The Romani Education Programme
of the New School Foundation
Prague, Czech Republic
I knocked on the door, I stood on the doorstep
and they slammed the door in my face.
This is how they punished me.
I sat on the door step and cried
because I wanted to prove, to convince the whites
that Roma are good.
But they threw me out. So they won!
Oh God, teach me how I should live,
how I should love,
how I should pray,
how I should sit on the door step
and wait for the whites
to open the door.
I looked, but I couldnít find it.
I walked until my feet ached,
but before me and behind me were nothing more than huge thorns.
Everywhere I turned they scratched me,
cut me. I didnít know what to do
and I thought, "who will help me?"
I stood but I could not find the way.
I began to pray,
to plead with God
that some one would take me away from here.
Then I heard a beautiful voice.
It told me: "Stand up.
Open your eyes,
before you is a long journey."
From the New School Foundation
1997 Essay Contest for Romani Children
in the Romani Language "Romano Suno"
Conflicts in the School Environment: "I would like that people
loved each other like brothers. We Roma are in such misery, no one like
us. I ask, why? Because we are a little bit darker than white?"
Horváth, age 10, Brno.*
Many Romani children view the classroom in "mainstream" school systems
as a hostile, foreign environment. Different skin color, language , history
and customs single out Romani children among their peers as being different.
Furthermore, these differences are viewed as being negative and no aspects
of Romani life are incorporated into the school curriculum. Romani children
learn only "majority history", "majority music", "majority customs". Without
any personal investment in "foreign education" many Romani students and
parents lose interest in subjects taught at "mainstream" schools.
Segregated School System: Many Romani students drop-out or end
up in "special schools" for children with disabilities. These schools offer
a lower quality level of education and students progress at a slower rate,
leaving them hopelessly behind students in "mainstream" schools. The result
has been the creation of an unofficial segregated school system in which
some special schools have a majority of Romanies and others are all Romani.
Mrs. Tinterová, principal of a Special School in Prague told Helsinki
Watch, "The non-Romani children definitely belong here. All of the Romani
children do not belong here...."
Conflicts in Society, Unemployment, Crime: When the majority
of Romani children finish their education on the primary level, their access
to secondary education and vocational training is eliminated. They are
cut off entirely from the job market and severely limited in mobility and
development. This translates into problems in the social sphere such as
high unemployment, drug abuse, criminality, political marginalisation and
dependency on the state. These problems are especially prevalent among
younger members of the community.
Racism and Discrimination: Since 1989, there has been an evident
increase in racist sentiments in Czech society and a widening of the social
and economic gap between the Romani minority and the majority population.
Furthermore, independent organisations have documented the appearance of
more than 25 extremist, neo-Nazi publications, 17 racially motivated murders
and an average of 150 racially motivated attacks per year. The situation
is very alarming when Romani families live in constant fear for their lives
and no sign of improvement in the foreseeable future.
"I often watch the news and when they say that a skin head killed Roma,
I say to myself, "why?" I am a Rom and I am not ashamed of it." Edita
Lacková, age 12, Special School, Strakonice.*
Resolve conflicts: Teachers and educators of Romani Children
are trained in conflict resolution as well as in Romani culture, language
and history so that they can better resolve conflicts and prevent discrimination
in the learning environment. Romani Assistant Teachers are trained not
only to assist teachers and act as a bridge between Romani students, families
and communities, but also receive training in conflict resolution and identifying
and resolving cases of racial discrimination in the classroom. Interrelated
programmes, the central focus of which is the training and placement of
Romani assistant teachers in classrooms with a high percentage of Romani
students, are designed to integrate classrooms by transforming them into
productive learning environments for Romani children.
Integrate communities: Co-operation between Romani communities
and schools can be improved and Romani families more fully involved in
the educational process by providing specialised language and cultural
awareness training for teachers of Romani children, placing Romani Assistant
Teachers in the classroom with whom they can communicate in their own language
and making the school environment more hospitable for Romani students and
parents. Ultimately, Romani students will be encouraged to remain enrolled
in "mainstream" educational systems.
