Empowerment and Self-Realization of Roma Children through Art- Education in 2 Camps in Rome, Italy
Project location: ITALY, Roma
Project start date: December 2014 - Project end date: December 2015
Project number: 2014-049
Beneficiary: Associazione 21 Luglio
The difficult situation of Roma communities in Italy is acknowledged at national and international level.
Most Roma in Italy live separated from the Italian mainstream society. For over half of Italy’s Roma, this separation is physical: Roma live segregated from non-Roma Italians. In some areas, Roma are excluded and ignored, living in filthy and squalid conditions, without basic infrastructure.
These Roma occupy abandoned buildings or set up camps along the road or in open spaces. They can be evicted at any moment, and they frequently are. These settlements are often called “illegal” or “unauthorized” camps.
Where Italian authorities have spent energies and resources for the Roma, these efforts have in most cases not aimed at integrating them in the Italian society. Quite the opposite: Italy is the only country in Europe that maintains a publicly organized and financed network of ghettos aimed at denying the right of Roma to participate fully in the Italian society, or even contact or interact with it. These squalid ghettos are usually called “authorized camps”. Most authorized camps are surrounded by a wall or a fence. In many instances, free access to authorized camps is restricted through checks at the entrance, which effectively violate the freedom of movement and the right to respect of private and family life of Roma living there.
There is not always a significant difference between the quality of life in an authorized camp and in an unauthorized camp. Roma in camps live in makeshift barracks, containers and old trailers.
A significant number of Roma children in Italy are effectively precluded from access to education. Many Roma children who live in segregated housing have no access to the Italian school system. Physical distances are often exacerbated by frequent evictions. Many Roma are too poor to afford decent clothing, school supplies and the transportation necessary to ensure regular attendance at school by the children. As a result, many Roma children do not attend school at all, or drop out at an early age. At present, the Italian education system is dramatically failing to meet its international human rights obligations as far as Roma are concerned.
In numerous cases, Roma live in camps far away from schools without access to public transport, which place a significant burden on Roma parents. Additionally, repeated raids and destruction of dwellings and property of Roma by police forces significantly interfere with the ability of Roma children to realize their right to education
The enrolment rate and the educational attainment rates of Roma children are low. Official data from the Italian Ministry of Education for the school year 2011/2012 showed no significant progress in terms of education of Roma children compared to previous years: at least 20.000 Roma children under 12 are dropouts.
According to recent research, out of 1.960 school-age Roma minors living in camps in Rome, only 19% regularly attend school and 4% earned junior high school diplomas.
When it comes to the right to health, the most common pathologies affecting Roma children in Rome are those called “ghetto pathologies”: respiratory problems due to living in dwellings where rooms are very hot in summer and cold in winter, dermatitis, pediculosis, warts and scabies.
The pathologies of the children from the Roma settlements, who live in urban cracks, in the interstices of survival, are affecting the body and the mind, from physical they turn into psychological. Due to the housing environment, children sometimes suffer from major psychological distress.
Finally, Roma children in Rome are much more likely than their non-Roma peers to be declared adoptable. A research carried out by Associazione 21 luglio on the phenomenon of adoptions of Roma minors in the Lazio region, showed that between 2006 and 2012, 6% of the Roma minor population was reported to the Juvenile Court of Rome, that is 1 Roma minor out of 17. The percentage decreases dramatically to 0,1% with regard to non-Roma minors, in which case only 1 minor out 1000 was reported.
Roma children in Rome are non-citizens who endure housing and social exclusion. Roma minors spend their everyday life on the street and social exclusion easily degenerates into crime. Their life is marked since childhood: they have no hopes, dreams and future perspectives.
This project is well in line with one of the main pillars of the philanthropic strategy of the Nando Peretti Foundation, namely the one concerning “projects aiming at the promotion of human and civil rights, with a special emphasis on the right to education and children's rights”.
As the project main targets are Roma children in Italy, it also supports “the requests of unrepresented people, and oppressed minorities for the defence of their right to exist and the preservation of their culture”.
Also, the proposed project is consistent with the goals of the Nando Peretti Foundation into 3 additional areas of interest: education (for the Roma children as well as for the educators of Associazione 21 luglio), culture/art (Projeto Axé uses art to rehabilitate people) and “those who live in situations of extreme economic and social hardship”.
The persons in charge of educational activities at Associazione 21 luglio and at Projeto Axé have been in contact for over a year, exchanging views, practices and experience. They have concluded that there is a great similarity between the conditions of Brazilian “street children” and of Roma “camp children” in Rome. Both live in substandard housing, poverty and exclusion and lack any civic awareness.
In street situations in Brazil as well as in Roma camps in Rome, these factors lead to psychological fragility, low self-esteem, lack of trust towards other people among children, and also lack of future perspectives and desires.
