Equal access to education for unregistered children

At the initiative of independent MP Oana Bîzgan, over 60 parliamentarians are requesting access to education for children who do not have an ID. Deputies and senators from all political groups have submitted a draft law to supplement Law no. 1/2011 regarding national education in such a way that these children can be enrolled in the education system.

The legislative initiative stipulates that the educational establishments where children without IDs present themselves shall provide these children with compulsory general education services. Also, the employees of the educational establishments where the registration is requested will immediately announce the social assistance services or the police authorities, depending on the case, for them to carry out the needed procedures for obtaining the ID and for registering the children in the civil status registry.

The universal right to education is guaranteed by the Constitution and by the international Conventions to which Romania is a party, as well as by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. At the same time, the authorities estimate that over 160,000 Romanians have no identity documents, and the majority of those without documents are children. The lack of identity documents affects both these children and the entire community, leading to an increased risk of poverty and social exclusion, illiteracy, exposure to abuse and violence or human trafficking.

“Unfortunately, although the right to education is provided legally and equally for all citizens, children who do not have IDs and implicitly do not have birth documents cannot benefit from it. There are, therefore, frequent cases in which children cannot go to school because of situations they are not responsible for and which they cannot solve on their own. We want, through this proposal, to solve these situations and to stop the perpetuation of a systematic problem, by making all those involved accountable. Hence the importance of this trans-party collaboration of women. The education of the children should be given, regardless of the party we are a part of – I thank my colleagues for supporting this initiative” says MP Oana Bîzgan, initiator of the project.

“It is not the fault of the children that they do not have the necessary documents for enrollment in school; they are not responsible for the fact that, for one reason or another, they do not have an ID. The state has a duty to intervene through the social assistance services to correct this discriminatory situation – it is the right of every child to benefit from an equal start in life” says Mara Mareș, PNL deputy and co-initiator of the legislative proposal.

“We are discussing the equality and universality of citizens’ rights and freedoms, the right to free education; As a pediatrician and a member of the Committee on Health and Family, I particularly focus on these issues – we have a duty to ensure that in Romania, an EU member country, there will be no people without identity cards, especially no children, who cannot attend school,” says Dr. Maricela Cobuz, PSD deputy in support of the proposal initiated.

“With this initiative we take two important steps. On the one hand, we ensure that access to education is indeed a right of all children and that they can obtain the much-needed identity papers. On the other hand, it is the second large-scale collaboration of the women of the Romanian Parliament in this legislature, which shows that there are causes – education being one of them – that go beyond the political borders”, adds USR deputy Lavinia Cosma, an activist for children’s access to equal and non-discriminatory education.

In March 2018, deputies and senators joined forces in the Parliament to increase the  age when the children in the protection system are sent to residential services up to 7 years old. “An effective solution for the problem of enrolling children without IDs in schools implies, beyond the legislative initiative, a lot of collaboration and availability at the local level. I am convinced that schools, teachers and local institutions will be involved to give all children the same chance at education”, stresses deputy and PSD vice-president Roxana Mînzatu. Both law proposals are motivated by signatures on the basis of the “principle of the best interests of the child”, which must prevail in any decision taken by public authorities or non-governmental organizations regarding children.