One Hundred Sixty-one Years Ago the Roma Were Emancipated from Half a Millennium of Slavery in Romania

From afar it may appear to be a moment of joy and celebration: one hundred sixty-one years ago the Roma were emancipated from half a millennium of slavery in Romania. But the legacy of slavery remains: inequality and exclusion are rampant in education today, whether in the redistribution of public resources, discriminatory classroom practices or ignoring the real needs of Roma pupils.

To this day Roma pupils continue to be marginalized and placed in the back row of classrooms across Romania. Already in first grade they being to slip behind because their Romanian is underdeveloped and few steps are taken to ensure they catch up. They are invisible, their culture banished from the textbooks and their civil rights trammeled upon. Schools with a disproportionate amount of Roma students are crowded and poorly equipped, with less qualified teachers than mainstream schools.

Yes, slavery can be stopped by law. But socially slavery is inherited and remains deeply embedded in our daily lives, politics, books and schools. Today is a good opportunity to remember that Romania can do better and that we ask for an education system that at least mitigates the legacy of slavery.

Many teachers have been following our activities and today we invite you to ask one another and share your thoughts: How to increase the confidence of Roma students in the class? How do we support them when they are stigmatized or discriminated against? How to raise their aspirations?

This evening the Roma National Cultural Centre – Romano Kher, in partnership with Roma Education Fund Romania, will organize a theatrical production of The Great Shame, a play by Alina Serban that takes the emancipation of Roma in Romania as its theme. The cast includes appearances by Ana Maria Carablais, Oana Rusu, Elena Duminica, Alexandru Fifea,  Radu Ciobanasu. This is the first Romanian play of its kind to approach this theme and debuts this evening at Bucharest National Theatre "I. L. Caragiale.”

This "Roma Emancipation Day" event includes a classical music concert by violinist Alexandru Marin, along with special guest, accordionist Ionica Minune.