Adriana Trejtnarová: Romani people are receiving support - we are studying
She is studying at the Czech Agricultural University, she is interested in diplomacy and social affairs, and she isn't afraid to share her opinions with the public. Adriana Trejtnarová (age 21) has come a long way already in her life.
The Romani student now in her second year of university acknowledges that without her parents, she wouldn't be where she is today. "After ninth grade I wanted to go to a local secondary school, but I had never seriously considered a college preparatory school - however, my parents were of a different opinion," she laughs.
Her parents motivated and urged her to make the attempt, even though, as she self-critically says, she was at an age where school no longer interested her. "If my parents weren't who they are, everything might be different," she says sincerely.
The native of Broumov decided to study the field of Economics and Management, which at her university orients graduates toward the broader societal context of such endeavors. That means she is also gaining insight into disciplines such as law or psychology, and unlike other students who avoid subjects essential to economics such as mathematics, Adriana likes such subject matter.
"Mathematics has always been my favorite subject, practically since first grade. I've never had a problem with it - maybe a little bit in high school, when my interest in it was less, but I successfully graduated in it," she says, adding with another laugh that "My biggest fear at university is not economics or political science but the agricultural subject matter. Animal and plant studies actually aren't my cup of tea."
She is not the only college student in her family. "Mom went to college, she is a special needs educator, and my aunt is also a teacher, so I was always inclined toward education long before high school. Unfortunately, my older sister could have gotten a degree too, but she didn't complete nursing school and today she regrets it. She has a good job, she is employed at a school as teaching assistant, but today she feels that without completing her own education, it's just not the same. The support from our family is enormous," she explains, adding that in addition to support, motivation is also basically essential.
"This might not sound nice, but those around us frequently believe Romani people cannot be educated, that they cannot live and work like any other citizen here. People don't believe in us. I think that's wrong, because there are more and more college-educated Romani people here, thanks to various scholarship programs," Trejtnarová tells us.
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The future economist is taking advantage of precisely such opportunities - she and her parents decided together that she should apply for a scholarship, which seemed a brilliant way to support the student. "Naturally my parents aid me as best they can, financially I couldn't do it alone. The scholarship has made it possible for me to focus on my studies full-time," she tells us.
Many Romani students are financially strapped today, but Trejtnarová believes their concerns that they will not be able to complete their studies for financial reasons are unnecessary. The student notes that many foundations and organizations are offering opportunities for students to be supported during their studies.
"I personally take advantage of a scholarship to cover part of the cost of my accommodation in Prague. Because I am from a town 200 kilometers away, it's difficult. There is no other option than living in Prague and travelling back home twice a month," she says.
Ever since she was a little girl, she has been in an environment where Romani people handled everything themselves on a day-to-day basis - her aunt leads a Romani civic association in Broumov where Adriana tutors local schoolchildren. Today she sees her role as motivating the children.
The student tells us that she has even motivated her older sister to re-enroll in school. Even though she has experience working for a Romani association, she doesn't know whether she wants to focus on such work in future.
Her opinion is that the Romani minority can only be supported if more and more Romani people study and break down prejudices against them and stereotypes about them in the process. "That is very positive for us, showing that we can educate ourselves and work in various positions in various fields and live a normal life," the university student says, adding that in addition to her mother, another enormous role model for her is the Romani activist Karel Holomek, who writes a public blog just like she does.
The idea to write such articles wasn't hers - she was persuaded to do it by colleagues at the Canadian Embassy, where she was an intern: "They liked my article about inclusion in education and they urged me to publish it. I hesitated a bit, but then I said 'Why not?' One should try a little bit of everything."
The internship she completed this spring at the Canadian Embassy in Prague was intended for young people from socially disadvantaged environments who have a deep knowledge of Romani issues, and thanks to that opportunity she has been able to contribute to designing the embassy's plan for supporting the rights of Romani people in the Czech Republic. While that internship has now ended, it is entirely possible that one day this purposeful Romani woman will have the experience and knowledge she needs to realize some plans of her own.
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