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Reader feedback: Roma compromise

Re: Some want to take the Roma to school, By Martina Pisárová, May 24 - 30, Vol 10 No 20

The discussion of boarding schools for Roma confuses Roma ethnicity with poverty and goes straight to a solution without first identifying problems.

Poverty is certainly a problem, and giving parents the chance to send their children to boarding schools might remove certain barriers to study; Roma children who live in a settlement several kilometres from the nearest school and must travel on an unpaved road would probably have better attendance at school if they could stay the night there. Children too poor for breakfast would study better if they were at a school that provided meals. Children who live in a shack in a settlement without electricity, and in which there are five people sleeping in one room, would maybe study more effectively in a bedroom with one other child, lighting, and a desk.

Yes, for poor children living in certain conditions, a boarding school removes some socio-economic barriers to their learning. Assuming such help is offered to poor families, including Roma, who opt for such help, it would be nice.

However, poverty is only one reason Roma children are poorly educated in Slovakia. Many Roma children are put in separate schools from those attended by whites; the schools for Roma have inferior conditions in many ways. Maybe we should discuss the integration of Roma children into the quality schools in the same regions where they live, rather than considering how to send them away to a special (and still segregated) boarding school.

I think many advocates of boarding schools for Roma envisage a system like that which the US government once used to separate indigenous American youth from their communities. The result had all the negatives of segregated education with the added negative of removal from one's family and culture

J Nirenberg,
Warsaw, Poland

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