Discussions of the obstacles Roma children face when receiving education can last for ages. The problem of segregation classes and lack of special attitude to the children who will study in non-native Russian language were touched many times. Development of preschool education could be a method to “untangle the snarl” of problems related to the receiving education by Roma children. Some school organise extra classes for future first graders. However, sometimes self-action is needed.
I came to the settlement of Kosaya Gora in the outskirts of Tula in December, 2010 accompanied by Gennady Oparin. He is a director of the Yasnaya Polyana museum filial in Pirogovo where elder brother of the writer, Sergey Tolstoy, lived with his wife, Russian Roma Maria Shishkina. Looking for the descendants of Maria Shsishkina, Gennady Oparin came to the Roma settlement in Kosaya Gora. He did not find any of them there – the Kelderash Roma moved to Kosaya Gora in the early 60-s. However, the acquaintance resulted in the Roma festival organised by two Roma settlements – in Plekhanovo and Kosaya Gora – together with the Yasnaya Polyana filial in Maloye Pirogovo.
A new initiative was organisation of preschool classes for the children of the settlement in Kosaya Gora. Recently a high-profile scandal broke in the school of the settlement – the director refused to accept children to the 5th grade. The case was filed, and a complaint was submitted to the European Court of Human Rights.
According to the settlement headman, Vyacheslav Mihai, who let the classes to be run in his house, there are about 60 children of school and preschool age. 20 of them will go school this year.
“When we asked the director of the school, why it is hard to study for our children, she said that Russian children come to school already well-prepared, but our children are not,” – V. Mihai says. Hence comes the idea to organise preschool classes. “I hope that those who study in a preschool group will learn what the studying is, who a teacher is, what will they do at school and will not be afraid of it”, he adds.
The largest problem for the Roma children at school is a barrier of foreign language. The children have to remember how to write and read letters and also to understand what teacher says. The strange language the strangers – teachers – talk to them makes children stress and the process of study frightening and unpleasant. Usually Roma children cannot read when they come to school for the first time. That is one of the reasons why teachers put them in a separate class. The development of preschool education would simplify and improve the situation.
The work with children in Kosaya Gora is one of the happiest pedagogical experiences for me. I am “frantsuso” (Frenchman) for two months already. This is the name the inhabitants of the settlement gave to me in honour of the main character of the movie “Gadjo dilo” (Crazy Stranger). Kind and “smiling” attitude to me from the parents and the children makes me feel good and our classes pleasant and funny.
We have just started our classes: we learned only how to write only a few letters and numbers. But what I can already see is the absence of fear. The children are not afraid of difficult way of studying and of the “strange” that was a source of “bad things” for them so many times.