Presently, the Gipsy/Roma population in the EU reaches over one million people. The schooling of Gypsy/Roma children, in particular, is essential for the cultural, social and economic future of the communities, and even to avoid potential tensions and antagonism between Gypsy/Roma and the society in general. However, non-attendance and illiteracy rates are very high — sometimes up to 50 %.
The main objective of the Opre Roma project was to provide a diagnosis on the education and socialisation processes of Gypsy/Roma children to policy-makers, to the academic community and to European society in general. Carried out in Spain, France and Italy, Opre Roma was the first transnational research project on the education of Gypsy/ Roma children to take an interdisciplinary perspective and employ various methodological approaches. Taking the school context as starting point, the project partners have explored the political, socio-economic, cultural and ideological causes underlying the relations of the Gypsy/ Roma children at school.
Prior to Opre Roma, the available information on Gypsy/Roma people was limited to sectors of that population with official documentation, citizenship and integration in national education systems. On the other hand, the reliable data available on other population groups with the same origins was very scarce and marginal. Opre Roma filled this gap by including different Gypsy/Roma groups, for example casual agricultural labourers or hawkers in Spain, and displaced immigrant groups from the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Italy. The project furthermore included immigrant Gypsy/Roma populations from Eastern Europe, nomadic groups who travel on international circuits within the EU and immigrants whose legal situation is irregular. In this context, the project has also dealt with the situation of groups from Kosovo and Bosnia.
The idea was to analyse the situation of Gypsy/Roma children from three different, yet complementary disciplinary approaches. Ethnographic studies of the school were carried out using social anthropological methodology. This was done with a micro-analytical emphasis in order to carry out a comparative study of Gypsy/Roma groups and their processes of interaction with the school. The dynamics of socialisation and schooling of the children were explored by analysing family/school interaction together with the social variables that have an influence on the educational environment (integrationsegregation, job situation, habitat, etc.).
Starting from a thorough empirical analysis, the project partners relied on a qualitative methodology to study situations of exclusion and marginalisation in both the adult and the children Gypsy/Roma population. Emphasis was put on cultural and mental questions that affect the interaction between the Gypsy/Roma and the dominant society, and in particular, those affecting the children in their relation with the school environment. This method made it possible to diagnose the basic malfunctions that occur in the education/school system.
Another aim of the project was to carry out sociological investigations from a macro perspective. This led to the study of both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the Gypsy/Roma population working as casual agricultural labourers. This situation is especially common in Spain and France, in the regions of Andalusia, Extremadura and French Catalonia. Within these groups, a special emphasis was again put on the Gypsy/Roma children. Research had to be extended into the Alentejo region of Portugal, where Gypsy/Roma groups of casual labourers moving between Spain and Portugal were identified. In this case, an urban ethnography of the Portuguese city of Evora was carried out.
Finally, a sociological, quantitative survey was carried out, designed for teachers in the three countries most concerned by the project.
The aim of the survey was to detect variables related to the school environment by analysing a large sample of the population. These variables included integration and segregation levels at school, absenteeism, levels of training, school success and failure rates, and socio-educational interaction. The analysis of the gathered data provided a general overview of the situation encountered by Gypsy/ Roma children in terms of school performance, interaction between the family and the school environments, socio-educational relations and the interaction between teachers and pupils.
The study undertaken by the Opre Roma project has published a series of ethnographic and sociological reports which reveal the inability of the analysed education structures to positively incorporate these children into their education systems. Rates of non-attendance, lack of academic results, high absenteeism and drop-out rates clearly demonstrate the extent of this failure.
Negative social representations and mutual prejudice sometimes contribute to preventing healthy social relationships between Gypsy/ Roma and non-Gypsy children. These issues require structured political, socio-economic, ideological, institutional, and cultural interventions within a transnational framework. To this end, the detailed information gathered has enabled the project partners to make recommendations to both national and European administrations. These practical and realistic recommendations could form the basis for future education policies, and in particular, avoid the marginalisation and exclusion of Gypsy/Roma children from groups that are at particular risk as a result of their social characteristics.
From the very outset, the research team has disseminated the objectives and content of the project through academic, social and institutional media, as well as through the traditional mass media.
Courses, seminars, meetings, conferences and postgraduate courses on the theoretical and methodological aspects of Opre Roma have been held at various European universities including, among others, the Complutense University in Madrid, the Social Institute of Employment/ Labour Sciences at the University of Lisbon, and the Ecole Doctorale ‘Cultures et Comportements Sociaux’ of the Université René Descartes in Paris.
The dissemination of information has also gone beyond academic circles, to include public institutions and administrations, and NGOs. Informative meetings have been held with various education administrations at national and regional levels, with teachers’ associations, social services, as well as national and local Gypsy/Roma organisations and institutions.
In September 2000, a multilingual website was launched, providing coverage on sections dealing with the project’s design, methodology and objectives. At a later stage, a version in Romany, the Gypsy language, was added.
For the complete list of publications, please see the final report.
|Full title||The Education of Gipsy Childhood in Europe|
|Project Acronym||Opre Roma|
|THEMES ADDRESSED||The implications of societal change for education and training|
|Keywords||Gypsies, Roma, children, education, social exclusion, ethnographic, sociological, survey, actor involvement|
|Main contractor||Universitat Jaume I
Departament de Filosofia i Sociologia|
Campus de Riu Sec
E-12080 Castellon de la Plana
Tel. (34) 964 72 93 70
Fax (34) 964 72 96 56
|Scientific Coor.||Ana Gimenez Adelantado|
|EC Contribution||€650 000|