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June 19, 2018
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Bartoloměj Oláh: We can't have educated Roma running around here

Prague, 7.5.2014 0:39, (ROMEA)

Ever since I was a child, I have often encountered people here who "mean well". These are people who have thought about my needs, who didn't want to hold me back, who didn't want me to live on the fringes of society, or to be come a "classic aggressor" because, as a Romani child, that might be the only way for me to excel. 

One example of such a well-meaning person is definitely PhDr. Václav Mrštík, as well as the mayors of the Hradec Králové Region and the educators all over the Czech Republic who have recently signed a petition about stopping inclusive education here. One of the first people who wanted to help me, too, who was thinking about my future, was my nursery school teacher.   

As a professional, she soon noticed that I stayed apart from the collective, that I was not involved in the collective activities with the same enthusiasm as the other children, and that I preferred to play by myself. When nursery school was over and I was supposed to go register for primary school, my mother received an invitation to bring me for a psychological evaluation, which usually was the first step toward being assigned to attend a "special school", a place where I would definitely feel better and would not have to put up with the bitter experience of attending a mainstream primary school, as the experts explained and recommended to her. 

One of the people in my life who didn't "mean well" was my mother, who decided simply not to respect these pedagogical and psychological legalities and who, even though everyone "knew" I couldn't handle primary school, refused to take me to a psychologist and declared I would attend primary school no matter the cost. To this day I still have that requisition for a psychological evaluation, where, in red pen, Madame Psychologist has written that the mother in question has, completely irresponsibly, refused to have her son examined.

How that decision made my life difficult! I had to go to a mainstream primary school for nine years, constantly subjected to the risk of becoming a Romani aggressor on the fringe of that group of children.

Dr Mrštík and the other professionals will probably not believe me, but instead of becoming a Romani aggressor, I graduated from high school and then from college. I know, I know, it's unbelievable.   

As a Rom, I was supposed to have only the bare minimum of the prerequisites for successfully participating in the school system. As a Rom, I was supposed to lack a sense of purpose, my mental development was supposed to stagnate, and I was supposed to have a problem with my socialization overall and excel only at violence and at harassing my peers. 

I was supposed to have had a devastating influence, not only on the entire class of my fellow pupils, but ultimately on all of the Czech schools. Thanks to my presence, the level of awareness and knowledge among all pupils was supposed to have been very low. 

What went wrong? The experts, after all, claim that Romani people have been here for almost 500 years and that there are almost no students among them.

Why didn't that genetic dependency, the existence of which Dr Mrštík is so glad to admit, show up in my case? How is it possible that my social environment did not influence me?

Where would I be now if my mother had listened to the advice of those experts, with their years of experience, and I had undergone my mandatory schooling in a "special school"? Wouldn't I, too, be on the outskirts of society today?

Dr Mrštík would welcome a return to the good old days, to "what used to work." In his view, Romani children must be placed in the "positive pedagogical environment" of the "practical schools". 

We evidently cannot afford to have educated Romani people running around here. After all, that would cause the Czech schools to decline.

Bartoloměj Oláh, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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praktické školy, Vzdělávání, zrovnoprávnění, antigypsyism



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