Disappearing Students: The Miseducation of Romania’s Gypsies

Most of Romania’s Gypsy children never get past eighth grade. They face pressure to work and help their family, and discrimination in the classroom. Their miseducation enforces a cycle of poverty that shows few signs of slowing down.

We were sitting on the steps of some hidden monument flanking the Danube, which celebrated a long-ago victory over the Ottomans. There were 8 of us there on the steps, 1 guitar, and no voices melodic enough to be enjoyable. We compensated by singing some traditional Romanian song in unison, reading the lyrics on little slips of paper our friends had printed up. The environment was relaxed, touching on boredom.

Then the four gypsy boys arrived. They were young, 10 years old maybe, but their presence made the air so tense it could have been cut with a knife. The Romanians pulled their bags a little closer. Nobody said anything, but nobody turned their backs to the boys either. There was a Uruguayan volunteer in the group, and she invited the boys to sing with us; it did little for the Romanian’s nerves. The first boy to receive a slip with lyrics glanced at the paper and handed it back. “I can’t read,” he said.

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The People

Valeriu Nicolae

An activist's fight to rescue 212 gypsy children from one of Bucharest's worst neighborhoods

Liviu Calderu

A school dropout who feels like he's battling against discrimination to find a job

Mihai and Andreea Popescu

A Romanian couple from Bucharest explain why they keep their distance from gypsies.

The Rena Family

A poor family from Mofleni talks about their one regret concerning their children's education

Corinna Sandu

The ongoing efforts of a Romani teacher to bridge two cultures.

Marcela Rusu

A respected English teacher of 16 years trying to reach her students in new ways

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