Roma Culture Classes
The program has been implemented since the beginning of 2002/2003 by the Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance “Amalipe” with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science, the Open Society Institute and other foundations and institutions.
Problems we want to resolve:
The appearance of freely selectable classes “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” was conditioned by three reasons. First, a worrying fact over the last few years is the high percentage of Roma children not being attracted or dropped out of the school system. This is a problem not only for the Roma community itself, but also for the Bulgarian society as a whole. Secondly, under the influence of others (parents, loved ones, neighbors, or just random people), non-Roma children often have deep prejudices against the Roma, prejudices based on their ignorance. Once formed in children, these prejudices interfere with their normal communication with their Roma classmates, and this further reinforces the stereotypes. Third, one of the main problems facing the Bulgarian education system, and in particular the educational content, is the low overlap of multicultural elements.
The purpose of introducing the subject “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” can be defined as: creating an effective model for educating ethnic tolerance, pride and friendship, as well as for attracting and retaining their children at school through studying Roma folklore,
In accordance with the set problems, the concrete aims of “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” are also three:
First, attracting and retaining Roma children at school. One of the reasons for the high percentage of Roma children who are not attracted and dropped out of the school system is the fact that schools are all other official and foreign institutions in the eyes of the Roma. They can’t something of their own in it. Introducing Roma folklore into the curriculum is a chance to change this by showing the Roma (children, but also their parents) that the school is a great place for everyone. Seing some of their traditions in the classroom and in the textbooks, the Roma child will stop feeling the schools as a”alien”.
Second, the formation of ethnic tolerance and solidarity in all children. Studying the “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” classes will remain an opportunity for Bulgarian and Turkish children to get to know the rich Roma folklore world, to see thе similarities between Roma folklore and folklore of other ethnicities, to see that songs of the Roma are talking about the same things – justice, love and happiness. This will allow to children to overcome their prejudices. Studying Roma folklore will help all children to understand the importance of common elements in the traditions and culture of different ethnicities in Bulgaria and will strengthen in them a sense of belonging to the Bulgarian nation.
Third, real introduction of multicultural elements into the curriculum of primary schools in Bulgaria. The subject “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” is intended to fill the existing gap of information on minorities – at least in relation to the Roma.
The program “Roma Folklore in the Bulgarian School” of the Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance “Amalipe” – V. Turnovo started in the school year 2002/2003 with funding from the Ministry of Education and Science and the Open Society Foundation. 30 Ethnic Folklore Groups in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore were formed in 13 schools in Veliko Turnovo Region and 1 school in Sofia. Even then, the basic principles for introducing Roma folklore as a separate subject crystallized:
- Formation of heterogeneous groups – i. groups involving students of different ethnic backgrounds: not only Roma, but also Bulgarians, Turks and more. This principle has been strictly followed almost everywhere. Of course, in some “rural” schools this proved to be impossible, since due to migration in the cities, the Bulgarian population is composed mainly of old people and only Roma are taught in schools.
- Use of local teachers – Everywhere the teachers teaching Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore were “local”, ie. teachers working in the respective school. This proved to be important for the successful formation and functioning of the groups, because it used the authority that teachers already had among students.
- Inclusion of teachers of different ethnic backgrounds – From the beginning, most teachers were ethnic Bulgarians. Two Roma teachers (the only Roma teachers in the Veliko Turnovo region) and two Turks were also involved. The non-Roma ethnicity of most teachers is not a problem for the successful passing of the classes.
- Compliance with full voluntariness in the study of the subject “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” – This was determined not only by the freely selectable classes format in which the classes were held. It was embedded in the very idea of the program. All students involved attended the classes voluntarily, on the basis of their wishes and wishes on the part of the parent, expressed in a model application.
In order to ensure conditions for a quality learning process, before the start of the school year, Amalipe Center organizes training with teachers teaching Roma folklore. They are acquainted with the most important moments in the history of the Roma, the intragroup division within the Roma community, as well as the most important features of Roma folklore. Accent is placed on practical issues such as: how to form a heterogeneous group, how to attract Bulgarian and Roma children with preferential Turkish consciousness, how to include interactive methods in the educational process, etc.
Special teaching aids were issued: Stories at the fireplace (for students in grades 2-4) and “Told Roads” (for students in grades 5-7) with authors D. Kolev, Dr. Yosiv Nunev and T. Krumova, as well as CDs with the songs included in the guide, performed by the Balkan Kit – Zlataritsa ensemble. The study aids cover all three modules of classes “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” – fairy tales, songs and festive customs, present the folklore of Roma from all major Roma communities in Bulgaria, seeking points of contact with Bulgarian and Turkish folklore, as well as with the works of famous authors such as Angel Karaliychev, Elin Pelin, The Grimm Brothers and others. Students and teachers are provided with free pieces of teaching aids and materials. They also include study notebooks for grades 2-4 and grades 5-8, respectively.
