- discrimination - education - European Union - Roma people - Romania
Roma: integration school
An estimated 2.5 million Roma people live in Romania. Here, the government has fully understood the importance of education in integrating the community into wider society. But in practice, going to school often brings new problems for these Roma families.
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.