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Roma activist supports controversial education programme

December 20th, 2013

A centre-right portal runs a commentary by a Roma activist who says that unemployed Roma lack basic skills, and should be taught to manage time, be more ambitious for their children and gain the respect of the majority.

The government introduced an adult education programme for people emloyed on public works projects that provoked outrage among liberals. The programme was adapted from an American curriculum for underprivileged children and, according to critics, is humiliating for Roma adults who have to draw houses and suns and learn what different animals “say”.

István Forgács, an ethnic Roma activist defends the programme on Mandiner, excoriating “theoretical integrators” who, he says, have no idea about the “miserable condition of Hungarian Gypsies”. Forgács argues that anything that may help the Roma acquire basic skills is a step in the right direction, as welfare-dependent Roma have no chance to enter the labour market without further education. While under Communism the Roma used to be employed as unskilled labourers, now even assembly line work requires higher skills. Many Roma, however, lack more than a trade: they are under-socialised and do not possess the competence or even the ambition to gain the respect of the majority. Community work (workfare) is therefore useful, whatever form it takes, he says. Finally, Forgács urges a survey of “real Gypsies” to establish how many of them could start work if they had the opportunity and what is the rate of those who need much more than a trade school (as ethnicity is self-reported in surveys, there are no reliable statistics on the Roma in Hungary – they tend to underreport their ethnicity) and concludes by telling liberals to face their own responsibility for the lack of any substantial progress in Roma integration.

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