Associated by similar views and aims, the two organizations decided to undertake a joint project and introduce the “Axé educational model” (Art-Education) to the reality of Roma “camp children” by combining it with the experience and skills of Associazione 21 luglio.
Art-Education is central to the pedagogy of Projeto Axé, as it represents the main instrument for working with children and adolescents: art is not considered as entertainment or as therapy, but as real education. According to the vision of Projeto Axé, it is actually impossible to educate without art.
Education that does not generate an inner pleasure in the pupil does not produce knowledge, only vague notions. It is only when knowledge is accompanied by esthetics, beauty and pleasure that children open themselves to the universe.
The methodology for the proposed project, which will involve in Art-Education activities 30 children and youngsters (aged 6-12) living in “Roma camps” of Rome, will be the “Pedagogy of hopes and desires” conceived and developed in Brazil by Projeto Axé in cooperation with Master Paulo Freire, which will be adapted to the reality of Roma “camps” in Rome. Through this methodology, children from “Roma camps” who “have nothing to lose”, will learn to desire, to discover art and beauty, to dream again and strive for a better future.
The process begins with street education, i.e. with awareness/mobilization activities addressed to the youngsters. The educators will approach and get closer and closer to them following the “Axé three-step method”:
1. pedagogical “flirting” (observation of the children’s and adolescents’ situation and first contacts with them);
2. pedagogical “falling in love” (awareness raising activities addressed to the youngsters in order to make them reflect and then consider possible changes in their life; organization of short art performances close to the places where the youngsters live, in order to “catch their attention” and interest; first contacts with their families);
3. pedagogical “intimacy” (one-to-one meetings with each child/adolescent to deepen her/his life plans; organization of visits to museums, theaters, concerts, “immersion into art” of the youngsters in order to make them get closer to art and become aware of the different art languages).
The goal of street education is to understand and map the needs and most of all the desires of the youngsters, as well as to make them users/consumers of works of art.
Then the youngsters are involved in activities ran by a highly qualified technical team of art-educators (specialists in education and art teachers, including cultural mediators): at this point, the youngsters become not just “art consumers” but also “art makers”.
These art-educational activities aim to promote socialisation with a strong pedagogical emphasis, in order that the children might assume their place in the world of culture and politics and in society with a strong critical awareness. The activities also encourage children to attend formal schooling and develop an interest in culture, citizenship, with its rights and duties, as well as an understanding of the world and of their role in society. They develop fundamental personal, social, cognitive and productive skills through specific approaches that foster the ability to reflect and make choices, a sense of social responsibility, solidarity and independence.
Although the new Italian branch of Axé is slowly strengthening its presence among the educators’ community and is progressing in organizing training courses addressed to Italian social workers and students, this methodology is not yet very well known in Italy.
Art-Education is recognized internationally and has proven to be successful with disadvantaged children and young people: thanks to the “Pedagogy of Hopes and Desires”, in 23 years of activity Projeto Axé has rehabilitated about 20.000 youngsters.
Every child participating in the project will be offered a tailor-made Art-Education programme, which will be conceived by the project team on the basis of each child’s interests and desires.
The activities will involve children from an “authorized camp” located in the Gordiani neighbourhood and from an “informal camp” located in the Tiburtino neighbourhood, in Rome.
Associazione 21 luglio is already in contact with the families living in those camps, since its staff is implementing a project aiming at empowering Roma women and at promoting dialogue between Roma communities and the inhabitants of the area.
The project will be supervised by a professor in special needs education at the Silesian University of Rome.
The following activities will be implemented:
A two-day preparatory meeting will be organized in December 2014 involving the whole project team (project coordinator and 7 art-educators). The main aims of the meeting will be:
- transferring the “Pedagogy of hopes and desires” methodology adapted to the specific project context to the project team;
- fostering teamwork by facilitating the exchange among the project team members. The project team will be stimulated to engage with the issues as members of a group, developing their capacity to understand differences and act accordingly;
- planning the activities for the following months.
The methodology used will be active and diversified, involving various strategies (presentation/dialogue, group work, panels, debates, etc.)
In February or April 2015 a four-day exchange visit will be organized in Rome involving the founder and the director of Projeto Axé. The project team will exchange views and ideas with them about the project and will discuss about difficulties which may have arisen in the first months of the project.
Children’s participation in street education activities like educational games, artistic activities, visits to museums and theatres, meetings with artists, etc. In this phase, children will be “immersed” into art as spectators and not yet as art-makers.
This activity will allow every child to explore various kinds of artistic expression and to identify the most appropriate artistic pathway, in order to express his/her feelings and desires. Street education will also be delivered in line with the principles and the experiences of Projeto Axé, which is recognized worldwide as a pioneer and whose principles are considered as a “benchmark” in street education.
