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FREIE UNIVERSITAT BERLIN

EUROPEAN MASTER IN CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

RESEARCH PROPOSAL

THE ROLE OF SCHOOL IN RROMA-GYPSY


CHILDREN’S LIVES IN ROMANIA

SPECIAL FOCUS:
VOLUNTARY HIGH SCHOOL PUPILS WORKING WITH GYPSY
CHILDREN – DOES THE PERCEPTION OF SCHOOL CHANGE?

STUDENT: SPINU ANA-MARIA


EMCR FU BERLIN
ADDRESS: ALLEE DER KOSMONAUTEN 20
Matrikel nammer: 4265968
TEL: 0040726719047
e-mail: anna10mary@yahoo.co.uk
ABSTRACT
The research proposal is aimed to emphasize the role of school in lives of Gypsy
children from the local community of a Romanian village. In this research is included
also a project made in partnership with ten high-school pupils and their coordinator
teacher: both Gypsy and Romanian children will design together an activity plan in which
they decide how to include school study and solving homework, but also extra-curricular
activities; they benefit of the support of the coordination teacher and of the Daycare staff.
Both culture children’ perceptions of school are evaluated before the project starts, during
its implementation and after the activities are fulfilled on a period of a school semester.
The impact on the local community is also evaluated regarding the acceptance of the
Gypsy children as active participants in their own lives and capable to decide for
themselves about their future.
IMPORTANT: I had considered necessary to name the two groups of children
involved within this research and project as “Romanians” and “Gypsy” in order to
emphasize their participation and role, as well; and to point out their group and cultural,
ethnical characteristics; it is very important when I shall have to compare research results
and project impact on the both groups as well as on the local community.
The goal of naming like this the two groups of children is directly related to
the research hypothesis, questions and objectives, and the ultimate goal is to reduce
the attitude of discrimination in the local community towards the Gypsy children
and to determine people through the research and project results dissemination and
impact to see the Gypsy children as valuable as the Romanian ones, to realize that
children and people cannot be valued in terms of ethnicity. Both groups are able to active
participate together in their families and life of the local community.

INTRODUCTION – a glimpse on the theoretical basis


Gypsy children are some of the most disadvantaged social ethnical groups of our
societies, known as migratory people, unstable, deceiving and not capable to commit a
cause, assume a place in structural position of a certain society.

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Rarely do people in an informal manner or as well as within an institutional one
give them credit and empower them. The deterministic manner of thinking is very useful
in this case, thinking about their relation with the rest of society; the things their ancestors
and even grand parents and parents have been doing over time do not inspire trust. For
example, in mixed ethnical communities, people don’t trust the Gypsy who, <everyone
knows> that do not like to work, to study, to respect the others, they steal and cheat
people and are unstable.
This is the main reason why in schools, Gypsy children are labeled with
different negative appellatives that are meant to exclude them, expressing through
all these messages a great amount of hate and disapproval of their Ethnical
presence, fear not to be infected with some diseases and parasites from them or fear of
stealing. The Gypsy children are living and experiencing the community’s message for
them really profound in a negative way and they eventually get to act as they are
indeed labeled. Sometimes some Gypsy children (rare cases, as I have met myself) are
quite discovered by some teacher or a member of the community that involves in his/her
education and support him/her, as well as their family, invests in the child’s potential.
With this moral and even financial support, the Gypsy child studies, involves in different
educative and practical activities that allows him/her to change the role within society
and transform in a social actor, able to participate actively in changing his destiny and
choose…
How many Gypsy children, due to the cause that their families were poor, and
besides, all people excluded them, did not manage to accomplish their dream in life,
starting with completing studies?
I think it is a good question, whose answer brings out complex factors: ethnical
characteristics, personal ones, societal attitudes…
As I have been working with Gypsy children, I am thinking about a project that
should enable them to active participate in their community, family and life. Studying
their characteristics, the results mainly point out: very poor, without school or at least
primary school parents; mono-parental families; frequent alcohol consume, violence
and educational disinterest regarding the children situation; financial situation very
low leveled.

