Czech Republic: Romani preschool teacher knows change is possible
Božena Horváthová teaches Romani preschoolers on Cejl Street in Brno, the Czech Republic's second-largest city. In a reportage broadcast by Czech Television last month, she described her greatest dream as follows: "You know what I envision? For us to not be 'sidelined', for us to be involved in society. For our children to study and have beautiful professions. I have managed this with my own children and I know it can be done. I know this can be changed."
In the program Horváthová points out the very frequently ignored fact that children classified as insufficiently gifted or "delayed" might actually just have a problem understanding a language that is not spoken in their home environment. The "Reporters" program episode featuring her focused on the segregation of Romani children in the Czech schools.
The Czech Republic has been repeatedly criticized for this, for example, by Amnesty International. Horváthová's example of guiding children at nursery school towards systematic instruction in preschool basics is just one of many ways to combat this problem.
The nursery school where she works is managed by the DROM Romani organization. The educator herself comes from the impoverished environment of a Romani settlement where she very often suffered from a lack of clothing and food.
Thanks to a perceptive teacher who gave her individual aid, she graduated from a college preparatory high school and cultivated a love of literature. She then led her own children in the same direction.
Her adult daughter is a psychologist today and her son is a heart surgeon. Horváthová emphasizes in the reportage the linguistic advantage that Romani language speakers have in working with preschoolers who predominantly speak Romani.
"If an educator speaks Romani then the children can be understood. The educator knows what the children want and can work better with them," she says.
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