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August 17, 2018
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Czech Republic: Romani Student Movement says Roma must be involved in addressing affairs that affect them

20.7.2018 11:04
Romani Student Movement leaders in the Czech Republic Vladimír Čermák (left) and Vladimír Kočko (right).
Romani Student Movement leaders in the Czech Republic Vladimír Čermák (left) and Vladimír Kočko (right).

Earlier this month, Romani college students in Ostrava, Czech Republic officially established their group called the Romani Student Movement. In an interview for ROMEA TV, they say they are convinced that only by involving Romani people themselves in addressing affairs that affect the Romani community will effective solutions be found to various problems.

The students say they want to build their activities primarily on support for education. Currently, with the support of the Ostrava-based Association of Romani Entrepreneurs, they are planning a project to prepare a team of Romani youth coordinators and create a network of collaborating organizations.

Support for their efforts has been promised by the Moravian-Silesian Regional Authority and by Czech Agriculture Minister Toman. "The addressing of Romani affairs will not become effective or real until Romani people themselves contribute. The Romani Student Movement wants to share in that effort by pointing out the inspiring stories of Romani youth that already exist. The movement wants to do everything it can to support those who want to make their own way toward success irrespective of the disadvantage they face from the social environment and prejudice," said movement chair Vladimír Čermák, adding that the long-term purpose of the movement lies in working to change attitudes in Czech society and for Romani people to achieve equality by acquiring secondary and higher-level education.

Within the framework of the prepared project a five-member team of coordinators is to be trained and a long-term network is to be created among collaborating organizations such as secondary schools and colleges, Romani organizations, the public administration, social welfare departments, commercial entities and private employers. "We believe, according to the feedback from those around us, that our project has enormous social potential and it will not just benefit us, but also our partners who, we hope, will increase in number. We would like this to aid us with becoming more visible and thanks to that, to improve the situation of the Romani youth in the Czech Republic who are already astute," Čermák said.

Support for the Romani Student Movement and for its project has been promised by the Moravian-Silesian Regional Authority's deputy for Social Affairs, Jiří Navrátil, who is also a member of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs:  "It's brilliant to see that these Romani youth are demonstrating that the way to this aim leads through education and that it has a chance of success, and I am immeasurably glad that this is happening exactly in the Moravian-Silesian Region. The schools established by the Moravian-Silesian Region will be informed about the activities of the Romani Student Movement. With respect to the opportunities offered by the Regional Authority, I also hope young Romani students will manage to win representatives of municipalities over to their side and that through their example, they will aid in transforming the stereotypical view held by the majority about Romani people. I also hope that the example of Romani people themselves will open the way for more children, pupils or students not to be ashamed of their origin and, through education, to be accepted, for example, into academic departments, hospitals, or the integrated first responder system units."

"Czech Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman is also in favor of the student activities. Minister Toman promised support to our movement for secondary and college education in the field of forestry through motivational stipends, which greatly pleased us and we decidedly welcome it," said the vice-chair of the Romani Student Movement, Vladimír Kočko, adding that "Our project and the activities prepared have drawn attention in our community and great interest. In recent days other young students and nonprofit organizations interested in collaborating have contacted us. At the beginning of August we have scheduled a personal meeting with the Mayor of Ostrava, Tomáš Macura, and we believe he will support us."

"We are looking forward to the positive changes that projects of this type can bring to the Romani community. We believe that by April 2019, as part of our second annual International Romani Day in Ostrava, we will be able to present the results achieved and celebrate them with all those attending the gathering," said Vladimír Leško, president of the Association of Romani Entrepreneurs and Guilds of the Czech Republic, which is a partner of the student project, adding that "We do not want our children to grow into professional welfare recipients. We want our children to be educated, to work, to live decently and to pay taxes. However, they also must be given the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and life ambitions!"

Earlier this year the Association of Romani Entrepreneurs and Guilds of the Czech Republic and the not-yet-formalized Romani Student Movement co-organized their first-ever International Romani Day celebration, the first gathering of its kind in the history of Ostrava. Organizers estimated the event was attended by approximately 5 000 people.


Die, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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