PECAO peer educators training online and offline

PECAO peer educators training online and offline

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the work we usually do and the way we implement our projects. ERGO Network together with its partners in the framework of the “Peer education to counter antigypsyist hate speech” (PECAO) project adapted to this new situation and moved on with the project implementation.

Peer educators are the most crucial part of PECAO. They receive training to conduct peer education workshops and activities with other young people, as well as monitor and report hate speech online.

Due to the restrictions and health measures in place, ERGO Network and Integro Association combined an online and offline training for the group of 50 peer educators to make the best out of the situation for everyone.

Those who could not travel to Bulgaria had the opportunity to follow an online training course from to 13 August, and those able to travel to Bulgaria had their offline training course in Albena from 10 to 15 August 2020.

Our partner Integro took care of all necessary measures to ensure safety of the participants in the offline training by respecting all protocols when it comes to protection against Covid-19.

During both trainings, the participants could work with and be trained by professionals in the field of addressing hate speech. For example, with Prof. Tomova the participants received information about the impact of stereotypes and prejudices and how media constructs, reinforces and consolidates negative stereotypes and prejudices against Roma. They also worked on content analysis of media products that target Roma.

Throughout the training course, participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and knowledge on the topic, and experts such as lawyers Ms. Mihaylova and Mr. Kashamov introduced the international frameworks that protects against hate speech, as well as shared and made comparison with their national legislation.

The training ended with practical exercises of writing complaints and signal against hate speech, as well as understanding the standards of various social networks for countering hate speech online.

As next step, the peer educators and mentors of the PECAO project will start with their peer education and monitoring activities, which are going to last from October 2020 until September 2021. ERGO Network and its partners will keep you updated on the implementation.

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Romaversitas response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Romaversitas response to the Covid-19 pandemic

On March 13, 2020, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced through Facebook that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, just a few short weeks before the term-end exams and high school graduation tests, schools and dormitories were to be closed nationwide and education was to be completely transferred to the online space. The measures forced a fair share of our students to move back to their childhood homes, where they were cut off from the infrastructures of their educational institutions and they had to prepare for the approaching exams in overcrowded houses, without personal space, quality IT equipment or broadband internet.

The pandemic made an already bad situation worse for the Roma in Hungary. According to data released by the Roma Education Fund, a significant share of Romani high school students and their families who reside in rural areas or settlements had no access to internet or to IT equipment which data is especially appalling from the perspective that the transfer of education to the online space and dormitory closures were carried out instantly and without any plans to ensure the participation of students belonging to marginalized communities in educational activities.

In this context, we contacted all of our students and we saw that in many cases, if we can’t provide them with additional scholarships, they wouldn’t be able to finish their school years or university terms. We set the goal of not allowing the effects of the crisis to take a toll on our students’ ability to finish the academic year. As providing additional scholarships exceeded the financial possibilities of our organization, we launched a crowdfunding campaign titled “Finish Line – Crisis Fund for Romani Students” to collect the necessary funds for providing additional scholarships to students in need.

The short-term impact of the activity was that we could provide cca. 150 EUR monthly scholarships for 12 students in April, 12 students in May, 14 students in June and 6 students in July. In personal interviews following the campaign, we saw that many of the recipients spent this amount directly related to the mitigation of the impact of the crisis on their ability to finish the academic year, like purchasing a good internet connection to the place where they were forced to move because of the closure of the dormitories.

As dormitories closed in mid-March, many of our students had to move back to overcrowded family homes. “When I need some space to attend online classes, I sit outside of our home in my family’s car,” wrote one of our students when sending this photo. We love this picture because it exemplifies the resilience of our student body.

A long-term impact on our students and Romaversitas was that our crowdfunding campaign received national attention via the press, and by reaching new donors, our coalition to carry out our mission broadened. During our crowdfunding campaign we collected cca. 8K EUR which is more than four times the average of the previous 3 crowdfunding campaigns of the organization. We also reached 70 percent more donors than in previous campaigns and the value of average donations more than doubled.

We managed to detach the messaging of the campaign from the usual socio-narrative which mostly dominates Romani issues in the media. Our campaign was centered around education and positive achievements which resonated well with our audience.

As soon as the pandemic situation got better in June, we organized an open-air event to close the academic year. The event was attended by several students, our staff, our founder and some key donors. It was encouraging to experience how much our community evolved during the pandemic.