Vierme ( Worm) is ten and is responsible for making money for his family. He steals scrap metal and whatever else he can whenever he can. There are 6 other siblings in his family he is the oldest and the hardest working of all. He is teaching two other brothers how to collect scrap metal. No running water in his home/shack – they steal electricity. Children caught stealing are not prosecuted. If caught he gets a beating. He has lice and scabies.
There is no work for his mother. His father is in prison – he was caught stealing scrap metal. If she steals the children will be left by themselves. No matter how much she tries it is unlikely she will get a job.
There are many families similar to Vierme’s that live on the outskirts of many villages/cities. Access to these families is hard especially during November to March and whenever else there are heavy rains as the roads turn into mud.
These children should be taken to school by a school mediator.The salary of a school mediator is around 150 EUR per month. She/he (it is a rare case when a male has this job) has little incentive to go take children like Vierme to school – it takes a long time to get there, her clothes and shoes will get filthy/destroyed and many times she will have to face angry and frustrated parents – sometimes people that are drunk or on drugs. Vierme’s mother needs him to collect scrap metal more than he needs him in school.
Teachers do not want Vierme in their class. He started with a huge gap compared to the other children and he would need lots of extra attention to catch-up. Most of the time he stinks, he is dirty and can pass to everybody else in the class lice and scabies. Teachers’ salaries are terrible around 200 EUR per month.
People in the local administration also have poor salaries. The EU funded project is not helping them much at all; it’s just more work for very little pay. There are huge amounts of money that are supposed to be used for the communities like Vierme’s community. People in the local administration that are supposed to distribute the aid think Vierme and his family are lazy, dirty foreigners.
The guys that ran the EU projects have salaries 10 to 20 times bigger than any of the above. Those are the projectors, the people that imagine how things will work; they write the reports about the achievements.
Vierme is in school. The school mediator takes the children to school, the teacher has a full class, is skilled, trained and helps these children to get a good quality education. The local administration is helping the community as it delivers aid to the most impoverished. Funding properly spent.
Bullshit. But this is the report that is considered the truth. And every single stakeholder has an interest to say it is true. The European Commission and the governments because the money is spent and they badly need something positive to show for their overall incompetence and disregard for the poorest of the poor, the projectors because the money is good, those in public administration to keep the pretense that they work for the people, the teacher and school mediator to keep their jobs and work as little as possible.
Gulliver’s travels took him to Balnibarbi and then Lagado. The academy of Lagado was famous for its projectors. The projectors tried to do amazing things such as taking the sunbeams out of cucumbers, store them in vials and use them whenever needed, building houses starting from the roof, ploughing with the help of the pigs … Art, literature, mathematics, linguistics, were all concerns of many projectors attempting similarly brilliant things. The academy was thriving and extending– at least 500 rooms in a series of building in the city. The city and its surroundings were becoming a ruin due to the many failed projects but the projectors were well paid to continue their jobs.
There were some hard working and skilled people in Lagado – the lord Munodi was one of them. He was known for his eminent services, integrity and honor. He was also considered by the elites to be the most ignorant and stupid person among the ruling elites as he had an “ill ear for music”.
I know many, many nowadays Munodis. Most in the civil society but also people that work for the European Commission and governments. Smart, honest people that did or do some amazing things but fail to conform to the lip-service directives and poor users of Eurotalk. They are perceived as stupid and ignorant by the opportunists that couldn’t care less about their jobs but are very concerned about their careers –a good number of them are or end up in senior management positions.
There is wide agreement among these people (most within the Romanian civil society) that the EU Structural Funds targeting social inclusion, poverty reduction, employment, discrimination, education and many other fields are in a far too big proportion useless. That the thinking, design, the process of application and the implementation of the projects financed by EU money are flawed, stupid and sometimes sadistic.
Sadly most of the Munodis continue to work for or apply for EU funded projects. Unwillingly and some unwittingly, they legitimize a system that produce an unacceptable number of failures, fake achievements and corruption.
At the end of the day all of us lose. We waste public money. The credibility of the European Commission – the most educated, diverse and promising bureaucracy in Europe is crumbling and makes Europeans doubt a great achievement – the European Union. The civil society looks wasteful and money oriented and risks becoming completely dependent on money distributed by governments. In this way what should be the watch-dogs of the governments – the civil society organisations- become the lap-dogs of the politicians in power.
EU Funds should make a difference in the lives of many including poverty stricken children. At this moment, unfortunately , far too many of these funds, at least in Romania, seem to be working towards enacting one of the sarcastic metaphor of Jonathan Swift – Lagado.
There are exceptions when children like Vierme are taken to school by some kind and hard-working people. It is even more exceptional when teachers do work with children like him. But those are nothing but aberrations in a system that is profoundly flawed.
The situation of girls living in poverty like Vierme is even more complicated. There are cases when prostitution looks like best possible opportunity. Sadly, sometimes it is the only opportunity to escape a hellish life. I do not describe here a Roma problem but many of the children who are facing these problems are Roma.
There are solutions. We need to start with honesty and critical evaluation of why and where we failed. Or we can continue to find excuses, pay lip-service and prepare ourselves for Gulliver’s visit.
* The picture used is not of Vierme but of a child that has his faith