Bosnia and Herzegovina: new data reveal barriers to Roma education
December 2005: Around 80% of Roma children in Bosnia and Herzegovina who are not in school do want an education, according to new research carried out by the NGO Budimo Aktivni, supported by UNICEF and the European Commission.
Outlining their reasons for not going to school, Roma children highlighted lack of money and the need to work, while some stated that their parents would not allow them to go to school. Importantly, some were anxious about the kind of reception they would receive at school. As one girl said: “I was nervous. I thought that someone would beat me.“ Only two children said that they did not go to school because they didn't like it.
Around half of the Roma parents interviewed had not completed primary school. While this is not necessarily an obstacle to sending their own children to school, problems arise when parents are unable to help their children with their homework.
Most of the Roma children who were enrolled in school also work with their parents in market places with them or collect raw materials for sale. Children who were not enrolled in school often earned money by begging, passing the money to their parents or buying food for the family. However, the study also revealed that around 25% of non-Roma children also work, at home or on the farm, in order to earn pocket money or boost family income.
All children who attend school, whether Roma or non-Roma, want to become lawyers, doctors, teachers or merchants when they grow up. However, the Roma children who don't attend school did not aspire to any profession requiring a higher or vocational training, tending to focus on manual work.
The scale of prejudiceWhether attending school or not, Roma children reported being exposed to verbal, physical and other forms of violence -- including insults -- far more than their non-Roma peers. "When Nikola touches me by accident, he says he needs to take a bath immediately” said one Roma girl.
Roma children state that their non-Roma peers are verbally abusive towards them. They feel that non-Roma children are different because "They have more friends and better life“. However, Roma children who attend school sometimes proudly stress the difference between themselves and other Roma who are not in the classroom.
The teachers examined admitted that schools can rarely cope with the education needs of Roma children. They displayed a wide range of attitides, from prejudiced to positive, and often lacked the professional skills needed to provide high quality education to Roma children.
Non-Roma parents often expressed disturbing levels of prejudice, describing Roma people as "dirty and unkempt, cheerful and fun, irresponsible, lazy”. Around half of them thought that Roma people had a tendency towards crime, while most felt that Roma were only fit for menial, simple jobs. Not surprisingly, when asked "how much do you know about Roma culture, habits and tradition“, half of the non-Roma parents answered "Nothing at all“. This lack of knowledge may well be fuelling deep-rooted prejudice.
All respondents agreed that the Roma were held in low esteem and agreed that this situation could be improved if the State would ensure employment for adults and education for children. They also stated necessity of having Roma political representatives in government institutions.
"The experience and practice of countries that have addressed the issue of Roma inclusion in education could be used in
The recommendations from the research include the inclusion of Roma children in preparatory classrooms and the development of school materials that promote Roma language and culture.
UNICEF supported this research in order to get solid information about the real situation in education of Roma children to guide action.
The research, "Inclusion of Roma Children into the Education System in Bosnia and Herzegovina" was conducted by the NGO Budimo aktivni with financial support from UNICEF and the European Commission. It examined attitudes towards education, define behavioural models, examine attitudes towards the Roma population, their skills and abilities and to determine their genuine learning potential.
The research, conducted in
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