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Childhood is a social category, a stable and structural integrated component
within the social life organizing, a permanent structure in any society, even if the
members of the society are permanently “being renovated”. Such an approach provides
childhood with content and frees it from the sub-ordinate position, as well as from the
conception that its members are object-persons, in order to open the path to recognize
them as in quality of social strength in action. Mayall Berry shows us that children are
seen more as a minority social group, firstly, the studies on child-adult relationships show
that both categories perceive childhood as a period of dependency and subordination;
secondly, the notion that children need socialization is deep rooted among parents and
especially, teachers; thirdly, family and school are being organized around the adult
power in order to determine the children’s experience character. (Mayall, 2002, pp.20-21)
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As well, James and Prout (quoted by Behera, pp.2-20) affirm: “They (the children)
must be seen as active in constructing and determining their own social lives and those of
people around them and of the society in which they live.”
It is obvious that many theoretical arguments may be brought into discussion that
children should be active participants, and this could go in favor of finding out how the
Gypsy children themselves perceive school. In Romania, there have been produced and
implemented governmental and NGO strategies in order to include and integrate the
Gypsy children in school, to fight discrimination; there has been progress, but it is
difficult, due to the fact that most of the Rroma population are very poor. There is also,
an important program - “The Second Chance Program” that allows young adults that
could not attend to school, to recover the knowledge in intensive courses and getting a
diploma. But it is important to see the children’s view on school and how they just feel
about the society’s attempts in order to get school closer to them. For this research
proposal I choose the 35 Gypsy children from the local community of the Silivas village,
a village settled at a distance of 12 km from the nearest town; children are beneficiaries
of the Day Care Centre named “Saint Filofteia”, in the same village.
It is interesting the <interpretive reproduction> approach which is
characteristic to the new sociology of childhood – actually, children create and
participate in their own peer groups cultures in an unique manner through the

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Berry Mayall (2002). Towards a sociology for childhood, Open University Press, London

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creative taking the information from the adult world that is addressed to their own
preoccupations. In this case, they don’t just internalize the information or imitate
the external aspects of the world surrounding them – they have the tendency to
logically interpret in their world what they see and, in this sense – to participate.
Thus, they produce in a collective manner their own cultures and worlds. (Corsaro,
2005, pp.6-27) 2

Hypothesis: A: Gypsy children internalize the role of school in their active


proper manner.
Details: Contrary to the general beliefs of the local and surrounding community,
Gypsy children have appropriated themselves their own valuable way of knowing the
world and they can value school and choose it as an important mean of creating a future.

B: working with Romanian pupils will motivate Gypsy


children to positively value the school and active emphasize adults the role of school
for them.
Details: Getting in touch with 10 voluntary Romanian pupils in voluntary social-
educative activities which they will design and implement together, (including
homeworks, games, but directed by children together) will contribute positively to Gypsy
children motivation for attending school and social integrate easily, but in their own
natural manner, not of the adults around them that only presume how to integrate them.

C: the impact on the local community will be a positive one and


open path for long-term projects and research; children internalize and emphasize
together the role of school in their lives.
Details: The impact on the local and surrounding community will be a positive
one; as the activities will be posted on a blog and posted in articles in the voluntary
pupils’ periodic magazine, articles written by the Rroma and Romanian children together.

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Corsaro, William A. (2005). The sociology of childhood, ed. Pine Forge Press, Sage Publications Inc.

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The local community will know better not only the traditional aspects of the Gypsy
culture, but also, the value in itself of these children’s ideas and own ways of perceiving
school and world. Children themselves will get in touch with each other’s ideas about the
school and experience brought by attending to school, as well as not attending it; they
will learn each from each other.

Main Research Question:


How does the Gypsy child refers to school, does he/she see it as the most
important and secure mean to attend a social status; what other alternatives does the child
have in his mind? What is the difference between the Gypsy children’ opinions at the
beginning of the research, before getting into systematic contact with the Romanian
children, during and after they finish the activities? Do they have the feeling that
attending to school system empowers them?

Additional Research Questions:


What is the connection, as seen by the child himself, between the importance of
school for him/her and the importance of the right of being listened to: how does the fact
that he goes to school and obtains at least satisfactory results determines the adults
around him to take into account his opinions? Does that somehow raise the importance of
school for him/her? (relation with master thesis)
How does school attending influence the active participation within the family
and the community in which he lives? (relation with master thesis)
Another issue rises from the parents’ level of schooling and the importance they
give to school, in relation with respecting child’s right to be listened to and choose of
building a future as an independent person through acceding to studies, and so on support
him/her? (relation with master thesis)

Institutions involved: Foundation “Saint Filofteia”, locality Silivas and Non-


Governmental Association “Ray of Hope from Ardeal”, locality Unirea II,
Industrial Chemistry High School, as well as collaborators from the local
community or neighbor ones.

