Conference “Education of Roma children in the Russian Federation” concluded

On November 4-5, a conference, dedicated to the problems of the education of the Roma children and improvement of its quality, took place in the office of the Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial.” Directors and teachers of the schools with a large amount of Roma students participated in the conference. The conference’s participants told stories about personal work, as well as listened to the presentations prepared by the invited experts.

In the first day of the conference, the Swedish specialists in the area of education of Roma children told about the conditions of their work in Sweden. A teacher of a Romani cultural class in a Swedish secondary school, Kati Dimiter-Taikon, told the participants about her unique experience. Usually, the Roma children study together with other students in regular schools, but in this school in Stockholm, the Roma children can go to a special class, where the class is taught in Romani, and the teachers are also Roms. Angelina Dimiter-Taikon, the director of this class, told about the peculiarities of working with Roma children, shared methods of teaching and ways to increase the motivation of students. The presentation of Swedish colleagues aroused a lot of questions from the teachers from Russia. The questions were related to the formal side of their work: status of classes, teachers, students and qualifications, as well as problems that teachers who are teaching Roma children might face – bilingualism and early marriages of the students.

A teacher of the Södertörn University in Stockholm, Alla Ericson, talked about the preparation of the Roma teachers and new methods of teaching – mostly she told about the classes, which included an aggregation of knowledge on different subjects in one lesson. She also offered forms of collaboration between Russia and Sweden in the sphere of education of the Roma children.

In the second half of the first day, a psychologist and professor of Saint Petersburg State University, I.S. Berdyshev, talked about problems of school crisis, which the majority of the modern students are effected by. During the discussion, the psychologist’s new book, “School crisis and rights of a child,” was presented. The most important issue in the book, as well as in the presentations, was the necessity to help and support a “problem” student.

The second day of the conference began with the presentation of the work that is being conducted by the participants of the conference within the project “Protection of the rights of Roma children in Russian schools.” The representatives of schools – directors and teachers – discussed the positive results that were achieved recently, shared their problems that they currently could not solve, commented on the formal obstacles that sometimes prevented the Roma children from receiving any kind of education. One of the formal difficulties of accepting a student to school often appears to be the student’s age, the absence of registration or documents, proving the identity of the student. The main positive change in the recent years, according to the participants of the conference, is a more serious and responsible attitude of the new generation parents to their children’s education.

The conclusion of the conference consisted of a discussion of educational standards, difficulties of their realisation in a “Romany” class or schools, and adherence to rights of the children, especially the difficulties with implementation of the children’s rights to personal view. The participants of the conference emphasised the educational and enlightening role the schools play for the Roma settlements, the necessity to continue to realise the work for the education of the Roma children in the schools of Russia.