Group for children and youth INDIGO, “Sreten Mladenovic Mika” Primary School, Nis, Serbia
Tamara Simonovic,

Online learning support to Roma children in grades I to IV of primary school

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis in Serbia, the Group for Children and Youth INDIGO, developed a noteworthy practice aiming at providing on-line learning support to Roma children enrolled in grades I to IV at the “Sreten Mladenovic Mika” Primary School. The learning support is provided three times a week, for three hours. One educator, one mediator and five volunteers work with 49 children (each person has seven children maximum in his/her group).

Before starting the provision of the on-line support, Indigo assessed the situation of the children and their families. The parents were involved in designing the support. The school was also involved by providing the information on the involvement of the children in the on-line learning provided by the school. As a result, we developed the instructions for the educator and volunteers, detailing the on-line learning and psychosocial support, having in mind the changed circumstances, the new challenges the families may face and difficulties in providing the basic sustenance for the children. Furthermore, we worked on the instructions having in mind that the volunteers are students in various fields such as psychology, pedagogy, history, social work, etc.

The educator and each volunteer established good communication with schoolteachers and they cooperates and acted together on including the children in on-line learning and providing the on-line learning support.

The schoolteachers included the educator, mediator and volunteers in Viber groups and other on-line learning platforms, so that they can follow the assignments and activities of the children in the learning process. The on-line learning support is organized individually or in groups via Messenger, Viber, Skype. The educator and volunteers support children in doing homework and other school related activities. When a child finishes homework, s/he sends the photo of the homework to the volunteer. The child and the volunteer check the homework together, abefore the child sends it to the school teacher.

The project coordinator and the supervisor are at the disposal of the volunteers and the educator for providing supervisory support, whereas they also provide psychosocial support to the children and parents, if the mediator, educator or volunteers decided that such support is needed.

The educators and volunteers report on the implemented activities with the children, as well as on their emotional state and family situation (in case it affects the learning process). They also report on the communication with the school teachers. The supervisor and the project coordinator provide advice and suggestions and they also plan the future steps in the work with each child, together with the educator and volunteers.

At the beginning, some staff members had problems to establish the “new” routine with the children. Some children were not at home during the support time and a lot of time was spent on getting used to a new schedule, new ways of communication and new ‘requirements’ by the school teachers. In order to overcome some difficulties, especially those related to using the devices and learning applications, we engaged two young people who live in the same settlement as the children and they now act as assistants to both the children and the staff members. As the time passes by, the on-line support to children is getting better and more productive.