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Report from Seminar 1 B on Educational strategies against intolerance
Presentation by Ms. Dimitrina Petrova
Presentation by Ms. Milena Hübschmannová

Report from Seminar 1 B on Educational strategies against intolerance

Communities under threat: Identifying critical areas for education policy development

Communities under threat: Identifying critical areas for education policy development
Dr. Stephen D. Smith, Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre, UK, was the moderator of this seminar, on the following topic: How can education strategies contribute to improving the situation of Roma and decreasing intolerance against them? The focus was on Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe. Dr. Smith drew up the following aims with the seminar: Outline the history and context of Roma communities, their historical and contemporary vulnerability Examine the landscape of current issues and problems facing the Roma communities Assess what kind of policies would support a greater understanding of these issues Question in what ways education in combination with legislation, policy development and direct action need to be implemented to create change.

Education an effective tool
Mr. Pal Csáky, Deputy Prime Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Regional Development, Slovak Republic, in his message stressed that intolerance is a problem of human mentality, and has to be dealt with by a change of thinking. He considered education as an effective tool to accomplish this. Education should deal with fundamental ethical principles, against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, but measures in the social sector have also to be taken for the prevention of discrimination, Mr. Pal Csáky said.
The objective is to advocate an atmosphere of tolerance and co-existence. The situation of Roma is one of the priorities in the Slovac Republic.

Unknown history may be the cause of a vague identity
The Hon. Ian Hancock, University of Texas, Austin
Ian Hancock presented an historical overview to provide context to understanding the ongoing experience of the Roma in Europe. He paid particular emphasis to the need to provide knowledge for the benefit of both the Roma themselves and those who are the potential/actual source of intolerance toward them. He began by linking the former vague identity of Roma in part to the lack of knowledge of their own history. The Roma came to Europe at the end of the 13th century, and there was a certain amount of confusion about their origin. In course of time the ignorance of identity became part of their perception of themselves. Consequently there was a lack of awareness of their identity on both sides, reinforcing the “external outsider” position. Research in the past ten years has come to the conclusion that the roots of Roma were in India. Roma seem to have been a composite population in India, originally speaking various languages.

Ian Hancock reinforced the need to teach about the history and culture of Roma to lay the ground for greater respect. An appreciation of the courage, determination and ability Roma have presented in keeping their language and culture under the severe conditions they have suffered during hundreds of years, should also be seen as cultural self-determination and therefore an asset of the Roma community to be respected. He also underscored the necessity of teaching about the history of the Roma during the Nazi period. He pointed out that Roma were among the first victims of Zyklon B when it was tested at Auschwitz and that their victimisation during the Third Reich should be better understood.

Desegregation Most Important
Dimitrina Petrova, European Roma Rights Center, Hungary
Ms. Dimitrina Petrova stated that it is one thing to talk about Roma in the education, but it remains important that Roma children themselves have access to education. She stressed that segregation and discrimination of Romani children in the educational system remains one of the main concerns in Eastern Europe.
She illustrated this with several examples: In Czech Republic almost half of Roma children are in special schools for mentally handicapped, due to IQ tests that are not neutral to culture and language. In a municipality in Bosnia Romani refugee children were not allowed to go to the local school by the authorities, in Greece a parents’ association decided to boycott a public school to prevent enrolment of Romani children. Romani children in some countries are offered special classes with curricula that feature manual skills training, music and crafts. In other cases they are dropping out of school early or not going to school at all. She had four points for consideration:

Desegregation and equal access to education for the Roma is therefore one of the most important steps and can be attained through several strategies: litigation, legislation, Roma rights activism and human rights education for Roma.

Policy change must be implemented at a governmental level as many of the problems are systemic. Human rights education need to be given to the Roma themselves, who very often do not know what they are entitled to or what their rights are.

Public education should work toward reducing the intolerance toward the Roma, as very little progress will be achieved without a change in the societal context.
She also raised the point that the Holocaust, the Pareimos and the experience of the Gulag are all a part of the same discourse in Central and Eastern Europe.

