Who we are
In the Netherlands, there are people at local, regional and national level who support the education of Traveller, Roma and Sinti children. OWRS is a national platform that connects these people and promotes the education of these groups and cultures. Receiving an education and gaining a basic qualification does not always occur automatically for children from these minority groups.
The national support for Education for Traveller, Roma and Sinti Children (whose Dutch acronym is OWRS, namely Onderwijs aan Woonwagen-, Roma-, en Sintikinderen) has been housed under KPC since 1982. KPC Group receives a subsidy for this from the Ministry of Education. The Traveller, Roma and Sinti occupy a special place within the national OWRS support. It is recognized that, particularly for this group, urgent attention is still needed to be focused on education. At policy level, it is often still a challenge to find ways of complying with regulations and finding solutions to address the sometimes unruly problem of absenteeism among Roma children in particular.
What OWRS does
OWRS core activities are:
- National information via the website.
- Helpdesk and intermediary role between the policy-making and executive level.
- Networking (knowledge sharing, practical examples).
- Monitor (WRS children in primary and secondary education).
- Agreement with partners and within the educational infrastructure.
What drives us: ‘A qualification gives you a better chance’
We aim to ensure that all WRS children in the Netherlands achieve a basic qualification. By WRS children we mean:
- Children of travellers. Travellers are traditionally native inhabitants of the Netherlands who lead a life as travellers;
- Children of Sinti. Sinti were referred to in the past as ‘Dutch gypsies’. The members of this minority group have been living in the Netherlands for a long time;
- Children of Roma. The first Roma arrived in the Netherlands in 1978 and were referred to as ‘foreign gypsies’. They were part of the group of travellers legalised in 1978 and whose members were designated under different ‘host municipalities’. Afterwards, Roma people seeking asylum regularly came to the Netherlands. After the EU borders were opened, an increasing number of ‘newcomers’ from Roma backgrounds entered our country after the 90’s.
The national OWRS network consists of education consultants, policy makers and school attendance officers from municipalities who are active at a local and regional level. The aim of the network is to interchange expertise, knowledge and experiences. The network also offers the possibility to work on policy recommendations that are fed back to the Primary Education Council and to the Secondary Education Council and departments.
The national OWRS network convenes twice a year to consider a detailed theme or intervision meeting. In 2017, the network meetings will take place on 6 April and 9 November.
Activities of an education consultant
An education consultant conducts activities relating to the provision of information, advice, support and mediation. The core task involves the bridging function between pupils, parents and schools/organizations involved in the education or care of children. The bridging function can be translated into the following activities and roles:
- Stimulating Traveller, Roma and Sinti pupils (and their parents) to continue to participate in education.
- Advising and supporting pupils and parents on preschool and early school activities, selecting schools and education and outreach.
- Helping parents motivate and encourage their children in education and preschool activities and supporting social skills and language development.
- Playing an advisory and signalling role with regard to clinics, kindergartens, early childhood projects, internal counselors, teachers, CJG, etc.
- Informing schools and cooperating agencies/partners about the specific teaching, learning and/or language difficulties of students.
- Providing information on the cultural, socio-emotional and social backgrounds of Travellers, Roma and Sinti.
- Playing an activating role in parent participation and fulfilling an intermediary role in conflict situations between school and other organizations on the one hand and parents and children on the other.
- Maintaining contact with parents, school and attendance officers in order to keep absenteeism to a minimum.
- Maintaining an overview of commonly experienced bottlenecks based on knowledge of the target group.
- Setting up and participating in networks.
Activities of a school attendance officer
The school attendance officer ensures – on the basis of the Compulsory Education Act – that youths achieve an appropriate basic qualification. The position involves the following activities:
- Execution of prevention policy (signaling, developing an approach to school absenteeism/drop out and prevention).
- Execution of Compulsory Education Act.
- Performance of various activities such as the provision of information.