Harvard FXB has to date engaged in three major research projects in this area. As of August 2015, two have been completed (2014) while a third is newly underway. The completed projects are Reclaiming Adolescence: Roma Transitions to Adulthood and Strategies and Tactics to Combat Segregation of Roma Children in Schools. The most recent project, Romani Champions, is being conducted in 2015/2016.
The Romani Champions project builds on the findings from our recent Reclaiming Adolescence project (see below). Harvard FXB and the Center for Interactive Pedagogy, with support from OneWorld Boston (Cummings Foundation), will implement this research project in Serbia in 2015/2016.
While previous studies focused on obstacles facing youth, this study will explore success in education and the factors that promote it. We seek to identify the first generation of Romani adolescents who, despite familial, historical, ethnic and socio-economic disadvantages, have made it to tertiary education. We will study the triggers that have enabled 30 students to succeed, and we will examine the differences between these students and similarly located Romani adolescents who have not made it to college. We will explore the impact of factors known from Harvard FXB studies in other regions to be relevant, such as parental mentorship, individual “grit” and institutional support.
Using a mixed-methods approach we will identify factors that enable accession to university in spite of ethnic, economic, social, and psychological barriers. An additional goal is for the project to help empower the 30 participating students as role models and leaders within their own communities. A training component planned as part of the project will equip the students with leadership tools and practical experience in dealing with community issues.
Four Roma students will be recruited as members of the research team, with the purpose of continuing our participatory approach to the conduct of Roma related research.
Reclaiming Adolescence: Roma Transitions to Adulthood, 2012–2014
This innovative project used participatory action research to (a) assess the education, employment, and civic opportunities available to Roma adolescents, (b) identify practices that can be scaled to improve their access to such opportunities, and (c) provide the evidence, strategy, and advocacy platform to overcome obstacles to their empowerment. Through a combination of training, capacity building, research, advocacy and community action, the project helped improve the school-to-work transition of Roma youth and helped propel Roma and non-Roma teenagers to the forefront of policy development.
Over the course of two years, Reclaiming Adolescence worked with 20 Roma and non-Roma youth from Belgrade, representing a wide variety of backgrounds, to pioneer an approach that empowers youth. The first of its kind for Roma youth, the project adopted a bottom-up approach, giving young people and the community an opportunity to have their voices heard and to design activities that foster community agency and ownership. Activities focused on capacity building and adolescent leadership, participatory action research, and intercultural dialogue.
All together the team of young researchers interviewed 360 peers and parents on education, training, and work opportunities in an effort to understand the obstacles to accessing these rights. The youth also interviewed an additional 40 policymakers, teachers, social workers, and engaged them in dialogue about equal education and youth participation.
The findings from this project have shed greater light on Roma adolescent engagement and the high interest of these young people in breaking the intergenerational cycle of poor access to education.
In addition, the adolescent researchers designed three small-scale projects at the community level and were responsible for implementing those measures themselves. They designed and implemented workshops and interactive theater to raise awareness on discrimination, stigma and prejudice amongst non-Roma youth.
- “FXB Center in Kosovo” (article)
- Interview with Young Researchers on the Project (video)
- “Reclaiming Adolescence: A Roma Rights Perspective,” Harvard Educational Review (forthcoming, 2016)
Between 2012 and 2014 Harvard FXB provided research assistance to Dare-NET, a complementary intervention examining the segregation of Roma school children in Europe. The interventions we analyzed were implemented in six European Union countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, and Romania. We documented and analyzed interventions that promote desegregation and help ensure equal opportunities for quality education.
For our report on this project we used a case study methodology to develop a practice-based inventory of desegregation. The findings are based on desk research (online, government and NGO published data), individual semi-structured interviews, and group interviews conducted in all six countries.
Interviewees included parents and plaintiffs involved in two legal cases: Oršuš and Others vs. Croatia and D.H. and Others vs. Czech Republic. Additional information on Horvath and Kiss vs. Hungary was gathered by project partners CFCF and Romani CRISS. We visited and interviewed representatives of schools and kindergartens in Kutina, Croatia; Mursko Sredisce, Croatia; Thessaloniki, Greece; Zavet, Bulgaria, and Horni Suca, Czech Republic.
- Strategies and Tactics to Combat Segregation of Roma Children in Schools (full report)
- Fighting School Segregation in Europe (op-ed)
- Strategies and Tactics to Combat Segregation of Romani Children in Schools (report digest)