Erstellt am: 7. 9. 2012 - 11:06 Uhr
Changing the Realities of Roma Children
Reality Check spezial
- Saturday, 12-13: Changing the Realities of Roma Children
Nicoleta is 7 years old. When she grows up she wants to work as a sales person in a shop. To you and me that might not sound particularly ambitious, but if Nicoleta fulfills her dream it will mean quite a big move up the socio-economic ladder for her. Nicoleta is a Roma. She lives in the village of Periam in Western Romania. Not all Roma in the country live in poverty in ramshackle settlements, the victims of discrimination and exclusion, but many do. Nicoleta may live in such an environment now, but her future might look quite different, as she is one of a number of children receiving support to help shake off the shackles of poverty and discrimination.
Learning for life
That support takes the form of the Periam Day Care Centre for Roma Children. It's a project of the KomenskyFond, an initiative of the Erste Foundation and Caritas Austria, which aims to "improve access to education for disadvantaged and marginalised people in Central and Eastern Europe". Caritas Timisoara runs the Day Care Centre. Periam is a rural village with a population of around 6600 people, located an hour's drive from Timisoara in western Romania. The centre is in a building on a quiet tree-lined street. It's quite basic, consisting of two rooms used for teaching and play, a small kitchen where meals are prepared and served, and a shady yard where children can play in the fresh air.
There's a lively atmosphere when I arrive in June with a group of journalists. The children are playing board games or doing their homework. When I try to speak to them I encounter the childish shyness which is pretty universal, and further complicated by having to communicate through a translator, but two boys who are more extrovert than most treat me to a recital of a poem they've been learning for school. The teacher shows me exercise books in which the children have been practising writing. The rows of neat letters bring back distant memories of my days at primary school.
Breaking the cycle
Nicoleta tells me that she's been reading a funny story about a tortoise which climbs on to a leaf, and practising her writing. As we all know, literacy and education are vital when it comes to lifting people out of poverty, the challenge is how to overcome the barriers between the children and the education they need. For many Roma, poverty and discrimination are a self-perpetuating cycle. Illiterate parents who in their childhood received little or no access to schooling are unable to help their children with homework and often don't understand the importance of going to, and sticking at, school. And when Roma children do get to school, they are often victims of prejudice and discrimination.
The Periam Day Care Centre is a place where Roma children can go after school, where they get help with their homework as well as a meal and a chance to play together. The teachers and carers work with staff at the village school to break down prejudice and to promote inclusion and integration of the Roma children. The director of Caritas Timisoara, Herbert Grün tells me that when it opened 4 years ago, around 50 children from the Roma community attended the local school. Now that number stands at 100. The oldest children in the centre have yet to complete their compulsory education, but some of the Roma students are getting top marks in school tests. For Herbert Grün that's a great success, of which he and all those who work on the project can be proud.
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