Vanesa Horváthová: I hope there will be more Romani doctors, journalists, lawyers and police officers
They are young, they are studying, and they have dreams. Romani students have joined the campaign in the Czech Republic called MÁM SEN! I HAVE A DREAM!, a matching grant challenge by the US-based Bader Philanthropies and the ROMEA organization, and have decided to tell their stories in order to support other Romani youth continuing their educations.
Vanesa Horváthová, a 16-year-old student in the second year of a pre-medical school program, is one of them. She too says: "I HAVE A DREAM!"
Q: What gave you the idea to become a doctor one day?
A: The decision to go for this career happened when my parents and I were caring for my ailing grandfather. I saw what that kind of care for an elderly person who is seriously ill involves. I don't want it to sound like a cliché, but that was when I decided to study medicine, even though nobody from my family has ever done that or had any relationship with medicine. I did consider becoming a teacher, for a bit, I wanted to focus on preschool education or informal education, but eventually the desire to work in health care won out. In my view a person who wants to study medicine must have some kind of feeling for it or relationship to it and take it as their calling. Romani people generally avoid medicine and other health-related fields, it's about fear of death, but that's what the profession of doctors and nurses is about.
Q: Why did you decide to study at the pre-medical lyceum?
A: Personally I consider it one of the important steps toward preparing to make it into medical school. I am now in my second year, we have several profession-related subjects like biology, chemistry, physics and first aid, but otherwise it's a lyceum, something like a college preparatory school. Mathematics was my biggest challenge. Next year we get to be interns for one week, so I am planning to spend my time in the pediatric ward here in Brno. It would be brilliant if it worked out because I want to focus on pediatrics in particular in the future or on work with newborns.
Q: Is it important to you that Romani people work in professions such as medicine?
A: For me personally, yes. My great professional role model is Vladimír Horváth, who is an excellent cardiac surgeon, a Romani man, and a brilliant human being. I wish there were more Vladimír Horváths, more Romani journalists, lawyers or police officers like Petr Torák. Romani people are not just "parasites" on Czech society, they have something to offer the majority society - and not just them. It is still important to have many more Romani role models, to have elite Roma, to motivate the rest of the Roma and to demonstrate that it's possible for us to achieve. Time will prove this, because in recent years the number of educated Romani people has risen.
Q: In your opinion, has the perspective changed on education among Romani people themselves?
A: Definitely. It has long stopped being the case that women are expected to stay home cooking and taking care of the family. Today Romani women are more emancipated, they want to become educated and independent. My parents have been with me on this journey to my dreams since I was in primary school. My mother is a high school graduate, and even though my father has not completed his education, they both support us in our dreams and my father is decidedly not somebody who would deter us from a job or from studying. Probably more Romani people than Czech people have to address existential problems like acquiring housing, but in our family I clearly see that education has become just as important. I encounter that same approach in the family of my cousin who is studying at college preparatory school. Her family members are big fans of her achievement.
Q: You have attended the Baruvas ("We Are Growing") student meetings more than once. What do they mean to you?
A: At those meetings I suddenly saw that I am not just one of a few Romani people studying, but that there are more of us. It's said that Romani people tend to study the humanities, but I saw here that Romani students are not afraid to apply to technical fields. They are decidedly an inspiration for me, each meeting with the students is real kick.
Q: You are one of the scholarship recipients who, thanks to this program for Romani secondary school students, can study without fear that the costs connected with studying might unbearably burden your family. How did you find out about the opportunity to acquire a scholarship?
A: Absolutely randomly, from one acquaintance who told me about it. I got online and looked for more information. I use my scholarship primarily to buy the materials, I had to pay almost CZK 7 000 [EUR 270] for textbooks, it actually does not seem like it but when you add it all up, the total amount of money it costs per school year increases exponentially. I am also using my scholarship to pay for language tutoring. I am learning other languages gradually but I have to do it, because nobody in our family knows any other languages, they are not able to explain anything to me or to teach me like other families can. I cannot afford to fail any of my classes. If I want to study medicine I must make sacrifices and do my maximum best.
Q: "I have a dream“ is the motto of this year's fundraising campaign to support more Romani secondary school students. Will you tell us what your dream is?
A: Currently it is to graduate and then to continue to study medicine at Masaryk University. I also thought about going to Prague, but I don't really want to leave Brno. I'm 16 now and there's a lot of time before I graduate, and anything can change at any time, so maybe after graduation I would like to go to Prague. However, what I know for sure is that after studying medicine I want to open my own pediatric clinic in Brno. Wish me luck.
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