PEARLS Further Training in Budapest
Inspiring Exchange during International Teacher Training in Budapest
“Not all Roma speak the Romani language.”
“Roma history is not being taught in a school although 70% of the pupils are Roma.”
These are only two of many “aha-effects” which occurred during the intense work in several workshops. Besides PEARLS trainers from Romania, Hungary, Turkey and Germany, Benjamin Ignac from Croatia was present. He works at the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and as a child he attended the primary school in Orehovica in Croatia. Three teachers of this school took part in the training. They are very experienced with the inclusion of Roma pupils. For example they offer courses for all parents (Roma and non-Roma) – dealing with the acquisition of reading and writing skills, as well as questions with regard to upbringing their children. An EU funded project was the starting point for these workshops. Although the project is terminated, some teachers continue with courses for parents, now mainly done voluntary, means unpaid. Ionut Stan, the founder of the Romanian NGO “Gipsy Eye” asked the participants: “Have you ever bought books and pencils for your pupils?” The group: “YES!” Ionut Stan replied provokingly: “Don’t do that.”
Of course he sees the dilemma: pupils do need school materials. And he appreciates that the teachers often step in. At the same time he emphasized that clear words are needed (letters, visits, petitions, press articles etc.) with regard to more financial support from municipalities and educational authorities.
For Ionut Stan it was new that most Roma families in Medjimurje (Croatia, the region where the Orehovica school is located) speak the Boyash language (not Romani). He explained that not all Roma in Europe speak Romani or another related language, because the Roma traditions were partly extinguished by the majority society.
Simona Borko, social pedagogue at the Dr. Ivan Novak primary school in Macinec (Croatia) vividly explained the factors which lead to successful cooperation with Roma parents. She, together with some of her colleagues, had the impression that there is no other way than to became active themselves in order to improve the situation. Because there was a lack of support from authorities. Once this decision was made they contacted the NGO „Open Academy – Step by Step“. Simona and some of her colleagues enrolled in their trainings on anti-discrimination and power structures within a society. Aftwards they invited their colleagues, their headmaster and together they went to the Roma settlement „Parag“. All travelled in the big white school bus. „This changed a lot“, Simona said. The parents of our pupils felt valued, they could see that we as teachers have a crucial interest in their children. Since then she or one of her colleagues goes out to the Roma settlement each week to clarify issues with parents. Now more Roma parents attend meetings at school, when matters related to their children or common programs need to be discussed.
„What are the factors which lead to a better inclusion of Roma pupils?“ Benjamin Ignac said that most of the Roma students internalized shame of being Roma; a lot of them also incorporated fear due to discrimination over the centuries and due to present incidents. Therefore it would be good when teachers find ways to encourage Roma pupils to be proud of their Roma identity and to socialize more with non-Roma students. Furthermore he stressed that the application of Human Rights and Children's Rights in schools is very important. Since many children do not know their rights and institutions which would support them. Later in the course, Susan Navissi, teacher at the Richard primary school in Berlin Neukölln, showed hands-on materials and methods on Human Rights. The participants said that they appreciated this very much, because they can directly use it in their classes.
All in all the feedback from the participants to the whole course was outstandingly positive. The extremely considerate atmosphere within the group was mentioned. Some participants rather spoke in their native language than in English. A colleague translated and the others paid very much attention, no impatience was in the air. Thus some teachers said that they now understand their pupils much better who have only little knowledge of the national language. As highlights the 15 participants mentioned the exchange of experiences and best practices as well as the visit of Losonci primary school in the 8th district of Budapest. Piroska Czifrik works there as a teacher for Hungarian. During the module 'Schools as Learning Environments' she presented the cooperative method: Complex Instruction Programme, which the course participants considered as very useful.
The evenings were filled with an intercultural party, a spontanious movie session at the seminar venue DokuArt (which is a cinema) and with various activities in Budapest, like a guided tour through the 8th district.