Such an example is the story recently aired by the French TV channel France 24 about the Roma community of Barbulesti, Ialomita County. The producers of this show praise the Roma while addressing justified, but also unjustified criticism to the Romanian state. First, the reporter invents a statistic figure regarding the Roma community of Romania: 2.5 million. But only half a million Romanian citizens declared themselves as belonging to this minority in the 2003 census, and no figure resulted yet from the latest census held last month. The leaders of Roma communities claim that the real figure is much bigger, but nobody could confirm it, because many ethnic Roma do not want to assume this identity. Then, on what hard evidence did they rely when they gave this figure of 2.5 million?
The question is left without an answer, same as another, of the same kind. The French reporter accuses Romania that only 1 pc of the funds aimed at the integration of Roma is really used to this purpose, but gives no source for this piece of information. Is this real, or just another invention, like the previous one? To his defence, we must say that the foreign journalist seems to have had a problem of conscience here. In an attempt to quell his own doubts, he presents several Roma children of Barbulesti who say they want to go to school. More than any story on TV, even a biased one, the words of these children take us closer to the essence of the issue concerning the social and professional integration of Roma.
Everywhere in the world, being part of a community catches the interest of children – a rule that also applies to school communities, which attract children at the age of their first contact with reading, writing and the optimist atmosphere of communion at school. Roma children are no different from those with other ethnic backgrounds, but their natural wish to go to school is often blocked by impassable barriers: the anachronistic cultural traditions that make some spiritual leaders of Roma communities demand their “subjects” not to send children to school. In their conception, education is a factor of “ethnic alienation.”
This fear of “ethnic alienation” manifest among Roma communities is nothing new in Europe. As a consequence, the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research drafted, more than 10 years ago, a Strategy of education for the Roma, largely based on positive discrimination at all the levels of the education system. Besides the existence of Roma-language schools in Romania, the ministry keeps places in many education units of all levels, precisely reserved for Roma pupils and students. These places are 100 pc subsidised by the state. The principle here is that the Roma minority needs an educated elite that will positively channel its existence. But, surprise! Many of these places are left vacant each year, from lack of candidates. This situation is common to all the incentives created for the benefit of the Roma minority, which would allow more of its members to complete their studies at various degrees. Faced with the reality of absenteeism, those in charge with the Education system granted even more incentives to the Roma, also in normal schools and institutor colleges, meant to stimulate the education in the Romani language within Roma communities. Young Roma students were allowed to enter these schools even without proper domicile papers, which many of them do not have.
Furthermore, the number of places in inter-cultural education camps was supplemented, and members of the Roma community were promoted in positions of school inspectors. A general inspectorate for the Roma minority was set up within the Ministry of Education and Research, and school inspectors of Roma origin were appointed at county level, based on the same principle of positive discrimination.
Soon, it became obvious that even these measures of positive discrimination will not yield the expected results, because the number of Roma pupils in high-schools cannot grow as long as the presence in primary and second schools is still very low. So, although they are an ethnic minority, the Roma have a high percentage of school abandonment and illiteracy in Romania. Here resides the fundamental problem of their professional and social integration. Regardless of the degree of positive discrimination, the solution ‘per se’ proves to be useless as long as Roma children avoid the primary school.
Unfortunately, absenteeism is still widespread throughout this community, given the mentality of elder Roma, which reject school also under the influence of unemployment, which is a discriminatory reality in itself. To change the mentality of Roma seniors, it has been resorted to NGOs, religious organisations etc. But, as they have their own agenda (recruiting new adepts, autonomy on ethnic criteria etc.) the interest for school is still suffering. A resource used to a very small extent is the influence of Roma quasi-political organisations during electoral campaigns. These structures can stimulate the interest for school, by focusing their electoral agenda on appeals to education, equally targeting the young Roma and their parents, rather than resorting to demagogy (such as the promises to obtain pardon for various crimes).
Anyway, one truth is beyond dispute. The social and professional integration of ethnic Roma begins in school!
15/11/2011 – You can see the “gypsy ghetto” as soon as you leave the paved roads of Barbulesti, 60km east of Bucharest. “Gypsy ghetto” is how many people here refer to the areas on the outskirts of villages mainly inhabited by Roma, the most persecuted of Romania’s minorities. The small unpaved track which leads to their neighbourhood still looks the same as it would have done at the beginning of the 20th century. Here, time seems to have stood still.
