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Many non-Roma tend to believe that Roma do not value education. This is, to a certain extent, true when it comes to very traditional families and only with regard to formal education.
What is true is that poor education levels today are a major obstacle for Roma to access the labour market. Educating Roma children is thus seen as essential in overcoming poverty.
However, Roma children who want to go to school have to face many obstacles. For those Roma who live in isolated settlements, the way to school alone becomes a hurdle. Furthermore, parents might lack the financial means for buying proper clothes, shoes, school supplies, and food for their children. Exclusion from the part of the teachers and schools is also an issue. Many Roma children are forced to attend separated classes in order not to mix with children coming from the majority population. In many countries Roma children are overrepresented in special schools or classes for mentally disabled children. In 2006 several anti-Roma demonstrations organised by the parents of non-Roma students took place in different European countries at the entrance of de-segregated schools in which Roma children were enrolled.
In many countries Roma children are overrepresented in special schools or classes for mentally disabled children. This is often part of public policy: in some areas the special schools are the only ones which have a school bus and offer free school lunches. Also the children whose mother tongue is Romani, might for example not completely control the majority language: in these cases the presence of a Roma school mediator could help in making the children learn more rapidly; unfortunately, the role of the Roma school mediator is not institutionalised. Parents are often recommended to have their children sent to special classes without receiving an explanation of the whole meaning and consequences of this.
In addition, text books often spread a negative image of Roma or completely ingnore their role in history. And of course, Roma history is not included in the schools’curricula.
Even those Roma, who go to regular schools, prestigious high schools or university, often face discrimination. Many teachers and professors think that it is shameful to teach Roma students at their renowned institution. For this reason Roma students are often discouraged from going to high school or from applying for a good one. They are often told that they won’t ‘make it’ anyways.