Create methodology for multi-cultural education: The programme
is creating a methodology for reforming the mainstream education system
through the integration of international standards of human rights and
by transforming the classroom into a productive learning environment for
all students. This is accomplished by building on positive connections
between parents and teachers and between Romani communities and schools.
The Romani assistants also serve as much needed positive role models for
all of the children. We are in communication with the Ministry of Education
and when programmes have been sufficiently tested and proven effective,
we will work with the Ministry to institutionalise programmes to more effectively
meet existing anti-discriminatory regulations. The wide application of
multi-cultural, equal opportunity education will also directly benefit
non-Romani (majority and minority) children teaching the equal value of
different cultures and, therefore, promote tolerance throughout society.
1. ROMANI TEACHING ASSISTANTS IN SCHOOLS
Description of Romani Teaching Assistants Responsibilities
Direct work with children:
Training Courses for Romani Teaching Assistants: After a half-year
of preparation, a week-long intensive training course has been created
by the Resource Group (see below) and is offered twice per year for the
training and placement of further assistants. The trainers are members
of teacher training colleges, The Charles University in Prague, JE Purkynû
University in Ustí nad Labem as well as experienced teachers and
head masters from schools with a high percentage of Romani students. The
course is recognised by the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic
and participants who complete the course receive official certification
from the Ministry to assistant teachers in the classroom.
The first course was held in Ustí nad Labem on April 20-26, 1997
where 18 assistants received certification. This was the first meeting
of the assistants from four schools (Prague, Ustí nad Labem, Ostrava),
where they were able to exchange their experiences in these positions.
Participants observed the work of teachers and assistants in the classroom,
discussed teaching methods with experts and attended lectures of Romani
language and history. From this meeting it was assessed that there is a
need to repeat the course on a more regular basis as well as to co-ordinate
regular meetings between teaching assistants and teachers and a meeting
of head masters interested in participating in the programme. We are therefore
planning to organise regular follow-up meetings for assistants.
Resolving Conflicts, Monitoring Discrimination Against Romani Students:
Through the placement of Romani teaching assistants who are trained in
methods of conflict resolution we can monitor the level of discrimination
in Czech schools and implement methods of dealing with cases of discrimination
while working towards better integration of the classroom. Teaching assistants
will receive formal training in conflict resolution and identifying and
dealing with instances of discrimination. Information compiled will be
used by The New School Foundation in co-operation with experts, academics,
sociologists, teachers and head masters to help establish a methodology
for resolving interethnic conflicts in the school environment.
Workshops for Teachers of Romani Children: 30 workshops will
be organised in 1998 for teachers and educators of Romani children. These
intensive workshops last three hours and concentrate on teaching Romani
language, history, culture, music and conflict resolution in the classroom.
Through participation in the workshops, teachers and educators learn about
the cultural, linguistic and historical influences which shape Romani childrenís
behaviour and attitudes towards education as well as methods for resolving
conflicts in the school environment. Making teachers aware of and sympathetic
to the needs of Romani students as well as introducing mutli-cultural elements
into the classroom makes the classroom a more productive learning environment
for all students.
Summer Seminar For Teachers of Romani Children: The seven-day
intensive summer seminar for teachers of Romani children is a follow-up
to monthly workshops for teachers of Romani children as well as intensive
Training Courses for Romani Teaching Assistants. The summer seminar is
organised annually at the request of the educators of Romani children that
we are in contact with to fill a need for the sharing of information and
wider availability of training.
Each year we bring together Czech, Romani and foreign lecturers on Romani
language, music and history as well as conflict resolution and integration
methods in the classroom. Guests discuss their experiences and offer expertise
on the education of Romani and minority children and inter-cultural education.
