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11.12.2017
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Childhood
26-02-2000

Nane chave, nane bacht.
If there are no children, it is bad luck.
Romani proverb

The worlds of children and adults weren't separated. The child learned from the adults, and due to being constantly surrounded by many people, the child quickly learned to enter into social contacts. The adults respected the child and the child respected the adults. The whole extended family looked after the behavior of the child, and well brought-up children had respect for their family. They always introduced themselves by the family they came from. The child also learned by fully participating in social events in the community and imitating the elders. At the same time, the child was always aware what behavior was appropriate for his or her age. From earliest childhood, a child was also raised by his or her grandparents as well, who were usually more patient than the mother.

In raising children, the sex of the child was taken into consideration. Boys worked together with their fathers, girls with their mothers. Each child had real responsibilities. A boy would learn his father's craft by helping him. (For example, a blacksmith's son would hunt up iron scraps and work the bellows.) A girl would learn primarily how to be a good wife, and also a future daughter-in-law. She helped her mother cook for her younger siblings, prepared food, went shopping with her mother to the market, and so on. Before her wedding, a girl was allowed to enter society only in the company of her father, brother, or future husband. (This rule didn't apply to boys.)

After her wedding, as a rule a girl would leave for the family of her husband, where she continued her education. At first, she acted as an assistant to her mother-in-law in her "woman's work," and she couldn't bring shame on her original family. The daughter-in-law was required to be "janel zhuzhuipen" - to be pure. The mother-in-law taught the daughter-in-law (bori) how to cook food in the way her son was used to. Until she had her first child, the young bride had to be at the disposal of her mother-in law. This period could be very tough for the young bori, but if she gave a good account of herself and bore a child, she was accepted into the family as a full member.

The Roma didn't and unfortunately still don't ascribe much value to a gadje school education. This doesn't mean, however, that they don't wish to be wise. Wisdom is traditionally of high value in the Romani community, but it is acquired and displayed in a different fashion than in the majority culture.

Wisdom among the Roma is transferred orally, through narration of the experiences of the elders in the form of stories, fables, myths, proverbs, anecdotes, and riddles. The spiritual richness of the Roma, their life's wisdom, experiences, ethical norms, and philosophy are kept orally. The "highest" genre of their narratives was the so-called heroic stories, and they occaisionally told short stories, usually humorous, but also ghost stories about experiences with spirits of the dead, and even "dirty" stories, during which the children had to leave.

Schooling was and unfortunately still is a very low priority for the Roma, far below the desire to make more money, and in that way equal the "gadje", at least financially. Even when the majority of Roma were unable to read and write, they knew how to count very well. But this means that the schools don't respect their language or their dissimilar cultural and social conditions.

The majority of parents can't help their children who are having trouble in school, because they themselves weren't able to get through the subject matter. Another reason why Roma children are behind in school is the difference in the language of instruction from their mother tongue (the language they speak at home), and the complete absence of even minimal pre-school preparation, which of course the non-Romani children have. Their Czech vocabulary is half that of the other children, and on top of that, their word comprehension is less precise. The schools, such as they are, usually don't try to make up for this deficiency, so Romani children, intelligent though they may be, are sent off to special schools, where their development is slowed and the problem is repeated in the next generation.



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