Open Road – “Phundrado Drom”
Ms. Milena Hübschmannová, Charles University, Czech Republic
Milena Hübschmannová, began by saying that reference to the ‘Gypsy Problem’ should be eliminated as soon as possible as it makes an inconvenience out of them and underscores their otherness. In the same manner the Gypsy stigma is constructed out of a false image of gypsy community and culture that also needs to be reduced through education. She stated that awareness is still at a very low level and that knowledge about Roma and “romipen”, the special values of Romani culture, language, history etc, should be taught to everybody to gain a better mutual understanding. Roma as well as non-Roma have to be enlightened to make the “open road” possible (“phundrado drom” in Romani) – a full realization of the Roma ethnic identity. She was concerned that the transition from totalitarianism to democracy was a hindrance to this and that democratic values were not sufficiently infused into attitudes toward minorities.

She presented several good examples of how this issue is now slowly being addressed: An institution of Roma advisers has been established in Czech schools, local and district committees and ministries. Roma can study at a private Romani social college. Several universities offer courses or lectures on Romani history, culture and language. There are Romani papers and books appearing, etc. These opportunities have made more Roma well oriented in their own search for identity as well as offering opportunity to students from the majority population to learn.

On the other hand, she was pessimistic about the fact that prejudice and intolerance is still at a high level. She pointed out that knowledge without an ethic to support it would not necessarily alleviate the situation. Roma are generally the last to be employed and the first to be made redundant. A recent survey revealed that only 24 % expressed tolerance towards Roma. Milena Hübschmannová thought this to a large extent be an effect of the negative values of Roma in media, why it is an urgent matter to inform and educate journalists in romipen and ethics.
Her key points were to Strengthen information through the school system:
Develop and publish new textbooks to assist this.
Attempt to tackle or expose the misinformation in the press, perhaps with some form of monitoring.
Make Romani culture – poetry, literature, arts – more widely available.

Issues and proposed actions
During the discussion a number of issues were touched upon which resulted in a number of further suggestions for action. These included:

- Roma should participate in forming any policy that concerns them. The parents should for example have the opportunity to choose the form of education for their children. Some may prefer special classes where the children through romipen can achieve better accomplishment in general education, while others may prefer integration etc.

- Teacher training programmes were suggested, both for Roma and non-Roma, for school education adjusted to Roma families and culture.
- For better possibilities in advanced studies, subsidies for university studies for Roma were suggested.

- The question of how to make Roma communities more open to collaboration was posed. Some of the answers were the following: Understand Roma as a heterogeneous group, address the family as a cohesive unit, and not to expect to educate them, but to learn.

- The forming of an international network for authors, publishers and others was suggested to facilitate the translation, production and dissemination of Romani books. A recent collaboration resulted in the translation of Katerina Taikon . Only 1200 copies were produced but it had a tremendously positive effect in the Czech Republic.
- Due to the lack of knowledge about Roma in Holocaust it was suggested that a book should be published on the topic. The history of the Roma should be taught and read as ‘a marvellous story that needs to be told’.

- It was also suggested that affirmative action might be necessary to kick start the process of making society more open to its Roma communities and providing greater opportunity to higher education and employment in particular.

- It was suggested that there should be more international conferences about Roma. It was particularly suggested that a greater focus on Roma in the Stockholm conference next year might be considered a valuable and important way to develop further focus.

- The need for international cooperation at al levels of policy making was highlighted, which should include the Roma as a part of its ongoing discourse. Concluding, Dimitrina Petrova stressed that education should offer insights into the formation of prejudice, the sociology of social distance, exclusion and intolerance, and the mechanisms of denial.
Furthermore she pointed out that intolerance cannot be met by legal means and education alone. She stressed the importance of “learning by doing”; the lived experience as means for societies as well as individuals learning to be more tolerant.

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Opening Session

Plenary Sessions: Messages and Presentations

Workshops, Panels and Seminars

Closing Plenary Session and Declaration

Other Activities

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