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School exclusion for Roma students

DIMAR’s MP Maria Giannakaki and the Greek Helsinki Monitor have lodged a complaint against the principal of a primary school in Spata who has denied the acceptance of children from the Kiafas settlement and has furthermore mislead the minister of Education

By Dimitris Aggelidis

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A matter of misinformation of the Parliament regarding the condemned exclusion of Roma children from the 3rd Primary School of Spata has been raised by DIMAR MP Maria Giannakakis and by the Greek Helsinki Monitor. Both are accusing the school’s principal of misguiding the minister of Education Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, resulting in him attributing the educational exclusion of Roma children from the settlement of Kiafas to the fact that… the settlement does not exist!

In a document signed by the school’s principal, Dimitrios Garoufalis, he claims that in 2011, when he took office, there were no Roma students in the school’s classes. After an oral briefing by his predecessor, he was informed that Roma had been registered at the school during the school year of 2009-2010 and had been attending a welcoming class, a special class that prepares students for a smoother integration in the rest of the classes.

He didn’t see the settlement

However, after a few months, they left the school, because “the largest part of the settlement (sic) of Kiafas had been transferred to an area near Koropi”. As a result, according to the principal’s document, the new welcoming class was dismissed. It took almost a year for the principal to visit the settlement, where he could not locate any students, adding that “no Roma parent came to the school to register their child”.

The settlement, that the principal apparently did not see, has been seen by others. According to information gathered by the HGM, in the beginning of the school year of 2010-2011 (the year following the supposed Roma re-settlement), the then principal of the school Nikos Fouridis had Teacher’s Association proceedings sent to the Ministry of Education, requesting two teachers for the operation of two welcoming classes for 27 Roma children that had been registered at the school.

In the spring of the same year the aforementioned teachers had not yet been appointed, leading to the children leaving the school. Even the start of the new school year found the posts vacant.

Meanwhile, MP, organization and international observatory visits all confirmed that Roma had not been entered in the municipality’s register, that there was no electricity and that the settlement remained illegal, even though it had been created by the Municipal Authorities of Spata for the relocation of Roma living in other municipal lands.

What the principal claims

For these and other omissions, the GHM filed on November 14th a complaint with the Court of Appeals Prosecutor of Athens and the Deputy Appeals Prosecutor of Athens against anyone responsible within the Spata-Artemis Municipality, the Decentralized Administration of Attica and the Ministry of the Interior. The GHM has also sued mr. Garoufalis and all other liable parties for the exclusion of Roma children from the 3rd Primary School from 2011 until today.

Speaking with “Ef.Syn”, mr. Garoufais suddenly finds Rima students, even in his school’s first grade: “I am informed by Mrs. Gianakkakis’ question on December of 2012 that there is an issue. I then go over myself along with a colleague teacher to the settlement and indeed, I find some Roma. I explained to them that their children must come to the school.”

Their answer was as follows: “Will we get some money, if we bring our children to the school?” They didn’t come. I asked the relevant administration of Primary Education if it deems appropriate even sending the police over in order for the students to come. They told me no, because things could spiral out of control. The school is open, we are not excluding anyone. We have Roma children in the fourth grade, in the second and in the first. I have never kicked out any Roma child that has come to register at the school.”

He also doubts the pedagogical value of welcoming classes, without having made any relevant mention in his document: “A few gentlemen had disbursed ESPA money, because that’s what this is about, they left the school at the mercy of God, almost without a teacher for the welcoming class, they crammed the kids in public spaces solely for justifying the operation of the class in order to disburse the money.”

“Having experienced this, the teachers, after the school had become a grinder – they were calling parents, it was a mess – voiced serious concerns regarding the operation of the welcoming class, which takes place only for helping some people with their diatribes or for assisting university programs, without being interested in what happens with the 280 rest of the students. The children are being ghettoized in these classes. If they exist, they should be entered in the normal classes.”

From her side, Marietta Leontari of the Administration of Social Services of the Municipality of Spata-Artemis, notes the municipality’s attempts to treat Roma equally through medical care and job market integration programs.

The importance of education

Regarding the issue of education, she notes the importance of the continuous presence of the services and overbids for the operation of the welcoming classes: “Both the psychologist and the social workers have gone up to the settlement, and we go there regularly, these things are not done out of our offices. We have tried to convince them to bring their children to the school. We try to make them understand that the education of their children is very important if they want to avoid a perpetuation of a situation that leads them to a job-less life of poverty. But this also requires a policy on a country level. For the welcoming class to function, for example, a qualified teacher is required. Even if we convince the children to come to school, if the ministry has not properly organized the relevant class, how can this be expected to work?”

Ministerial committee regarding the ‘ghetto-school’ postponed

The meeting of the ministerial committee regarding the Roma, which had originally been planned for tomorrow, Thursday, has been postponed. The aforementioned committee will be presided by the minister of the Interior, Yiannis Michelakis. There will be fourteen participants, composed of ministers and general secretaries of Decentralized Administrations.

The exclusion of Roma has been a chronic problem, for which our country has been repeatedly condemned in the past by the European Court of Human Rights, for the operation of “ghetto-schools” and the exclusion of Roma children from public education. A few days ago, Mr. Michelakis sent a document to the general secretaries of Decentralized Administrations urging them to ensure the access of Roma students, without discrimination, to a quality education on the basis of dignity and respect.

According to information, the ministerial committee meeting was postponed because a number of participants stated that they could not be present. Has the Troika visit changed their plans? It appears that the right of our fellow citizens to be treated equally remains, within the context of an economic crisis, a matter of “secondary importance”.

Translated from ‘Efimerida Ton Syntakton’ newspaper, 20/11/2013: http://www.efsyn.gr/?p=152386

source: I cant Relax in Greece

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