Alina, 9, and her sister Nina, 12, play in their front yard, trying to catch the ducks. It’s the last day of the school holidays, and they’re making the most of their final hours of freedom. Giving up on the ducks, they sit down at an improvised desk to write a letter to their mother. Alina tries to dash off a few words, but is surprised – “Look, I’ve forgotten how to write!” she says. “Before the summer holidays I could write neatly in my notebook, but now I’m not used to it any more. But it’s not that bad, school starts tomorrow and I’ll learn how to do it again.” Her older sister, Nina, shares what she’s written so far: “Dear mother, tomorrow the new term starts. Alina and I are going to school together. I’m going to work hard so I can become a teacher, and teach other children.”
Their parents moved to France two years ago, hoping to make a living by begging, before finding a better life for themselves and the children. But a few months ago, their father died in a car crash. Their mother decided to stay in France, hoping to be able to send some money home, and the girls are now looked after by their grandmother. “They really like school,” says their grandma. “The problem is that they get back here in time for lunch, and I don’t know how I’ll be able to feed them.” Alina and Nina understand that their best chance of escaping from the path taken by their parents is through their education.
At the beginning of the 1990s, after the fall of the Communist regime, only 100,000 Roma children went to school in Romania. Twenty years on, that figure has tripled. And despite the difficulties of sending them to school, there are always more and more children being enrolled at the primary school. Nina and Alina bravely tackle the challenges each day throws at them – but the future of the Roma community rests on their shoulders, as well as on those of other Roma children like them.
Milano, bocciati per troppe assenze: "Ma è colpa degli sgomberi"
Segnalazione di Marco Brazzoduro
Redattore Sociale - 29/07/2010
La denuncia di due docenti, preoccupate per la frequenza di 15 bambini iscritti negli istituti di via Feltre e via dei Pini, alla riapertura delle lezioni. L'assessore Moioli: "Non spetta alle insegnanti occuparsi della sicurezza"
MILANO - "Non spetta alle insegnanti occuparsi della sicurezza": risponde così Mariolina Moioli, assessore ai servizi sociali del comune di Milano, alle due insegnanti, Flaviana Robbiati e Stefania Faggi, delle scuole di via Feltre e via dei Pini, che le hanno scritto una lettera un paio di settimane fa per esprimerle la loro preoccupazione per i 15 bambini rom che frequentano i due istituti. Bambini che vivono nei vecchi capannoni dismessi di via Rubattino, insieme a circa 200 altri rom. Il rischio, secondo le insegnanti, è che gli sgomberi compromettano la loro frequenza alle lezioni. Questa mattina il sindaco Letizia Moratti e l'assessore hanno visitato proprio la scuola di via Feltre per celebrare la chiusura dei centri estivi. "Nella legalità c'è accoglienza per tutti - afferma Mariolina Moioli -. Il tema della sicurezza e la salvaguardia dei bambini, però, spetta innanzitutto al comune e poi agli insegnanti".
La lettera è sottoscritta anche da due genitori ed è indirizzata anche al Prefetto, al Questore, ai provveditori regionale e provinciale all'Istruzione, al Sindaco, ai consiglieri comunali e a Amnesty International. "Alcuni scolari di etnia rom che frequentano le scuole dell'obbligo a Milano sono stati bocciati a causa dell'elevato numero di assenze -si legge-. Tali assenze sono la conseguenza della catena di sgomberi che hanno subito da novembre in poi. Ora ci troviamo di fronte a un paradosso: le istituzioni con gli sgomberi rendono impossibile la frequenza, e sono sempre le istituzioni a bocciare perché le assenze sono troppe". Le insegnanti voglio capire cosa accadrà ai loro alunni rom alla riapertura delle scuole. "Il 13 settembre inizierà il nuovo anno scolastico, e il rischio fortissimo cui ci troviamo di fronte è quello di ripetere l'esperienza di quest'anno: decine di bambini cui di fatto viene negato il diritto alla scuola. Chiediamo alle istituzioni da voi presiedute di affrontare il problema e di trovare entro settembre una soluzione affinché l'anno scolastico possa iniziare anche per i bambini rom sotto il segno del rispetto, della serenità, della continuità, dell'osservanza dei diritti sanciti dalla Costituzione e dall'ordinamento giuridico nazionale e internazionale". Durante la visita alla scuola di via Feltre, l'assessore Moioli ha annunciato che Milano è stata premiata dal "Fiuggi Family Festival" come "Comune amico delle famiglie". Insieme a Milano il riconoscimento è stato assegnato anche ai comuni di Bareggio (Mi) e Parma. "Il premio non è per un progetto specifico -sottolinea il sindaco Letizia Moratti-, ma a un modello che abbiamo attuato per dare risposte alle domande delle famiglie". (dp)