The activity will be carried out for 2 months, 2 times a week by 7 art-educators from Associazione 21 luglio who already know well the Roma communities involved. This will allow the project team to easily approach “camp children” and their families, which will facilitate the children’s participation in the project.
Identification and selection of families and children available and motivated to participate in the project. Children in situations of extreme vulnerability (from families where the father is absent, with a high level of drop-outs, with many children, etc.) will be particularly encouraged to participate.
Children’s participation in Art-Education workshops, carried out for 9 months, twice a week. The workshops will be conducted by 7 art-educators specialized in various artistic disciplines: dance (breakdance) and music (wind instrument and percussion).
The disciplines will be chosen based on the interests and the desires expressed by the children, in line with the “Pedagogy of hopes and desires” of Projeto Axé. Every child participating in the project will be offered a tailor-made Art-Education programme, which will be conceived by the project team on the basis of each child’s interests and desires.
At the same time, relations with the Roma families will be cultivated through frequent visits of the project team to the “camps”. This will build the families’ trust and confidence in the project team, will ensure that they are aware of the ongoing activities and will overall facilitate the children’s participation in the project.
The cultural mediator will support the children’s school attendance by regularly interacting with parents and families and by facilitating the relations with the school.
“Empowerment and self-realization of Roma children through Art-Education” is conceived as a pilot project; it will be the first of a series of undertakings that Associazione 21 luglio and Projeto Axé envision to continue implementing at the end of the project, involving an increasing number of Roma children, also from other camps, in order to benefit many other minors whose rights are constantly denied and violated.
The Art-Education workshops will be delivered in a suitable and spacious location in a former school in the Gordiani neighborhood in Rome, which will be leased free of charge to Associazione 21 luglio.
The project’s general aim is to guarantee quality education (Art-Education) for Roma children and to foster their self-realization, since this is often denied in the “Roma camps” where they are born and raised.
The specific aims of the project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, include:
a) Reinforcing the healthy development of personal identity and the psychological growth of the children and youngsters involved;
b) facilitating the interaction of the minors with “the other” and with the group;
c) reinforcing the minors’ inclusion in the social fabric;
d) guaranteeing the best education possible for the minors;
e) promoting the minors’ art education;
f) allowing the minors to discover art and beauty to enable them to aspire to a better future;
g) introducing the children to a reality other than that of the “camp”;
h) facilitating the minors’ school inclusion;
i) adapting theories and practices of the “Pedagogy of hopes and desires” to the specific context of Roma children living in camps in Rome and transferring them to Associazione 21 luglio.
The expected outcomes of the project are:
* for the 30 children involved in the project:
a) strengthened personal growth and self-esteem,
b) strengthened ability to interact with “the other” and with the group and to establish positive relationships,
c) discovery of a dimension external to the “camp”,
d) enhanced school inclusion through mediation between families and school,
e) gained artistic skills related to the discipline chosen by the minors,
f) awareness of their artistic performance and desire to improve it.
* for the social workers of Associazione 21 luglio (project coordinator, 7 art-educators):
g) gained theoretical and practical skills on the “Pedagogy of hopes and desires” and adaptation of the methodology to the project context.
The project will have a significant impact on the families of the participating minors, on their parents as well as on their siblings, who will also benefit from the children’s increased education and well-being. In addition, the project will have multiplier effects on other Roma minors, who will get closer to art and will be encouraged to undertake artistic activities.
Associazione 21 luglio is engaged in the promotion of the rights of Roma and Sinti communities in Italy and focuses mainly on the protection of children's rights and the fight against any form of discrimination and intolerance. The Association was founded in 2010 by a group of social workers and human right activists who, by introducing for the first time a human rights based approach to Roma issues, aimed at filling a crucial gap; until then, no existing association in Italy had used this approach when dealing with Roma and Sinti communities. The members of Associazione 21 luglio are of both Roma and non Roma origin.
Most organizations working on Roma issues in Italy are service providers for Roma communities living in "camps", and they are therefore financed by public authorities. Since its foundation, Associazione 21 luglio has chosen:
- not to provide services, but to promote human rights and empowerment of Roma and to fight against discrimination;
- not to access funding provided by Italian public institutions, in order to maintain impartiality and freedom of expression.
Associazione 21 luglio is a point of reference for Roma communities living in Rome. Through a constant monitoring of Roma "camps", the Association regularly gets in touch with members of the Roma communities and gathers their feedback and opinions about priorities and emerging critical issues.
