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Discrimination Against Roma Within the Greek Educational System | OYED

Discrimination Against Roma Within the Greek Educational System | OYED

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Published by bgeller4936
racism in Greek schools against Roma
racism in Greek schools against Roma

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Published by: bgeller4936 on Dec 10, 2013
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02/27/2014

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Discrimination against Roma within the Greek Educational System
“Once upon a time lived a wise Gypsy king who possessed many gypsy books and he desired all his people to become educated. He also possessed a donkey that he kept tied by the books sothat it would be educated as well. One day, during the greatest flood the world ever faced, both the kingand the queen were drowned. Tied in the house and with no food, the donkey started eating the books. After all the books had been eaten, the donkey starved to death. Thus, the unfortunate Gypsies lost boththeir wise leader and their books.” 
This Gypsy myth explains how the Gypsies ended up without an alphabet and are therefore described as“illiterate”. The term illiterate and the way in which it is used to describe the Roma people can bechallenged in several ways. In Greece however, the official State perceives the Greek Roma as illiterate; whether a reality or a constructed one, the fact is that approximately 60% of the Greek Roma cannot reador write. Another fact is that the official State has repeatedly failed to change this tendency and use theeducational system as a way to promote the Greek Roma’s social inclusion (as opposed to theirintegration, which would lead to them losing at least part of their identity in trying to resemble themainstream one).The EU has a legal framework which ensures the equality of its citizens; in reference to education, Article14 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights reads: ‘Everyone has the right to education and to have accessto vocational and continuing training’. Part of its legal explanation is: ‘No person shall be denied the rightto education […] the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching inconformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions’. According to Toma
!
evski (ex UN Special Rapporteur on education) “the right to education is the pass key to unlocking other human rights”. Nevertheless, national education policies within the European Unionpose great problems to the Roma, despite the EU considering the integration of the Roma into the rest of society as fundamental.Moving back to the Greek case, the State perpetuates the marginalization of the Roma by turning a blindeye to practices which create segregated schools and by failing to take measures to improve the attendanceof Roma in compulsory  education.The Greek university system produces teachers who are ignorant on the issues of multiculturalism. A supportive training program that could fill these gaps in knowledge is either nonexistent or not deemed
 
important enough to be implemented. The teachers have no faith in the school system and the state, andperceive their fight to be an individual one in a hostile environment. This is what probably makes themaccept the status quo rather than challenge it. In some cases, they might not be able to receive supportfrom the Roma who do not realize – or refuse to realize – their own state of oppression.Even though some teachers encourage the use of the Romani language, part of the Roma community hasforsaken it as something backward. Many Roma seem to want to resemble and integrate within thedominant Greek society structures and are not ready to fight for their culture and real social inclusion.They even look down on members of their own community using binary constructions.The Roma attitude towards knowledge and schooling cannot be described as negative. That shakes downthe stereotype that the Roma are not ‘made up’ for school and that they do not like it. However, lackingtrue critical consciousness of their oppressed state, as described above, they can neither question currentschool curriculum and practice, nor demand a liberating pedagogy for them and their children.Hence, I believe that one of the primary fields of focus should be the education of the adult Roma, in acontext that will allow them to realize their oppressive situation and reassure them that there is a way out.In addition, it seems vital that all teachers in Greece should become familiar with the concept of multiculturalism through the university curriculum and through real practice as well.Regarding the education of the Roma students, it seems that the problem is more complex as it concernsthe whole construction of the School and its curriculum. Most teachers devalue the curriculum and believethat it is hard for every Greek student to follow it and receive real knowledge. Adult Roma (and otherminority groups) and teachers who would have gone through the process of liberating pedagogy could bethe ones to push for the fundamental changes that the Greek school system requires. They can be theindividuals who will unveil to all of Greek society the oppressed state of the Roma, and make it clear thatthis cannot and should not be perpetuated. Whatever the steps will be, it is vital that the Romacommunities play an active role in the ‘painting of the new world’ they want for themselves.Putting pressure on a state and its government might not be an easy task, but it might be the first steptowards change. Coming from Greece and having studied in Greek schools, I have personally witnessedthe teachers going on strike and demanding for their requests to be heard on a multitude of occasions. I would welcome and wholeheartedly support a mobilization demanding the enforcement of law regardingthe geographical distribution of students in schools (in order to eliminate segregated educationalestablishments), the acknowledgement of the Roma and other minorities’ existence and history in a broader multicultural curriculum, and the funding of bilingual education.I strongly believe, however, that in order to fight the problem at its roots we must examine other social
 
phenomena like the impoverishment of many Roma and the level of racism in Greek society which oftenplay off one another and create a vicious cycle that will continue if measures are not taken.I suggest that the framing of the problem should change, or we should at least try to examine thepossibility that it needs to change. I believe that the viewpoint that the Roma are illiterate has no base.How can we consider a person illiterate when their language is purely verbal? I would also suggest that theperception of the Roma as hostile towards education has no base either. The framework of any furtherstudy should be that of the marginalization and impoverishment of people regardless of their ‘tribe’ or‘ethnicity’: the question is not whether people want to become educated or not, but rather whether they have the chance to do so in the first place.Notes:1.The term ‘Gypsy’ is thought by many to not be politically correct while the term ‘Roma’ is favoured.However, the word Gypsy carries less pejorative connotations than others, with the exception of theGerman language due to the negativity attached to the word ‘Zigeuner’ during the Nazi period. Here, theterm is used with no pejorative connotations and denotes ‘ethnic groups formed by the dispersal of groupsfrom within India from the tenth century, and their mixing with other groups during their diaspora’.2.The whole text is based on my thesis “Education of the Roma in Greece. Stories of exclusion from Zefyri,Greece.“, submitted in 2011 (King’s College London).
OYED, Organization for Youth Education and Development www.oyed.orgLiberating Pedagogy 
 by Dante Kotsinas
 
 As Freire states in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, each human has the undeniable right to
‘name theworld’.
I fully adapt the ideas of Freire who claims that the marginalised groups’ economic, social andpolitical domination are actually responsible for their ignorance of their suppressed situation and theirpassivity towards it. The dominant groups keep the rest in a state where critical awareness is practically impossible. One of their tools is the educational system. Schooling is differentiated from education and itscontemporary processes are programming students to accept the system stoically. No educational processis neutral; it either prepares the student to embrace the system’s inequalities or leads to theirconscientisation which means
‘learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions and totake action against the oppressive elements of reality’ 
.But according to Freire we cannot expect from the oppressors to mobilise against oppression. After all, it

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