Support to a triannual project for the educational inclusion of Roma children and youngsters in Catalonia

Project location: Spain
Project start date: June 2019 - Project end date: June 2022
Project number: 2019-015
Beneficiary: Fundació Privada Pere Closa Per A La Formació I Promoció Dels Gitanos A Catalunya

Roma are the oldest, largest and most discriminated cultural minority in Europe, of which they are part for more than ten centuries.
Between 998 and 1030, they had to leave the north of India (Punjab) and Pakistan (Sindh) because of the invasion of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, from present-day Afghanistan. To the first migratory flows, others were added circa the thirteenth century because of the invasion of the Mongol armies. This long migratory process explains the differences that can find today among the different Roma subgroups.

Roma settled down first in Khorasan (then Persia, now Iran), where the Seljuks invasions towards 1035 forced them to continue their migratory process crossing Armenia and Kurdistan by the shore of the Caspian Sea until arriving to Modón (then Cappadocia, today Μεθώνη or Methone), in southwest part of the Peloponnese.
In that area of Hellenic influence, currently within Turkey, they settled down for almost two centuries. The Orthodox monk Simón Simeonis made the first track of their presence in 1322. Later, in 1360, the independent Roma feud of Feudum Acinganorum was already stablished in Corfu. Their presence in Cappadocia was so long that in their arrival to Europe Roma were known as “Egyptians”, that is, as the inhabitants of Lesser Egypt, in the way that the region was known then. Hence, the confusion, which lasted until a few decades ago, that the Roma came from Egypt.

Roma entered Europe in the second half of the fourteenth century. The entrance process last for almost 100 years. Since that, they disperse themselves within the continent. Some of them went to the northeast, crossing the Balkans, by Rila (Bulgaria), Brasov (Romania, 1416), Poland (1428) and finally Lithuania (1501). Others moved towards the centre, via the Adriatic, through Dubrovnic (Croatia, 1362); from there some of them will went northwest through the Czech Republic (1407), Hildesheim (Germany, 1416), Lindau (Switzerland, 1418), Brussels (Belgium, 1419), Deventer (Holland, 1420), Hunthall (England, 1492), Denmark (1505), Sweden (1512), Finland (1515) and Norway (1544); others went southwest through Paris (1416) and Bologna (1422).
This process was possible thanks to the safe conduct that King Sigismund II of Bohemia granted them in 1417. A year later, during the Council of Constance, Pope Sixtus V granted them another that opened the doors of the centre and the west of the continent.

Thanks to him, a group of 3.000 gypsies arrived in 1418 to the Crown of Aragon, where King Alfonse V issued his own safe-conduct to the self-proclaimed “Count John from Minor Egypt and his Court” as pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela.
After practicing nomadism for the first 50 years, several legislative measures forced them to settle down since 1499, in the context of the construction of nation-states in the sixteenth century. That was the origin of some Roma neighbourhoods located closed to the old city gates, such as La Cera, Hostafrancs and Gràcia (Barcelona), Figueres, Mataró, Reus and Lleida. Since 1717, in the context of uniformitarian reformism, Roma were forced to hide their own culture in the public space, which moved Roma communities to lock themselves in in a way to survive.
In the twentieth century, since 1955, the mechanization of the countryside led many Roma from southern Spain to migrate to the periphery of large cities, while the fall of the communist countries led many gypsies to migrate from east to Western Europe.
Roma were probably the first refugees from Europe, forced to leave a desolate India because of the war to seek a better life.

Behind a human group, there is always a culture, which in this case is made up of a history, a language, some customs, a customary law and above all a way of life with clear Indian roots that converts the Roma people in a fragment of the East in the middle of the West. That explains the almost eleven centuries of encounters and disagreements, of fascination and discrimination, that there have been between Roma and non-Roma.
The first Roma International Congress was celebrated in London in 1971. In that framework was born the International Romani Union (IRU), whose first president was created the gypsy actor Yul Brynner; it was also established the Roma anthem (the Djelem, djelem, composed by Jarco Jovanović) and the Roma flag (green and blue, with a red wheel in the middle). In 1976, during the first Roma International Festival, celebrated in Chandigarh (India), Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called Roma “our lost brothers”. In 1979, the IRU was admitted as a member of the United Nations Advisory Board. In 1992, the Roma language was included in the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages by the Council of Europe. In 2000 the IRU established the celebration of the International Day of the Gypsy People, every 8th of April, to commemorate the gypsies killed in the persecutions.
Nowadays more than 12 million Roma are living in Europe; among those 600.000 are living in Spain and 140.000 are living in Italy. In Catalonia, there are currently 65.000 Roma. Most of them live in the periphery of the big cities (Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida and Girona), although the neighbourhoods in the centre of Barcelona, Figueres, Mataró and Reus. Apart from their own cultural identity, a 25% of them are born in Catalonia, another 60% are from the rest of Spain and the last 15% come from Eastern Europe. Their levels of income are lower than the average of the Catalan population in general; that lack, and their different cultural codes, makes them still strongly discriminated by the majority of the society. Their main needs are education and employment; housing is also important. They work in the service sector, especially in street markets, as well as collecting scrap metals for recycling and in the world of artistic creation and interpretation. Thanks to almost 40 years of social intervention, a middle class is arising among Roma, working also in standardized occupations.

