Problems should be solved where they occur

Author: Jan Horvath Sr.
Location: Studenka
If he were alive today, Jan Amos Komensky – Comenius – would be horrified to see the havoc in our Czech school system. The pupils are exposed every day to the stress and arrogance of teachers. It’s the price of living in these times. Money decides everything, and everyone runs after profit – no matter what the cost. Morality, respect and human relationships are left by the wayside.
Let me tell you the story of my thirteen year old son Marek.
In September 1999 our family moved from Ostrava to Studenka, a town with ten thousand inhabitants. About three hundred Roma live here. We bought a three-room apartment in the housing estate. The school in Sjednoceni street was the closest to us, so we decided to enroll Marek. It was a bad choice, but we didn’t know the local conditions.
Marek is an average pupil, and he’s no angel: he knows how to be naughty like anybody his age. He doesn’t want to do his homework, just as we didn’t when we went to school – and sometimes played hookey.
But those were different times. In those days there were still teachers who taught their pupils with love, and considered their profession a calling.
Of course there are such teachers today as well. I know many honest teachers and good schools. For example, the Premysyl Pitter Catholic School in Ostrava and the principal there, Mrs. Helena Balabanova; Principal Ruzicka at the elementary school in Stara street in Brno. These people are an example for other schools. They don’t discriminate and approach their pupils with sensitivity, understanding, and love.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the school in Sjednoceni Street. Everyone there watched Marek like a hawk. After a month he began to bring home unsatisfactory grades. There were remarks all over his report card:"Your son doesn’t pay attention. he continually interrupts class. He doesn’t do his homework. He beats up his fellow students” etc. etc.
We couldn’t believe our eyes.
For the love of God, what was happening to our Marek? Was it true what the school was writing?
We know Marek better than the teacher.
It’s true that he is a lively child: full of energy. Sometimes he is too lazy to do his homework. Sometimes he forgets his responsibilities.
But we were no different. We disobeyed our parents too; we played hookey and dirty tricks. And at his age? At puberty?
There was no possibility of having a reasonable discussion with the school principal. He made our son out to be a criminal of the highest caliber.
What to do?
I informed the district educational office in Novy Jicin of the situation. We filed a complaint about the principal of the school.
There was a huge uproar. The principal insisted on his version of the story. But so did we.
The conclusion? It was recommended that we change schools.
But in the end we withrew our complaint, and decided we would all get together and do our best to resolve the problems where they had arisen.
But a new wave of complaints about Marek’s behavior followed. His report card was full of comments again.
Once again we were forced to inform the authorities of the school about the situation.
Once again we called on the school to demonstrate co-responsibility.
The teachers are paid to ensure that there is order and respect among their pupils.
We, the parents, are also responsible for educating our child: we don’t deny that.
I had advised the principal that according to examinations conducted by the Pedagogic/Psychological advice clinic in Brno and most recently in Studenka, Marek is dyslexic and needs a special approach from his teacher. But the school had decided to get rid of Marek no matter what the cost.
The inspector advised us to change schools and the problem would be solved.
We are of the opposite opinion: that problems should be solved where they occur. I am not a person who runs away from difficulties, rather the opposite.
I had given the school a helping hand several times. I have years of experience in working with Romany children. For several years I worked as the Chief Editor of a Romany newspaper, I cooperated with the schools and my recent employment as Romany advisor to the Mayor of Brno simply proves that I understand this problem.
The school principal wouldn’t recognize any of this.
And when I offered the principal literature about educating Romany children, he told me that they did not differentiate among the students and that I could keep my books: he wasn’t interested in them.
So he is ignoring the experiences of such specialists as senior lecturer Rican, Dr. Hubschmannova from Prague – an excellent Roma scholar and linguist – and many others.
But we will continue to fight.

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