It is essential for Bulgaria to have а committed strategy for early childhood development. That is why it is necessary that the recommendations of the Roma Early Childhood Inclusion in Bulgaria (RECI+) report become part of the strategies for development. This view was expressed by Dr. Jane Muita, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria, at the online event Roma Early Childhood Inclusion in Bulgaria, during which the report was presented. In her opinion the steering of steady investments in the right direction may result in the decrease of inequalities. „If we don’t act now, we will face an enormous loss of human potential“, asserted Dr. Muita.
A similar sentiment was conveyed by Mrs. Sarah Klaus, Director of the Early Childhood Program at Open Society Foundation, London. She put an emphasis on the significant importance of turning the report’s recommendations into actions and actual policies. The Ambassador of Switzerland in Bulgaria H.E. Muriel Berset Kohen also qualified the report as „hugely important“. „I hope that the government will recognize the recommendations, as children are the future of this country“, she said on behalf of the Informal Group of the Ambassadors on Roma Issues (IGARI).
The Roma Early Childhood Inclusion in Bulgaria (RECI+) report has been prepared by Foundation Open Society Institute – Sofia and focuses on the situation in education and care, healthcare and social services for the Bulgarian children of Roma ethnicity aged 0 to 8. The report was drafted at the initiative and with the support of Open Society Foundations, the Roma Education Fund and UNICEF and is part of a series of similar surveys conducted in the countries from Central and Eastern Europe.
The main conclusions of the report were presented by Mr. Boyan Zahariev, Programme Director of Open Society Institute – Sofia. He shared with the participants the survey methodology, a general outlook of the Roma population in Bulgaria, as well as the findings of the team. Among the recommendations that he specifically elaborated upon were: free prescription medicines for all children under the age of 4; provision of full pregnancy and birth service package to every woman regardless of her health insurance status, abolition of the kindergarten fees for all children in pre-school age, as well as cancellation of the fees for crèche attendance, at least for the poorest families, etc.
The discussion was also joined by Mrs. Blagovesta Borcheva, department head at Directorate „Access to Education and Development Support“ of the Ministry of Education and Science, and Mr. Roberto Marinov, Senior Expert at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. He acquainted the participants with the financial estimates of operational programmes „Human Resource Development“ and „Food and/or basic material assistance“ for the 2021-2027 period. See his presentation.
Mrs. Hristina Petkova from the European Commission’s DG JUSTICE AND CONSUMERS Non-discrimination and Roma coordination unit presented the 10-year EU Roma strategic framework on equality, inclusion and participation.
At the end of the event, a discussion took place on the role of early childhood investments in the development of the next national strategy for Roma inclusion. The topic was discussed in detail by Mrs. Rositsa Ivanova, Secretary of the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integrational Issues at the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Deyan Kolev, Chairman of the Management Board of the Centre for Inter-ethnic dialogue Amalipe and Mrs. Milena Ilieva from World Without Borders Association.