The idea of using people from Roma communities to give Roma children easier access to schools, and improve their chances of succeeding when they get there, accords with the more general principle of encouraging members of those communities to play a direct part in finding and implementing solutions to their problems.
In some countries the employment of Roma mediators/assistants started in the 1980s and 1990s. Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, France and Romania are some examples. The initiation of the use of Roma mediators/assistants has been made in most of the countries in this category at the initiative of NGOs. In several countries of Central Europe an important role in this respect has been played by the organisations member of the Open Society Foundation network. A few years later, in some cases local authorities, in other cases educational authorities have taken up the idea and either provided support for NGO activities or integrated the mediator/assistant in their respective institutional framework.
An important evolution took place after the year 2000 when, on one side, the Recommendation of the Council of Europe was adopted and, on the other side, most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe elaborated, with the support of the European Commission, national strategies for the improvement of the situation of Roma that included measures in the field of education. Among these measures, most countries included the idea of employment and training of Roma mediators or assistants. During the next years, the number of Roma mediators / assistants increased significantly in these countries through the trainings and activities organised in the framework of national PHARE projects, funded by the European Commission and associated with the above-mentioned strategies.
In April 2004, the Council of Europe held a seminar in Romania, which was attended by the representatives of twenty countries. This seminar provided the opportunity to take stock of the current situation of the employment of Roma school mediators and assistants. The main conclusions are set out in document (DGIV/EDU/ROM (2004)11).
One of the main aims of the project was to facilitate the exchange of information on innovatory practices at European level with a view to preparing a European Guide for Roma school mediators.
The situation of the Roma school mediator and assistant in Europe