Participants include the Romani teaching assistants which are currently
working along side non-Romani as well as students from the pedagogical
faculty who are interested in teaching Romani children or already work
Workshops are organised on the following topics: Romani history, ethnography
and culture and training workshops in Romani language and music. Participants
will also have the opportunity to discuss topics which, before 1989, could
not be taught in universities. Participants will be provided with information
and techniques which are not readily available to them to resolve concrete
problems experienced in the classroom.
Information exchanges: The purpose of the five-day information
exchange with organisations in Slovakia and Hungary is to get an overview
of the situation in neighbouring countries for Romani minorities, including
access to education, employment and politics as well as assessing levels
of discrimination and co-operation with local government bodies and NGOs.
The trip will also offer opportunities to exchange information with colleagues
in the region and create networks. In Slovakia, participants will visit
a Romani conservatory in Prelsov and a the Romani theatre, Romathon,
in Kolsice. In Hungary participants will meet with regional representatives
from the National Council for Minorities to discuss and learn about method
of improving opportunities toward education and employment.
Meetings of Head Masters of Schools: The NSF will organise a
meeting of school directors where Romani assistants work. The purpose of
the meeting is to bring together school directors who work with teaching
assistants and head masters of schools who are interested in the project
to discuss the benefits of the project and how it works. School directors
will also discuss problems encountered and solutions in order to co-ordinate
efforts at the administrative level to incorporate the work of the teaching
assistants into the daily running of the schools.
Teaching Assistants and Teachers Meetings: NSF will organise
meetings of teachers and assistants during the school year 1997/98. During
these meetings, teachers and assistants will create a description of the
work of Romani teaching assistants based on previous experiences. The outcome
of the project will be a publication based on experience of teachers, head
masters and assistants.
In the end of November 1997, a reception was held for 190 of the participating
students and their parents at the Residence of the American Ambassador
to the Czech Republic, Jerome Walker. The reception was attended by a representative
from the Office of the President , Václav Havel; singer, Lucie Bílá;
Milena Hubschmannová, PhD; and actor, Jan Potmûlsil. The best
contributions were compiled into an illustrated volume of poetry and essays.
For the coming year we have added a third age category, 15 to 18 years.
Meetings with Terka Fabiánová: Through this programme
we plan to invite Romani author, Terka Fabiánová (author
of Hobo and Sar me phiravas andre Skola - How I Went to School
- both books are available in Romani and Czech), to visit schools to discuss
writing and literature. We are negotiating the rights to use a film produced
by Czechoslovak Television based on her book as a teaching aid. We plan
to show the film and invite children to discuss it with the author afterwards.
The goal of the programme is to motivate Romani children to develop an
interest in writing and literature as well as provide them with a positive
role model. We plan to organise at least 20 programmes in schools around
Library of Romani Teaching Materials: We intend to greatly expand
the amount of materials we have in our office on the general themes of
multi-cultural education and education of minority children as they apply
to improving the education of Romani children as well as a collection of
Romani literature. Materials are being compiled in Romani, Czech and English
and are available at our office.
Quarterly Bulletin: The quarterly bulletin will begin to be published
in 1998 in the Czech and English languages. The bulletin will contain information
about programmes and services designed to help Romani citizens in the Czech
Republic, as well as articles contributed by authors.
Memories of Roma From Their Time at School: We have already collected
the stories and memories of about 40 Roma from their time at school from
across the Czech Republic. We plan to collect more and publish them in
Romani and Czech for teachers, students and interested parties to show
how some succeeded and some failed to overcome the challenges of growing
up in an atmosphere that was often hostile and racist in the "mainstream"
* Quotations are taken from the literary contest in the Romani language,
The Romani Education Programme
of the New School Foundation
Karolíny Svûlté 4
110 00 Praha, CZECH REPUBLIC
Tel. +(420) 2 2421 6386
Fax: +(420) 2 2421 6379
Information current as of 21 November 1997.