After more than 20 years since the fall of communism and five years since EU accession, the plight of Romania’s Roma population remains woeful. Recent figures from the Roma Education Fund in Romania included in Unicef’s report ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012’ show huge discrepancies between one of Romania’s largest ethnic groups and the overall population. The latest official data puts the Roma population at more than half a million, but some unofficial estimates suggest numbers over 2 million.
Ten years after the Romanian government adopted a strategy to help Roma populations, only 13 percent of local governments have done anything concrete to improve the lives of the still marginalized ethnic group. Poverty affects Roma communities in both urban and rural Romania. The poorest are clustered mainly in mid-size towns and larger villages, according to the Unicef report. “The absence of permanent housing, combined with a lack of birth or identity documents, can significantly limit access to health care, education and employment,” according to Eugen Crai, country director of Roma Education Fund, quoted in the Unicef report.
Crai paints a picture of segregation, marginalization and poverty, a parallel universe of need and hopelessness, of people existing alongside the rest of the population but living in a completely different world. Giving a Roma teenager his NGO has encountered as an example, Crai says, “Growing up in a damp space, without gas to cook food or water to wash, just a few blocks away from the glossy commercial boulevards of Bucharest – this is the brutal reality of two neighboring worlds.”
Looking specifically at education, the report states that “only 46 per cent of the Roma population aged 12 and above had spent more than four years in school (compared with 83 per cent of the general population), and of those only 13 per cent acquired at least some secondary education (63 percent among the general population).” Only 13 percent had some secondary education, in an EU country. It is not only how low the figure is that shocks, it’s also the huge difference with the general population.
Liam Lever, email@example.com
(photo source: Photoxpress.com)