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Educational Rights in Belarus

Minsk, 3.8.2007 10:55, (Roma Network/ROMEA)

According to last census in Belarus the total amount of Roma population is approximately 11 thousands people.At the same time opinion of Roma NGO’s roughly estimates that the total Roma population is nearby 60 thousands. Of course it is too much ?! But it is unreasonable to dispute who is right and who is wrong but frankly speaking official number is very deceptive and unaccurate.

Low percentage of educated people are characteristic of all Roma population and it doesn’t matter what country is it. Unfortunately we must recognize that in Belarus education is unpopular and Roma people who completely illiterate or can just put their signature – still existing and widely spread. I know just 2 people within Roma minority in Belarus, who continues to study at university (information on 2007) but it’s not fact that this people will finished their study successfully. Usually, Roma girls just begin to receive higher education but after 1-2 years they get marred and certainly their learning comes to nothing. More then 80% of the Romani youth don’t finish secondary school. In school Roma kids are exposed to discrimination and intolerant relations from other non-Romani kids and from teachers as well .

Mostly discrimination in secondary schools is the crucial reason why Roma kids decide to stop studies in school. Education curriculum which is prepared and approved by Ministry of education is not relevant for kids from national and religious minorities. This program does not take into account specifics of national and religion traditions.

To enumerate problems is simply wasting time. We will try to look at roots of it. All this based on childhood. From secondary schools we can estimate that Roma children who are very talent pupils but due to inconvenient circumstance all good intentions are doomed to failure. Roma people in Belarus don’t attend the children nurseries and pre-school institutions. Among the family, in everyday conversation, Roma speak Romani language.

But official language in schools is Russian. Roma kinds are accustomed to speak in native (in Romani ) language but when Roma kids are in school all subjects taught in Russian. This is an explanation what aggravates the learning progress. I don’t want to say that Roma kids are not able to learn Russian but if these skills are not adequate to compete with other non-Romani kids. When Roma schoolchildren do exercises in the Russian literature, they tell poems by heart, and automatically their speech includes some Roma words. I was told by the Romani chidren about such an experience. Some teachers tell parents to stop to talk to their kids in Romanes for some months and it resulted in some progress. Their linguistic interference was partially solved and they began to learn better. Unfortunately there is very few such concerned teachers. This linguistic problem is a root of future situation, when Roma kids lag behind in study. Simply they are not able to compete with Belarusian kids and problems increasing like avalanche. Of course, pedagogical stuff must take into account these findings.

Other course, in Belarusian schools there is no program how to build on a tolerant society. From childhood people must know that we all are equal, schools must help society to destroy biased attitude in society. It seems to me, that now is a relevant time to include in school program special subject - on inclusion and diversity.

We cannot break prejudice against Roma when somebody is 40 years old but its so simply to explain to kids, to schoolchildren, that Jesus saves all of us, and He didn’t make any difference between nations.

From my point of view this can be conducted by Christian vocational schools. As a result, we can bring up the tolerant society.
Roma people encounter with clear cases of discrimination when they want to receive higher education. Due to biased attitude relations, some chairs of the reception boards in universities refuse to accept applications at the first stage, before examinations. What to do? We can accept experience of our close neighbours, when in some Eastern European countries exist special programs for integration of Roma people, dedicated to education.

At first the Belarusian government must pay attention to the Roma minority and start to work. So far, Roma activists knocking on closed doors. People need to be honest, and start to respect Romani rights.

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