We continue to tell about schools where Gypsy children study. Today the discussion is about School No. 414 in the village of Volodarka. It recently became fifty years old. By today’s measures, the school is small – almost 300 children study there. The first feeling which comes to every visitor to the school is one of comfort and warmth. It is immediately visible that the school’s administrators and teachers are anxious to make all the pupils comfortable. In the school there is a fine assembly hall, with carefully arranged stands, and in the cosy canteen they actually make tasty food – we can persuaded of that ourselves.
Volodarka and Strelna are traditional Gypsy settlements, well-known as early as the 19th century. Today, 13 Gypsy children study in Volodarka’s school and they are all integrated with the ordinary classes and study the same syllabus as the other children. (THIS PARAGRAPH CAN GO BELOW THE HEADING OR SOMEHOW STAND OUT)
During this academic year School No. 414 became a participant in the “Memorial” education project, with whose methodological support special classes are organised for Gypsy children. They are run by Nadezhda Grigorievna Vinokurova, a social educational specialist. She knows her pupils well, often goes to see their families and knows their parents. Nadezhda Grigorievna takes the children’s problems and care to heart and is always ready to respond to requests for help. She succeeds in establishing contact both with the children and with the parents.
In the special classes, Nadezhda Grigorievna tells of the history of the Gypsy people, about Gypsy traditions and she reads Gypsy tales together with the children. Furthermore, once a week a choreographer, Tamara Nikolaevna Cherepovskaya, comes to the school and teaches the children Gypsy dances.
The children show an interest in the lessons, particularly the younger pupils. Most of all they like drawing. Non-Gypsy children also come to listen to Nadezhda Grigorievna.
We hope that the additional lessons in Gypsy culture will help the children to develop their talents, which of course every child has. For example, third-former Kristina Martsinkevich and eighth-former Kostya Leonov are good at drawing. Vika Khryashchova is doing very well in the tenth form, but finds time for our classes too. Roman Levistkii dances well. And Masha Bolstren in Form 9 writes touching poems about the things which excite her soul:
Flowers come out with the first rays,
Like hands, their petals reach out for the sun,
They are splendid, like my dreams,
In which there are no worries or separation.
We are grateful to the school director, Sveltana Anatolyevna Morozova, who has supported the North-Western Centre for the Social and Legal Defence of the Roma (Gypsies)’s initiative and who helped to organise our lessons. We hope that Gypsy children will go to school with great enthusiasm and will receive an education, which is so essential today, and that they can better develop their abilities and even those children who for some reason have dropped out of school, will strive towards education.
One of the tasks of our educational projects is to improve the attitude of Gypsies to school. It is by no means a secret that some parents consider education “non-compulsory” and frequently remove their children from school, not giving them a chance to finish even secondary education. Recently, leaders of Gypsy social organisations have said that education is gradually becoming more prestigious in Gypsy circles and that the benevolent attitude of teachers and school administrationto Gypsy children and an understanding of the distinctive features of their national specificities are very important. The experience of the Volodarka school shows that a lot can be achieved by collective efforts.