’Gypsy Children Can’t Learn’: Roma in the Hungarian Education System

  • Annabel Tremlett

Abstract

The motivation for writing the paper on which this chapter is based came from my first year spent in Hungary as a ‘Youth Action’ volunteer with VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas), in a town in the middle of the Hungarian Great Plains, working in an office of a nongovernmental organisation (2000–2001). I started to help out, twice a week, in a mainstream school that had become unofficially segregated. It was known as ‘the gypsy school’ and I was told that I was crazy to go there because the children would be wild and violent. So it was with slight trepidation and laden with balloons and sweets (for bribery) that I entered the gates of the school, noticing on my way in that someone had scrawled ‘bolondok háza’ (’mad house’) on the outside wall.1 In the school, I found there to be — children. Boisterous, shy, intelligent, lazy, sharp, slow, happy, sad, excitable … children. The two things they all had in common was that their families were often very poor, and that people (including, sometimes, the children themselves) used the word ‘cigányok’ (gypsies) to label them, often as if it were a swear word or a disease.2 The account that follows3 came about as a result of my interest in why these children so often failed at school.4

Keywords

Migration Dust Europe Income Expense 

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© Palgrave Macmillan 2005

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  • Annabel Tremlett

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