I was told gymnasium is too “demanding” for a Roma

I am delighted to be the new Romani Early Years Network Coordinator. As a member of the Roma community, I will be actively promoting change on issues like discrimination, early childhood development, and health. I was a preschool teacher for over a decade, passionate about children’s rights, well-being, quality education, equity, and diversity in the practice.  

As a child, I dreamed of becoming a teacher. Even though as a Romani child, my dreams were often ridiculed. I wasn’t even allowed to speak about them loudly. When I was 14-years-old my school counselor asked me: “Aljosa, in which high school are you going to enroll?” My answer was straightforward: “I will apply for a gymnasium and become a preschool teacher assistant.

Her reaction was not exactly an example of professionalism. She tried to convince me to desist as sually Roma students do not enroll in such kind of “demanding schools,” she said. Her advice was to apply for a vocational school where I could become a merchant, mechanic, hairdresser, etc. 

I felt hurt and discouraged, however I moved on. I had a clear idea about my wishes, and luckily I had the support of my family.

It was not always easy, members of minorities sometimes face challenging situations, and the hardest is when people judge you based on your skin color rather than on skills and expertise.

Empowering parents

Unfortunately, not all parents support children’s dreams; rarely because they are against them but because sometimes parents are not empowered enough.

My parents were there for me, they gave me hope and courage. They were and still are my strength (the bridge that connects my dreams and potential with reality).  To help children develop their potential  and support their dreams , we have to invest more in programs that empower parents.

Investing in positive role models

In addition, we have to build a reliable, competent, and diverse workforce so that children can find positive role models from their cultural backgrounds. Role models are essential, especially in the early years. If you succeed to inspire children around you, maybe there is still hope for a better and more inclusive society.

Diversity in the workforce

As a teacher, I had the opportunity to nurture the lives of both Romani and non-Romani children and their families in my preschool, in the community and beyond.

On these pages, we will be outspoken about the importance to have diversity in the workforce. For example, promoting a better balance between male and female professionals as well as more Romani professionals too.

As a Romani person who fought to be accepted as a teacher, I want send a message to other Romani young people that they can and should pursue their dream to become educators because it matters. It’s time to break the cycle of disadvantage and to pave the way for future generations!

Aljosa Rudas, REYN Coordinator