Complex intervention to prevent school dropout in Pata-Rât

Sequence from a study lesson of Romanian, held at the “House of Youth” / Photo: George Maior

A major component of the project Pata 2.0 is the prevention of school dropout among pupils from Pata-Rât communities. The activities under this objective are four and they are in full swing. The „targets” are, on one hand, students and teachers from eight schools in Cluj-Napoca and the metropolitan area, where pupils from Pata-Rât learn and, on the other hand, the families of students who are likely to drop out of school, due to the difficult living conditions they face. In addition to these activities focused on Pata-Rât, four other schools in the metropolitan area will benefit from counselling and support.

Therefore, the component is a complex one, carried out through several tools, with the help of multidisciplinary teams, made of social workers and psychologists.

Case management

One of the most important activities to prevent school dropout is not directly related to school but to the family situation of the students. It is about psycho-social assistance to vulnerable families. At the moment, there are 46 students benefiting from case management from the project team, and the number will reach 80. “We work on solving family problems that could cause school dropout. There may be medical problems or even the death of a parent, social issues, and so on. Each case is handled accordingly and we aim to solve the problems through the competent institutions. Give each case, we accompany the child or the adult to the institution", details Maria Stoleru, social worker within the project. In addition to punctual interventions, there is a discussion with the teachers or, where appropriate, the schoolmasters, in order to identify any problems related to learning and solving them. There are three teams made up of a social worker and a psychologist who handle these cases. The students are from the Pata-Rât area, specifically from Cantonului, “Dallas” and Rampa communities, with Coastei community to be also included in the activity.

Debates on tackling bullying and discrimination

In parallel with case management, so-called “social-emotional development sessions” take place for students. In fact, we are talking about discussions initiated and moderated by project specialists with students from the schools concerned, explaining to them what it means and how bullying and discrimination can be tackled, as well as what does social cohesion mean and why it is important. “We were surprised by the involvement of the students, the way they knew how to recognise the pattern by which bullying and discrimination work,” says Maria Stoleru. An interesting phenomenon noted psychologist Ioana Bozan in these discussions.

With the pandemic, the phenomenon of cyberbullying grew. It is easier to be applied because you can assault someone anonymously from false accounts," explains her.

With regard to social cohesion, a relatively difficult concept to explain to young students, exercises are performed during sessions demonstrating the benefits of a united group.

For each school included in the project, sessions are held in four classes, each scheduled for one meeting per week for three weeks. The schools concerned are the eight attended by pupils from the Pata-Rât communities. There are eight schools, from Cluj-Napoca (“Traian Dârjan”, “Ioan Agârbiceanu”, “Vaida Voevod”, Special School), Florești (“Gheorghe Șincai”), Cojocna, Cara and Apahida. In addition, four other classes will benefit from such activities, one each from schools in Bontida, Răscruci, Vultureni and Sânpaul, also located in the metropolitan area, for a total of 12 schools involved in the project.

So far, schools in Apahida and Florești have been involved, and this week (15-19 February) begins activities at schools in Bonțida and Răscruci. Given the constraints of the moment, the meetings take place online. However, the project team says it has found a great opening from the schools and students.

Raising awareness among teachers and study lessons

Online meeting with the teachers from Apahida school

Working sessions with pupils are coupled with teachers’ awareness meetings. The activity is dedicated to the schoolmasters where there are children at risk of school dropout, school principals and deputy directors, as well as school mediators. These meetings are based on meetings with the aforementioned students. They address the conclusions drawn: How they took place, what can be done to remedy the problems, what resources exist in this regard etc. “The teachers’ reaction was a good one. We think they are glad that they have someone to discuss these problems with,” says psychologist Ioana Bozan.

Last but not least, meditations for pupils from favoured backgrounds, which take place at the “House of Youth” non-formal education centre, are held within the prevention of school dropouts, an activity we have written about before.Now, in the tutoring, there are 11 students from the V-VII classes. Study lessons take place on Mondays, at Romanian, and on Wednesdays, at Mathematics. Through these sessions, children make up the gaps accumulated over time. În each day of tutoring, the students are taken from home, drove to the “House of Youth”, where they also have a meal and then are transported back to their homes.

Adrian Răulea, acting manager of the project Pata 2.0, believes that, from a certain perspective, these activities are as important as purchasing the housing.

Although not as spectacular, the work to prevent school dropout is of paramount importance for the future of the Pata-Rât communities. Without intervention in the education and training of young people in this area, there can be no talk of desegregation. These are elements without which the entire project would be like a computer with excellent parts of hardware, but without the operating software", says Adrian Răulea.