Associazione 21 luglio’s research department produces reports containing data and information on the living conditions of Roma and Sinti in Italy on a regular basis. With its reports the Association monitors and speaks out against any form of discrimination, segregation and violation of human rights caused by local and national policies, with a focus on children’s rights. Housing, health, security, education and legal status are among the main issues covered.
Research is the basis of the Association’s advocacy actions. Associazione 21 luglio presents its reports to institutions and political decision-makers, organizes visits to the “camps” with members of the Italian Parliament and of European institutions, drafts recommendations, disseminates letters and public appeals, prepares reports for the United Nations. The aim of the Association’s advocacy strategies is to influence change in the policy measures which produce ethnic marginalization. When necessary, the Association undertakes legal actions related to violations of human and children’s rights as well as incitement to racial hatred.
Furthermore, Associazione 21 luglio conducts activities to raise awareness of human rights violations and promotes positive models and experiences in order to eradicate widespread preconceptions and stereotypes on Roma and Sinti in Italy.
The Association’s education department implements projects aimed at the realization of the social rights of socially vulnerable children and adolescents. One of the Association’s crucial aims is to empower Roma people, especially children and youngsters, to seek change for themselves.
In this regard, the Association has been undertaking various activities:
* Organization of dance therapy, flamenco and dance theatre workshops in primary and junior high schools in Rome. The project has been implemented since the beginning of 2013 and has involved 46 Roma and non Roma minors. It aims at promoting the conditions enabling Roma children to overcome the barriers of exclusion and marginality, starting from the school environment. This aim is pursued by using art as an education tool.
* Implementation since 2011 of a project in the Tor Sapienza neighborhood in Rome, aimed at promoting the rights and improving the well-being of Roma children and their families, and at creating favorable conditions for their social inclusion as well as for individual and community development. This aim is pursued mainly by:
- Empowering young Roma mothers by improving their parenting knowledge and skills and by creating a local support network,
- Supporting Roma women in obtaining citizenship, legal, health and social support and counseling, to improve access to essential services for them as well as for their children,
- Reinforcing the capacity and the role of the local primary school as the principal local institutional setting, with specific attention towards learning and care of young children through classroom activities, teacher training and family involvement.
* Delivery of a 6-month training for Roma youngsters on their citizenship rights and on how to identify and report discriminatory acts. So far, 12 youngsters from various Italian regions have been trained and have become community advocates.
Currently, Associazione 21 luglio is funded by:
Bernard Van Leer Foundation
European Commission – Daphne III and Europe for Citizens Programme
Decade of Roma Inclusion Secretariat Foundation
Fondazione Alta Mane Italia
Open Society Foundations
Otto per mille Chiesa Valdese
The Sigrid Rausing Trust
“Axé Italia Onlus”, partner of Associazione 21 luglio in this project, works to raise awareness of the work and achievements of Projeto Axé, a not-for-profit organization based in Salvador (Bahia, Brazil), and to bring its pedagogical methodology to Italy for the benefit of the many disadvantaged children and young people in our country.
Projeto Axé was founded in 1990 by the Italian lawyer and educator Cesare de Florio La Rocca and is recognised by the government as a social service organisation. It works to rehabilitate street children living in conditions of poverty and hardship and who are estranged from their families and from society.
Projeto Axé works with children through the “Pedagogy of hopes and desires”: it teaches them to dream using art. They are rehabilitated through Art-Education, discovering beauty and learning to aspire to a future. Art transforms people: it changes their life and it makes what was previously invisible, visible; in this case it makes street children visible to society.
The main aim of Projeto Axé is to rehabilitate children living on the streets and bring them back to normal life within the community as responsible and accountable citizens. Since its inception Projeto Axé has been working to rehabilitate about 20.000 youngsters with a very high success rate; 85% of them have not returned to the streets and to a life of drugs and crime, but have started a new life.
Projeto Axé enjoys international recognition for its work in the fields of education, children's rights and ethical and cultural training of educators and social workers.
In around 4 years of activity in Italy, the association Axé Italia has been undertaking numerous activities including in particular (and mostly) the organization of training courses for professional educators in the “Pedagogy of hopes and desires” (the methodology developed by Projeto Axé in cooperation with Brazilian educator Paulo Freire). In September 2010 two educators from Projeto Axé ran a 1 week-long course for around 100 social workers from the main educational institutions in the province of Reggio Emilia; likewise, in April and September 2013 two educators from Projeto Axé ran a 2 week-long training course for 30 educators and social workers in Palermo, organised in collaboration with the local government. In 2012 Axé Italia also organized over 15 conferences/workshops in the most important cities in Italy, in conjunction with the performances by Projeto Axé students with singer Fiorella Mannoia; the conferences/workshops involved more than 60 organizations (not for profit organizations, foundations, universities and governmental institutions).