My daughter is smart enough

Author: Marketa Vaculova/Elena Mirgova
Location: Ostrava
Elena is a lively shorter woman, a brown-eyed brunette, and a mother of two. She takes care of children in a pre-school.
"This happened many years ago in a small village in Slovakia. My parents and I moved there when I was about ten.
There were only four Romani families. We were never really accepted by the other villagers: they were always suspicious of us – even though we never did anything to them.
Every day we had problems with the other people in the village. They called us names, and especially said that we were dirty.
I wasn’t used to this: we had come to the village from Hungary, where people did not look down on us.
When I went to the elementary school, my life became really difficult. I was the only Romani kid in my class. Neither the teacher nor the kids really understood me. I just wasn’t worth talking to and I was never accepted. They all just kept looking at my dark skin.
I really didn’t enjoy that school.
The teacher ignored me whenever I wanted to join the discussion or answer her questions. And whenever I didn’t understand what she was telling us, she refused to explain it to me.
There was always cursing and name-calling – from the teacher as well as from my schoolmates.
Once the teacher said to me: “You black bastard.” When I started defending myself and telling her I was not a black bastard she hit me. This happened when I was twelve.
Going to school made me worried. I never got to understand why the white kids called us Romani kids names, why they never wanted to talk to us, and threw stones at us.
All this made me feel bad about going to school.
We lasted in that village until I was eighteen. Then we moved here: to Ostrava.
Today teachers pay more attention to Romani kids than they did before. But racism and discrimination are still quite common. My daughter, for example, has had many problems. She knows how prejudiced people can be, and how often Romani kids are subjected to discrimination at school.
I know that my daughter is smart enough to go to a regular elementary school like any other kid. But because of discrimination she had to change to a special school. Ever since she started first grade she was attacked and called names by both the other kids and the teachers.
I had decided not to teach her the Romani language in order to prevent herfrom having problems in learning Czech and to make her equal to the white kids. But the kids still called her names and made faces at her, and the teachers ignored her.
Every day she would come home crying, saying that nobody wanted to be friends with her, and that people called her a dirty Gypsy.
She got scared to go to school. When I tried to make her go, she would cut classes. At school she tried to avoid her schoolmates, and paid no attention to her lessons.
Finally I had to move her to a special school. I did it because of the meanness of the kids and the inadequate and unprofessional attitude of the teachers.
She likes the special school because she has many Romani schoolmates and nobody laughs at her.
I’m sorry to have learned that teachers at regular elementary schools don’t pay as much attention to our children as they do to white kids. And that they can also deliberately make our children perform badly.
My daughter is smart enough to attend a regular school, but she could not live with the hardship anymore, and she was forced to moved to a special school.
Now my younger son is starting school and I don’t want him to have the same experience and then move to a special school like his sister. I want him to attend the Premysyl Pitter Elementary School, a school for our Romani kids.”

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