Roma children, one of the most deprived communities, are now faced with a halt in their education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the majority of schools in Romania are operating completely online or in a hybrid fashion, children from all backgrounds are encountering challenges. Challenges may be caused by the inability to afford a necessary device or by the lack of academic support from educational organizations. Although all children in the world are facing such problems, the marginalized Roma children are those who are affected the most by the online schooling.
Roma children were found to be even more affected than other marginalized groups by the situation in the world. While 12% of other marginalized communities participated in online classes in the March-June period, the percentage of Roma children was only 3%. The reason is the lack of access to devices – only 1% of Roma children have a computer and 3% have tablets. The rest of the children either used their parent’s mobile phones to access the learning material or had to miss all the classes. Even though it was planned to provide all children with the necessary devices for studying, the distribution of the devices did not reach children from vulnerable groups.
Moreover, due to the lack of academic support, children had to work on worksheets by themselves, which was even hard for younger children, who are just starting to learn the basics. They may have long-lasting problems that will affect their whole school career. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that Roma children do not have enough space to study at their homes; their families usually live by 5-6 members in one or two-room apartments
If this situation does not change, the EU objective to increase equal access to quality inclusive education by 2030 will again fail to succeed. As Thomas Hackl and Stephan Müller pointed out - “Children from vulnerable families cannot afford a halt in their education, the best chance they have for enjoying a better future than that of their parents - nor can society sit by and allow this.” Therefore, it is vital to work on making education inclusive for everyone.
In order to change this situation during the pandemic, children from all backgrounds should be provided with the necessary devices and academic support throughout the whole online learning period. Also, teachers should be trained with necessary tech skills in order to smoothly transition to online schooling and offer academic support when needed.