoes twice a year. OvR provided logistical and management support with attendance monitoring and a parent education component, as well as basic school supplies, fruit and hygiene products, and teacher training. Funding came from international organizations (The Alex Fund, Carrefour Foundation, and an EEA Grant), individual Romanians, and private companies, including: Carrefour România, Cargill, Catena, Dedeman, GlaxoSmithKline, Hilton Hotels, NN România, ProTV, Raiffeisen Bank, Rompetrol/KMG, and Romstal.