Support for education of Roma

On the occasion of the upcoming International Romani Language Day, a conference was held to present the interim results of the ongoing project “Innovative Education of Teachers to Increase their Intercultural Competences in the Educational Process of Roma Pupils”.

The National Institute of Education and Youth (NIVaM) has supported the education of Roma men and women at the national level, from pre-primary to upper secondary education, through a number of projects and activities on a long-term basis. Thanks to the project “Innovative training of teachers to increase their intercultural competences in the educational process of Roma pupils”, it has been possible to increase the number of male and female teachers, as well as other school staff, who use Romani language and the inclusion of information about Roma history and culture in the teaching process.

“At NIVaM, we are aware that an important factor to achieve better school results for children is the necessary adaptation of educational conditions to their social, cultural and linguistic specificities. That is why one of our priorities is to create educational conditions that enable children, pupils and students to learn in their mother tongue Romani and to learn more about Roma culture and history. The aim of the conference is to share with the participants of the event the successful results achieved so far in the field of education of Roma men and women and to propose possibilities for further development of education in the Romani language, taking into account the respect of the right of every child to be educated in its mother tongue.“, said Svetlana Síthová, Director of the NIVaM Formal Education Support Department.

The main goal of the project, also known under the slogan “Together with Roma we will achieve more”, is to increase the professional competences of pedagogical and expert staff and school management through training and to support intercultural and inclusive education in schools with pupils from Roma communities through the development of teaching materials focusing on Romani language, culture and history, specific publications and methodologies.

“The project aims to strengthen mutual understanding, tolerance and respect for difference in the school environment. In recent times, these values have become more than desirable, they are indispensable. The second largest national minority in Slovakia is the Roma national minority, and according to the latest Slovak census, more than 100 000 citizens speak Romani, and Romani is their mother tongue. We are aware that unofficial statistics speak of higher figures. That is why with this project we are contributing to the systemic, didactic and methodological support of schools for the implementation of the Romani language, Roma culture and history, topics related to fundamental human rights and democratic citizenship in school educational programmes”, said Jozef Facuna, manager of the project “Together with Roma we will achieve more”.

During the school year 2021/2022, a pilot testing of the teaching texts for the reading books, which are prepared in Romani and Slovak languages, was carried out in three primary schools. At the same time, in cooperation with Romani language teachers, a pilot validation of a textbook intended for secondary school pupils preparing for the final exam in Romani language was carried out.

“We are trying to discover our own culture through discovering the value of the Romani language. I consider it important to raise the language skills of pupils from Roma backgrounds from an early age, thus strengthening the influence on families, to awaken in parents the need to know their own roots through the Romani language, to revive identity, the need for further education and economic stability on a partnership basis. In our school we have Romani language included in every single grade. In this regard, I very much appreciate the creation of teaching texts and textbooks in the Romani language, but also other activities of the project, which strengthen the stability of pre-primary and primary education of Roma children and create human and specific resources for quality intercultural education at national, regional and local level, focusing on the specific needs of Roma”, said Darina Tököliová, teacher of the Romani language from the Private Primary School and Private Secondary Grammar School in Kremnica”.

The project activities also included the launch of the online educational and methodological portal, which is a useful and comprehensive source of materials for teachers and other school staff working in schools with pupils from Roma communities.

“Within the Association of Schools teaching the Romani Language we welcome the existence of the portal, which is an excellent tool and source of various materials on the Romani language, Roma culture and Roma history. These materials also serve as sources of information for students preparing for the final exam in Romani language and literature. They will later use their knowledge of this language in their future professions as teachers in kindergartens, pedagogical and field social assistants. In this way, the position of Roma women and men in society will be improved,” said Alexej Molčanyi, the association’s director.

“The portal is the only educational portal with professional lecturers who are experts in the areas based on the “Together with Roma We Achieve More“ project. It contains a wide range of topics that qualitatively enrich the educational process of the Roma population. Representatives of the parenting public perceive this portal solution ver positively”, said Júlia Lindtnerová, President of the Slovak Council of Parents’ Associations.

During the project, 60 school management staff have so far been trained so far in school management training, 10 teachers have been trained for the state language exam in the Romani language, 30 staff have been trained in the “Slovak Academy” and 10 multipliers have been trained in the field of human rights and democratic citizenship in cooperation with the Norwegian project partner, the European Wergeland Centre. 34 teachers of kindergarten, primary and secondary schools successfully completed the training course “Intercultural Education in Schools with Pupils from Roma Communities” and its continutation will be launched during November this year.

“The training of pedagogical and expert staff, as well as school management, is of great benefit to all schools with pupils from Roma communities. It is necessary to continuously support educational institutions that reflect the needs of pupils from marginalised Roma communities or from socially disadvantaged backgrounds from pre-school education, through primary, secondary and higher education in order to achieve a qualitative level of education in the Romani mother tongue, success in education in general, as well as inclusive work on the part of schools”, said Jana Tomová, the founder of schools with Romani language instruction in Kremnica.

The project “Innovative training of teachers to increase their intercultural competences in the educational process of Roma pupils” is implemented within the framework of the Local Development, Poverty Eradication and Roma Inclusion Programme funded by Norwegian grants and the State Budget of the Slovak Republic.