The miracle in Iazu, the village where gypsies send their kids to discover the universe: “We didn’t even know there is such a thing!”

Mihai Voinea & Auras Mihaiu, Adevărul, November 1, 2015

In this Roma community in Dâmboviţa, the number of children who attend gradinita rises every year …Somehow, the idea that the parent who doesn’t send his kid to gradinita will bear great shame has spread through this community…

“When the parents come to pick up the little ones they’re curious to know what we taught them. We have a board where we show the children’s work. The parents look there and feel proud and even brag,” says kindergarten teacher Mihaela Oprea.

Education is a tough path for impoverished communities, because it never brings results overnight. It takes time and several generations for the effects to be seen. Somehow though, the Roma of Iazu seem to be getting it…The parents have started to realize the transformations their off-spring are going through after their first encounter with education. The youngest members of the family, who had been marginal when it came to family’s priorities, have now become the subject of the elders’ pride and ambition. The Roma of Iazu are not aware of the bureaucratic wars waged in their name… but they’ve shown that, when offered a hand, they are ready to take it…

In the 1970s, there wasn’t a school in Iazu. Gypsies lived as they had always done: digging the ground, baking bricks in dirt ovens and making just enough to keep from starving… and they were largely illiterate…“After 1990 it got even tougher. Seeing that a diploma didn’t guarantee employment, people found no point in getting an education and started to give up on it. They preferred to send their children to work or keep them around the house. School abandonment had gotten massive,“ says vice-principal Ion Gheorghe.

This situation is replicated in poor communities all across the country. In fact, Romania has one of the highest illiteracy rates in Europe. This is not only a shameful statistic but a reality that produces negative effects across all sectors. Children who don’t go to school or who drop out early generally end up as welfare dependent adults.

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