The Roma community in Estonia is relatively small, approximately 1,000–1,200 people. Almost a third of them are concentrated in the Valga rural municipality. Due to their mobile lifestyle and cultural differences, the Roma community needs support in building social security and acquiring education.
Building trust between the Roma community and the employees of the rural municipality is the key factor for ensuring good cooperation. For this purpose, mentors from the Integration Foundation were assigned for the Roma community in Valga in 2020. This is a widespread practice in Europe that has proven to be the most effective among the integration services provided to the Roma. The activities are supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and Research.
The role of the mentors is to promote co-operation between Roma families, the local government, and its agencies. The target group is Roma families whose registered place of residence is mainly in the Valga rural municipality and Roma children and young people who need support in completing their compulsory schooling. In 2022, there is one mentor in Valga.
- provision of individual counselling and practical assistance for families in communication with the local government and agencies in its area of administration;
- advising local authorities on Roma practices and community specificities;
- organising various integration activities for the Roma community;
- activities for children and young people to increase their interest in education and to involve them more in the society.
One of the priorities is the education of Roma children and young people. The mentor actively communicates with families, talks about the importance of attending kindergarten and school, and if necessary, helps children with schoolwork. In co-operation with the Integration Foundation and the rural municipality, opportunities are being actively sought to increase young people’s interest in education and to increase their contact with the Estonian world. In July 2021, a city camp was organised for fifteen Roma youth, enabling them to take part in trainings and practical workshops and go on trips to museums and visitor centres all over Estonia with mentors. Until then, not many young Roma in Valga could afford travelling around Estonia. Roma dance classes for young and older girls also proved to be very popular. Mentors have helped new families who have moved to Valga to adapt – to find a family doctor, a suitable kindergarten and school, to grant them humanitarian aid if necessary, to order missing documents, etc.
Thanks to a meeting with the representatives of the Roma Education Fund, Estonia has been added to the list of countries where students of Roma origin can apply for scholarships.
The mentor working in Valga in 2022 is Irina Anissimova. Phone: +372 58082605.
+372 6599 024