Natalia Porubin, Investigative Journalism Center comentarii | 932 views
While the Ministry of Education applies sophisticated educational software in some schools, there are villages where neither the children nor the adults have any idea what an ABC Book is. Such a village is Vulcănești in the district of Nisporeni where illiteracy is passed on from generation to generation, and those who can put their signature on papers are considered literate.
Romanița Kindergarten, recently opened in this village with the World Bank support, is in the villagers and authorities opinion a first step to eradicating ignorance.
Learning makes you an important person
Prințesa is 4 years old and she came to the kindergarten for the first time several months ago together with her older sister Rodica. When their parents brought them to Romanița, the girls did not speak Romanian at all and communicated only in their native language Romany. Most of the children of Roma ethnicity in Vulcănești were in the same situation. The teachers said they had to work very much not only to give them elementary knowledge but also to teach them life skills. Some of them did not even know how to hold the spoon in their hand. Now, a few months after the kindergarten opening, the children can count and even recite poems in Romanian.
Another girl, Anișoara, is her parents pride. At the age of seven, she is the only one in her family who knows the letters, not all of them but she still has time to learn, the mothers girl says.
If I could turn back time, I wouldnt get married at 15
Even if they themselves didnt have a chance to study, the residents of Vulcănești recognize the importance of learning. Those parents who bring their children to the kindergarten say that they want a better condition for their children, which is impossible without education.
If I could turn back time I wouldnt get married at 15 and Id not give up school for anything in the world! says Ludmila Caracuian, mother of four who cannot write or read. Like other mothers, Ludmila cannot even sign the bill for the kindergarten, one of the teachers tells us.
In the Cobzari family, both parents are also illiterate but they want at least their four children to be able to study. The parents do not have a stable work place and have to work by the day in the neighboring villages. The youngest children in the family have been attending kindergarten since its opening and, according to their mother, feel better than at home because they are fed, kept clean and taught poems there. Florin, the oldest son, has not gone to the kindergarten even one day and does not speak Romanian at all. Thus, the road to school is closed for him because the classes are only in Romanian there. Tens of other Roma teenagers are in Florins place, who have not been to school also for the reason they didnt have the possibility to learn the state language.
The opening of the kindergarten is a first step to eradication of ignorance in Vulcănești. Nonetheless, the problem is far from having been solved. This is because only one out of four children of preschool age attends the kindergarten. The others are gone abroad where their parents are working, Zinaida Triboi, the kindergarten director, told us.
Promoted from class to class, even though they cannot read
Ninety five percent of the village of Vulcănești is populated by Roma. Most of those over 1500 residents have never been to school. Due to the fact that their parents permanently migrate seeking work, the children do not go to school for too long several months per year at the most. For the rest, they must learn another lesson how to exist in a society from which the Roma population is virtually excluded.
Even though there has been a school in the village for many years, Roma children reach the sixth grade at the most. There are cases when they are promoted from one class to another without even being able to read. In such conditions, many villagers do not see the point of going to school at all. The girls are even more vulnerable to illiteracy because most of them get married in their teen years and dont have a mind for school anymore. Sociological studies show that the level of knowledge of a child decisively depends on the mothers level of education.
Education is done fictitiously at the Vulcănești School; teachers come to school at in interval of two or three days per week. The teaching is done by the children; the teachers delegate it to the children present to take care of their colleagues education. In a way, teachers wait for the day to pass so that they are paid. I met children in the sixth grade who did not know even a letter of the alphabet. The childrens parents are very revolted and dissatisfied with the level of education and the careless attitude of teachers. Most of the population cannot write or read, shows a report prepared for the UNDP by Cosmina Novakovici, international expert in the Roma issue.
At school only in the time free from begging
A numerous family that lives in poverty, as is the case of many Roma families, hardly manages to cover the hidden costs of education. The clothing, books, footwear and other things of first need for a student are often too expensive for such families. When they do not have work here, at home, that is, when seasonal work is over, most of the villagers go to seek work in Russia or Ukraine. Most of them live from begging there. At home remain only those who do not have enough money to get passports.
Many families from the village rent in flats in the big Russian cities and spend some time there, mainly begging, and then return home and other families take their place so that not to lose the business. Thus, most of the children forget about books for a long period of time.
Each fifth Roma is illiterate
Education is the weak link of the Roma community in Moldova. The statistics of international organizations at this section are rather alarming and much below the country average, says Nicolae Radița, Head of the National Council of Roma.
According to a UNDP study, a fifth of the Roma population does not have minimum writing and reading skills, to note that this indicator is ten times lower in the rest of the population. The level of literacy of the Roma population is 75 percent, which is lower than even in Kenya, which is a country known for its low level of human development.
Three out of ten Roma have only primary education and other three have attended secondary school. There are very few Roma with higher education.
Most parents refuse to give their children to school considering that they have already reached the necessary level of knowledge. Another reason is the early marriages but also the fact that Roma are forced to work from their childhood. Some leaders of organizations for the protection of Roma peoples rights say that school abandonment is a consequence of lack of knowledge of the Romanian language and discrimination in schools and kindergartens.
The 2004 population census established that 12,271 ethic Roma live in Moldova, or 0.4% of the total population. However, non-official data show a figure of up to 150,000 Roma. According to the UNDP data, about one third of the Roma population is included in the category of the poorest people of Moldova, and five out of ten Roma live in extreme poverty.
* Photographs by Paul Hodorogea
This investigation has been produced as part of the Journalists for Human Rights Media Campaign, implemented by the Investigative Journalism Center with the support of the US Embassy in Moldova. The author is responsible for this article.
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