Roman Koky: Prejudice just drives me further, education is the most important thing
Like any Romani person, I have sometimes had to go through difficult situations. Especially at primary school, where my brother and I were subjected to racist remarks from other students day in and day out.
I remember one experience to this day. As I was walking to the swimming pool, I passed by a couple with a three-year-old child, who pointed at me and said "gypsy".
The feeling I had when I realized that parents inculcate their children with racist ideology from such a young age was genuinely indescribable. Over time I found out that there is no need to collapse because of other people's prejudices, though.
I have created my own stance towards this - I take such behavior as a motivation for me to demonstrate to all that as a Romani person, I can achieve success just like anybody else. That's kept me going to this day, and I do my best to follow the motto that it is exactly our negative experiences and trials that make us stronger individuals.
The prejudices of others are one of the driving motivators for me to achieve something in life. Another source of motivation, naturally, has been my parents.
As a young child I saw how difficult life is without an education. Neither of my parents went beyond vocational school.
I always felt badly when I saw that my father had to work hard day after day in difficult conditions to make a living for us as a family. I think an education is the best and most important thing that parents can give their children, and for that reason I am glad that my brother and I were raised to seek an education from a very early age.
We are living at a time when the perspective of the majority society about Romani people is not the best. Many of them are incapable of imagining a Romani person attending college.
My brother and I have been spoken to in English by our fellow Czech college students more than once because they assumed we were foreigners. In the academic environmnet of the university, however, it has never happened that the educators or our fellow students have ever treated us badly after we told them we are Romani - quite the contrary.
For that reason I believe participation in higher education is one of the few opportunities we have to change people's perspective about the Romani population. However, if children are not raised by their parents to seek that from a very early age, it will be difficult.
In my personal judgment there are many Romani people who are intelligent and talented. That makes me regret it even more when I see that their intelligence and talent go undeveloped, frequently for financial reasons.
The support of scholarships for Romani people can change their entire lives. It can change the lives of non-Roma as well.
It is important that Romani people get a sufficient education. The more we motivate and support Romani students, the more of us there will be and the more the perspective held by others about us Roma will improve.
Roman Koky is a student of psychology and a Romani Scholarship Program recipient.
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