Minister Aspaker opened pre-school for Roma children in Sofia

“Education is the way out of poverty for many Roma people in Europe. That is why Norway supports measures that enables Roma people to improve their living conditions,” said Norwegian Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Elisabeth Aspaker at the opening of a pre-school in Bulgaria 17 February.

Starting school at an early age increases Roma children’s chances of completing their primary and secondary education and potentially continuing on into higher education.

     Read more: About the EEA and Norway Grants

In Bulgaria, the situation of Roma is challenging. Roma children are often not fluent in the Bulgarian language when they start school. This is partly due to the limited access to pre-schools and the fact that Roma people often live in concentrated areas isolated from the Bulgarian-speaking majority in the country.

Giving Roma children pre-school education and language teaching is important, as it will prepare the children for successful entry into the crucial first years of school.

The Fakulteta district in Sofia is the Bulgarian capital’s biggest Roma neighbourhood. The area has a population of about 35 000 people. There is one public school in the area, with a capacity of 1100 students. More than 90 percent of the students are Roma.

Det bor over 35 000 mennesker i området Fakulteta som er en del av Sofia. Credit: Den norske ambassaden i Sofia

"Education for all"

The capacity of the school’s pre-school programme has now been expanded.

"Education for all is crucial in order to eradicate poverty. I am confident that this project will encourage more Roma families to enroll their children in pre-school. In the long run, this will contribute to reduce school dropout rates," said Aspaker at the opening.

The project has received a grant of about € 305 000 through the EEA and Norway Grants.

Through the project, new classrooms equipped especially for preschoolers and a canteen have been constructed. There, a warm meal is offered making it possible to prolong the school day.

The project has also created dialogue between the parents and the school so that the parents understand the value of education and work to keep their children in school.

Empowering Roma

Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union, and this brings a number of challenges in several areas. The Roma population make up an estimated 10 percent of the 7.2 million people living in Bulgaria. Most of them live in deep poverty.

Through the EEA and Norway Grants, Norway support a number of initiatives in Europe aimed at improving the living conditions for Roma. To this day in Bulgaria alone, 195 projects addressing Roma-related issues have been allocated a total of €16.2 million.