HELPING CHILDREN ACHIEVE LITERACY TOUCHES THE NEXT GENERATION TOO
Blythswood’s after-school programme in western Romania first opened its doors in 2001. Seventeen years later many of the first children to enrol in Talita Kum are themselves parents. Izaura, now 24, has a six-year old son in the reception class at school. As she is able to help him with his homework, she acknowledges the role that Blythswood played in enabling her to achieve literacy.
Izaura came from one of the poorest Roma families in Jimbolia and faced every disadvantage in her education. Both her parents were illiterate. Seeing little value in education, they were late in enrolling their children in school.
In the classroom Izaura had to learn a new language, her mother tongue being Romani, and not Romanian. At home there was no-one to help her. Sometimes she missed weeks, even months, of school due to chaotic domestic circumstances. Her father was abusive, violent towards his children and his neighbours, and spent some time in jail.
In spite of everything, Izaura did well at school. And this she attributes to the help she received at Talita Kum. There she received a cooked meal every day, and had access to hot showers and clean clothes. More than that she had the attention of the social workers and teacher. The result was that the shy and quiet child made steady progress with her school work and learned to read and write well.
Today TK2 extends Talita Kum’s winning combination of nutrition and education to children in junior secondary. Without that advantage, Izaura completed just five years at school and, having married at seventeen, has never had paid employment. But with Blythswood’s help, these five years were sufficient to transform her life and that of her family.
“Right now Izaura is a homemaker and is focussed on raising her son,” says Adrian Popa, whose ambition has been to improve the life chances of the poorest children in his home town of Jimbolia. “She will look for a job when she feels she can manage home and work responsibilities. She knows that without Talita Kum she would not be able to help her son Cristian at school now. For this she is really grateful.”
Looking at the wider impact of the programme, Adrian observes that the rate of early school leaving fell from 45% in 2009 to just 1.5% in 2017. “It’s more than just educational achievements,” he adds. “The TK programme actually means better people, that the youngsters who go through the programme really add value to their community.”
Photo above: Izaura as a child, concentrating on her homework at Talita Kum.
Photo below: Izaura today, with her son (centre) and her youngest brother: thanks to the educational support she received at Talita Kum, she is now able to help her six-yearold boy with his homework.