March 6, 2021

Tens of thousands of children are educated in Romania without their emigrated parents

Every day after high school, Roxana Nicoleta Butnar talks with her father. Like any other teenager of his age, his father asks him about school and worries that everything is going well and he is not short of anything.

But the conversations have a particularity: since Roxana started talking, almost all of these talks have been at a distance. First by phone and then by WhatsApp or Skype.

Roxana lives with her mother in a town in Vaslui, one of the poorest provinces in Romania.

He is 16 years old, the same time his father has been working in construction abroad. He first did it in Madrid, where he lived eight years, and now in the United Kingdom.

"The first time he left I was 2 months old, and I saw him again when I had turned one year old," the teenager reminds Efe, during a summer colony organized by the NGO "Save the Children" for children growing away from His parents in Romania.

Roxana is one of the estimated 160,000 minors in Romania who grow up without at least one of their parents emigrated abroad for a living.

The phenomenon began around the year 2000, and soared from 2007 with the entry of Romania into the European Union (EU), which gave Romanians the right to free movement.

Only between 2015 and 2017, more than 620,000 Romanians, 3% of a total population of currently 19.6 million, packed to find a better life abroad, according to data from the National Statistics Institute of the Balkan country.

The National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of Children and Adoptions ensures that almost 95,000 Romanian children and adolescents, some ten thousand more than in 2015, lived in 2017 in the country without one or both parents emigrated abroad, especially to countries like Spain, Italy or Germany.

The figures of the Ministry of Education are even higher. According to the various Provincial School Inspections, in Romania there are about 159,000 children "alone at home", as these children have been called separated from their families by emigration.

And these figures do not include those who are not yet of school age or have left the education system.

Romania is one of the poorest countries in the EU, with a per capita income of about 12,000 euros per year, 40% of the EU average.

All this, despite an economic boom with a very low unemployment rate and a growth of over 4% for several years.

Growing away from parents, run by uncles, grandparents or older siblings or from a single father or mother, usually has negative psychological effects on these children, experts say.

"The most common problems derive from the feeling of abandonment they suffer," says psychologist Marius Rusu, during the summer colony in July in the tourist town of Sinaia, about 130 kilometers north of Bucharest.

Rusu is one of the Save the Children specialists and works at the center that the NGO has enabled in Bucharest to meet the needs of children "alone at home" and their families.

The psychologist highlights the frequency in which these children are victims of harassment at the hands of their peers.

"It is enough to be different for any reason to be a victim of bullying," says Rusu.

Mention among the triggers their family situation or that they wear clothes or have other material possessions more expensive than the rest because the money that their parents send allows it.

"And here we return to the same thing. Who listens to these children?" Rusu wonders, referring to the loneliness in which children are often mired in emigrated parents.

One of the crucial factors in the welfare of these children is the attitude or abilities of the people who take care of them, especially the grandparents.

"Although they have very good intentions and want the best for children, these people are sometimes of advanced age and do not have the same emotional availability to be with the child," says Rusu.

To alleviate this burden to families, who usually have little training and scarce resources, Save the Children has 17 centers throughout the country.

Every day, after school, NGO professionals offer leisure and school and emotional support activities to hundreds of children.

"Many times parents tell their children that they are going for their own good, which leads the children to blame themselves for this situation," says Efe Anca Stamin, head of the Save the Children program to help these children.

Internet, cheap flights and the elimination of borders in the EU have greatly facilitated the communication and home visits of emigrated Romanian parents, but the most important element remains the will, and not everyone maintains a relationship with their children once They have left.

Andreea Alexandra Moise is 19 years old, and as Darius Avram, 14, is from Petrila, in the province of Hunedoara, in central Romania.

Hunedoara coal mines were in the past one of the engines of the economy, but they have ceased to be profitable and their closure pushes many neighbors to emigrate.

Darius' parents have been emigrating at least abroad for seasons since he was only 4 years old.

The first time her mother left, Darius was 7 years old: "It was very difficult, because she helped me a lot with school."

Who now appears every afternoon on the phone screen is his father, who has just exhausted his vacation in Romania and has returned to his job in Belgium.

Darius and Andreea speak with Efe on the balcony of the hotel that hosts the summer colony in Sinaia.

"My father is in Italy, he left 10 years ago," Andreea tells the green mantle of fir trees that completely covers the rugged mountains of the southern tip of the Carpathians.

"Things changed a lot then, because my mother stayed with five children and had to be the mother and father for everyone," recalls the young woman, who has lost contact with her father.

He has just finished high school and would like to study law, but first he will follow in his father's footsteps and emigrate to Germany.

"For the moment I am going to another country to make some money and continue my studies when I return," he promises.

Marcel Gascón

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