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Beneficiaries: the direct beneficiaries are a group of 30 Gypsy children (aged
from 5 to 18 years old) who usually come at the Daycare Centre of the “Saint Filofteia”
Foundation and a group of 10 pupils (aged from 14-18 years old) from the Industrial
Chemistry High School who have some experience in volunteer activities.
The indirect beneficiaries are the local community mainly constituted from
Gypsy families.
Period: one year.
Project aim: to create and maintain a solid and constructive partnership between
the above institutions in order to promote the children rights, mainly Gypsy ones and
their active participation in community and society as social actors and citizens having
responsibilities and rights. To find out the Gypsy children opinions (and the Romanian
children, also) about the importance and role of school in their lives or any other
important means through they would accede to social hierarchy and see how they come
up together with new cognitions about school.

Objectives (the most important):


 creating an alternative of free-time spending, in a creative and practical
manner – through making a legumes garden, designed by children, the
way they want;
 development of personality, creativity and entrepreneur spirit within a peer
group;
 discover of abilities and skills and use in order to create and develop;
 valorize the Gypsy children capacities and ideas in their community;
 stimulate their parents in involving properly in their educative process;
 creating a bound between Gypsy children and those 10 pupils, in which
they exchange ideas and plans of action in studying, making homework;
they support themselves and work together as a team, working towards
changing a bit of the Gypsy children negative image in the local and
neighbor communities.

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Activities (main ones):
 the agro-chemical analysis of ground – PH that uses for establishment of the
ground type (used for the garden construction); or they may choose to create a
children park or something else they might find useful for themselves;
 making a survey in order to identify the need for such an extra-curricular activity
for children – here they are to choose between the proposed activities or create
their own;
 establishment of the team members’ tasks (5-6 people);
 school volunteer course for the pupils (4 hours during two weeks);
 organizing a legume (plantation, growth and harvest) course for learning the
medium level knowledge (5 courses – 2 hours per week);
 discussions with Gypsy parents and children in order to prepare and involve them
in the activities made by children

MATERIALS AND METHODS


Materials: A: For elaborating the extended research plan: all kind of psychological and
social books that serve the new sociology of childhood but also classical books about
children, in order to make a comparison and maybe emerge with a new theory.
B: For the project itself, children are free to choose the books they want and
the adult help they desire in order to design and implement the curricular and extra-
curricular activities, for the period of one school year semester.
Methods:
The methods are: 4 group discussions with Gypsy and Romanian children separately and
together, using of brainstorming, qualitative interviews with children, courses that
provide agriculture information about building and taking care of gardens, survey made
by children in their families, local community and school in order to see the impact the
activities have on people. Children point out their own ideas and manners of making
them real in the given conditions, together with the school volunteer pupils. There will
also be used projective methods (children make drawings and take pictures, for
example) and scientific observation of the children’s behavior during the activities.

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Analysis of my role: my profession at the Day Care Center “Sf. Filofteia” is of social
worker; I get into contact with the volunteer pupils and schools, as well as with other
institutions in the local community. I instruct the volunteer pupils within a course about
volunteering activities, responsibilities, rights and duties. I am the coordinator and
organizer of the activities, the primer observer. I also instruct other two persons to
scientific observation, as well as key-volunteer pupils, in number of 4. I conduct the
group discussions and the qualitative interviews. The projective methods, I will organize
with the teacher who coordinates the group of volunteer pupils. I also collect the
information gathered by children regarding people’s impressions of the activities made. I
monitor the evolution of research and project impact and set out the results that will be
disseminated.

Evaluation/Assessment:
Firstly, it will be compared if there is any difference before implementing the
activities in Gypsy children ideas about school, and after.
Secondly, the evaluation regards the change made within the local community
referring at the Gypsy children and their place in the structure of community; the
communication type and quality; cooperation between the two ethnical groups of
children; the skills revealed and the capacity of team working of children; dissemination
of results in local media and on a Internet web page or blog.
(Note: this material does not contain the exact time schedule and the project budget, the
ideas are presented summarized and mainly).

Final conclusion

Gypsy and Romanian children have value in themselves, they have abilities,
capacities and motivation that enable them to value school, to cooperate together in
order to fight discrimination and to combine their ideas in study and even extra-
curricular activities. They are able to make research when directed and supported,
are able to organize and implement activities. They can be creative and innovative
through their genuine perspective on the world, as children…

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BIBLIOGRAPHY:
1. Mayall, Berry (2002). Towards a sociology for childhood. Open
University Press, London
2. Behera, Deepak Kumar. Children and Childhood in our contemporary
societies
3. Corsaro, A. William (2005). The sociology of Childhood. Pine Forge
Press, Sage Publications Inc.

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