The problem of school absenteeism and educational failure within Roma has is caused by the ignorance of schools about the Roma identity and the distrust of Roma families over the school institution itself. Schools do not understand the Roma cultural codes and families do not understand the teaching dynamics either. Teachers consider that Roma do not want to go to school and have a vocation for illiteracy; parents think that teachers want their children to be acculturated so as not to be Roma any more.
Therefore, Roma children and youngsters do not perceive common values transmitted by schools in the way they perceive their own values, which causes demotivation, absenteeism, conflict and failure. To the conflict between cultural codes can be added the affective-emotional disrupt, because Roma students feel themselves alone in the educational process, as families do not support them and schools do not understand them.
Some general data on general situation in Europe:
• According to the World Bank (2005) Roma have a life expectancy of 10-15 years less than the rest of the population. And 50% of the Roma population is under 30 years old. 
• According to the European Commission (2008), Roma are rejected by the 24% of the population in the EU.
• According to Marcel Courthiade, only 4% of the Roma population still maintain nomadism, being mostly Eastern European groups.

The 1978 Spanish Constitution eliminated the legal measures still discriminating Roma in Spain. However, those measures remain somehow in the collective unconscious of the Spaniards, motivating the attitudes of discrimination that still can be perceived in daily life. The best way is to combat them through the educational system and the media.
In the last 40 years, thanks to the dynamics of promotion and recognition, the situation of the Roma population has improved Spain. One cannot forget that in 1969 the illiteracy rate of Roma adults was 95%, reduced to 68% in 1978 and to 25.7% 1998. Likewise, according to the same sources, the percentage of compulsory schooling was 55%, while in 2002 it was already 95%.
These figures still place Roma away from the rest of the population. In fact, school absenteeism –regular or sporadic– remains at 31%, while school failure is around 70%. In other words, despite the fact that 94% of Roma children finishes Primary, around 80% finishes Secondary (buy only 50% finished Secondary in the whole of Europe). There percentage is lower in Vocational Training and Baccalaureate; even lower is the percentage of those who access University.

On the positive hand, Roma have increased higher welfare levels and lower discrimination rates, as well as strengthening their collective conscience and the progressive generation of the concept of Roma youth, as well as the essential role of Roma women.

In 2004, the World Bank established 2005-2015 as the Decade for the Roma Inclusion. That year the Council of Europe created the European Roma and Travelers Forum. In addition, in 2010 the European Commission established the European Framework of National Strategies for the Inclusion of Gypsies until 2020.
The National Strategies Framework points out the key elements for educational intervention with Roma population, as follows:
• Taking into account the collective conscience among Roma.
• Working with participation direct and continuous of Roma.
• Developing micro-projects as a more efficient.
• Promoting leaders that help them in inclusion.
• Visualize the link between education and employment.
• Use practical methods like “learning by doing”.
In Spain the National Strategy for the Social Inclusion of Roma (2012-2020) focusses in two points:
• To increase the enrolment in Secondary of Roma population between 13-15 years to 85% in 2015, and 90% in 2020.
• To reduce the school dropout rates before the end of the compulsory stage and increase the percentage of gypsy students who are graduates in Secondary.

The project will consist of a series of awareness actions among schools and Roma families, to promote dialogue between all the actors involved in the education and training of Roma children and youngsters. Special attention will be paid to the training of Roma women as key actors in the social change of their communities. Finally, Roma children and youngsters will be helped to carry their homework, while developing educational resources for the dissemination of Roma in the schools.
The methodology will start from an empathic methodology, based on experience, in order to be able to transfer the concepts into categories comprehensible by Roma in all educational stages. It is important to use a positive language, in an enculturated context of personal relationships and use of time, with examples and easily understandable metaphors.
Thanks to such actions and methodology it will be possible to develop procedures that identify emotions, help to express them, overcome mistrust, stimulate intellectual restlessness and guarantee follow-up. The synergy between schools and families will essential. The use of educational techniques comparable to Gypsy customs is a guarantee of effectiveness.
The project will be carried out through three levels of intervention (two for Technical Staff for Education and one for Technical Staff for Culture) and one of coordination (the Project Coordinator), which will also carry out support actions in awareness and educational reinforcement actions.
The project will contemplate a previous planning stage and a subsequent evaluation stage. The first will allow preparing the training material and selecting the beneficiaries of the project; the second will allow measuring, through indicators, the achievement of the initial objectives.

The project, which received a grant from the NaEPF, will develop actions with over 50 schools and approximately 100 Roma families, carrying out also educational reinforcement actions with approximately 200 Roma children and youngsters from 5 municipalities. 
The Pere Closa Foundation will also develop other educational and cultural actions, as the Vakeripen Project (to promote the conversation in Roma language between families and teachers), the Amaro Barvalipe Project (to promote the cultural identity of Roma youngsters and their social and political leadership) and the Teatre Rromano Project (for the realization of a Roma school show).
The actions will also result in the production of a document that summarizes the experience on the dissemination of gypsy culture in the classroom, which will allow the reproduction of the results obtained in other geographical contexts where intervention with the Roma population is involved.

think global, act local
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