Roma teacher in Bulgaria: “I adore these children”

The remarkable story of Antoaneta Antonova, who fulfilled her dream to become a teacher. The story has been published by the Trust for Social Achievement, REYN Coordinator in Bulgaria.

“I remember the day I first crossed the threshold. I remember the school bell ringing. As I hadn’t gone to kindergarten, I directly started in the preparatory grade. Our teacher’s name was Daniela Ivanova.”

Antoneata tells us the story of her childhood. Recalling her past as a Romani girl in school and then as mother who wanted to become a teacher.

“She was the one who taught us to write the letters of our names, to count, to distinguish between right and wrong. She was my role model. I dreamed of being like her when I grew up and I wanted to become a teacher.”

A dream made true

Today Antoaneta works with the largest group in the kindergarten, the preparatory group immediately prior to primary school.

“I adore these children. This comes from my heart: each one of them is individual and special. Though I have been with them for only a short while, I can say that I love them. I never thought I would be able embrace and kiss other children other than my own or my nieces and nephews. They are more curious than us, and I personally think that the vast information on the Internet and TV programs give our children space and freedom. When I was a kid, we used to play with mud and used it to make cakes and sweets, and we ran in the yard until late in the evening. Nowadays, children play on their phones and tablets but they are still kids. And even when they are angry with me that I haven’t let them run around, they still tell me they love me. They are fireflies dancing up-and-down, shining with their smiles.”

Read the whole interview on the Trust for Social Achievement’s website.

More Roma and Traveller teachers!

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

For most of the teachers, their job is a mission. Low pay and recognition despite high requirements on education are among the reasons that make this valuable job unnecessarily difficult.  

October 5th marks the International Teachers Day, commemorating the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The recommendations apply to all teachers from nursery to kindergarten, primary, secondary, including technical, vocational or art education. And the more we study them, the more we see the relevance to today’s practitioners working with young Romani children.

Familiarity with the life and language of the children

Under educational objectives and policies [IV.10.i], the document lists that “all educational planning should include at each stage early provision for the training, and the further training, of sufficient numbers of fully competent and qualified teachers of the country concerned who are familiar with the life of their people and able to teach in the mother tongue.”

This recommendation is in line with REYN’s call for more diversity in early childhood services, both in practice and in the workforce. Simply put, we want a higher inclusive environment with more Roma and Travellers as teachers and other professionals – building on the advantage of community membership and multilingualism. We want to value the first language, not eliminate it as something useless that needs to be forgotten.

Better status for teachers, better quality for children

Why are there so few Romani and Travellers teachers? The reasons are many: early discrimination and lack of qualification later, low pay and recognition despite high requirements on education, difficult working conditions and low budget at kindergartens and schools in general. Many of the reasons affect both Roma and non-Roma.

Most of those teachers, who stay at the position, take their job as a mission. They work hard to ignore the low pay and try to see the higher good – smiling children, learning through play, new methods of teaching and the daily challenge of building new generations. But the enthusiasm has its limits. Without proper recognition, material as well as symbolic, kindergartens and schools will continue to struggle.

Attract and retain

The theme of this years’ World Teachers’ Day is The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher. The work done by our partner the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), to which we have contributed to in the past, testifies the benefits of professionalism in the workforce. They have done extensive work on quality of education, you may want to have a look at some of their publications.

We are grateful!

REYN takes the opportunity to express gratitude to those who dedicated their professional lives to provision quality education to children, in kindergartens or primary education. We can only repeat what the science keeps telling us all the time: the earlier we make that investment, the more benefits we get. Let’s invest in teachers, let’s invest in children.