Functioning of groups:
Formed groups conduct classes throughout the school year, two hours a week. The basic principle that Amalipe Center adheres to in the teaching process of Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore is that the lessons should not become traditional reading or music lessons, but that students’ interest and activity be kept awake. Using interactive methods, many fun games, extracurricular activities (such as broadcasting, celebrations with parents, ethnic evenings, attending an authentic celebration, etc.) are the main ways to achieve this. Almost everywhere, teachers have succeeded and turned Roma folklore lessons into not only the most beloved of the students, but also into a factor determining the cultural life of the school (and sometimes even in the locality).
According to the information received from the teachers who taught “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore”, by the headmasters of the respective schools, as well as by the students themselves, the educational process is characterized almost everywhere by the following features:
- Increased interest and activity on the part of students: Yesterday’s passive and seemingly indifferent Roma children show that they are not inferior to their other classmates in the intellectual process, as well as in terms of diligence. In this respect, it is significant that none of the students covered dropped out of school during the school year. In some places, something that we did not expect even happened – students dropped out in previous years participated in the festivities organized by the “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” groups.
Increased interest and activity characterize both Roma and non-Roma students. Bulgarian and Turkish children are keenly interested in Roma folklore classes and are active participants in them.
- In most of the schools covered, Folklore of Bulgaria – Roma Folk Classes become a bridge between the school and parents. For the first time, Roma parents are actively engaged in school-related activities.
- Everywhere, the educational process of EPA “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” is complemented by “outside the classroom” activities. These are mainly concerts and celebrations – on the occasion of Vasilitsa (Bango Vasili) – Roma New Year, April 8 – International Roma Day, Easter, St. George’s Day, May 24 and the end of the school year. These extracurricular activities become central events in the cultural life not only of the respective school but also of the village or town.
- In many places, the successful conduct of “Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore” classes leads to increased activity and conscious responsible attitude towards the whole learning process by the students involved. This is the result that is achieved most slowly and difficultly. But it is inevitable for the longer successful work of teaching Roma folklore. By actively participating in the classes, being willing to participate in them and in extracurricular activities, the students gradually change their overall attitude to the school and the teaching process.
The program started pilot in 2002 at two schools in the villages of Vodoley and Balvan in the Veliko Turnovo region. The results were positively evaluated by Mr. Yosif Nunev, an expert at the Ministry of Education and Science, and in the 2002/2003 academic year the Roma Folklore was introduced in 15 schools throughout the Veliko Turnovo region. The successes of the 2002/2003 school year gave rise to the Ministry of Education and Science and the Open Society Foundation – Sofia to continue their support and funding for the program. Minister Igor Damyanov’s recommendation was to extend the program to more schools and regions.
Since the 2003/2004 school year, 55 Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore groups have been formed in 32 schools in Veliko Turnovo, Targovishte, Razgrad and Shumen regions. The expansion was made possible by the consent of the municipalities of Veliko Turnovo, Pavlikeni, Lyaskovets, G. Oryahovitsa, Popovo, Razgrad, Samuil, Kubrat, Shumen and V.Preslav to finance the running of the classes of 25 groups of their own budgets – a fact that shows their real involvement in addressing the most pressing educational problems of Roma children. Thus, since the 2003/2004 school year, the number of students studying Ethnic Folklore in Bulgaria – Roma Folklore exceeds 1000.
In the 2004/2005 school year, the Center Amalipe launched a campaign to expand the Folklore of Ethnicity – Roma Folklore classes to all areas of northern Bulgaria. Meetings were held with the heads of Regional education inspectorates of the Ministry of Education and Science in the respective districts, with over 150 principals and representatives of the municipalities. As a result of the 2004/2005 campaign, Ethnic Folklore – Roma Folklore was studied in 112 schools of about 4,000 students in 52 municipalities.
In the 2005/2006 school year, another 63 schools from Southern Bulgaria joined the EPA program “Ethnic Folklore – Roma Folklore”, bringing the students enrolled in EPA groups to over 5000 in a total of 170 schools.
Since the 2006/2007 school year, more than 40 new schools have stated their willingness to join the program.
Ethnic Folklore – Roma Folklore is currently being studied in over 200 schools across the country.
Exemplary activities for working in the classes of “Ethnic Folklore – Roma Folklore”1. Work with students from the EPA
1.1. Competition for personal creativity (fairy tale, poem, story, essay, drawing, photo, etc.)
1.2. small group competition:
– to collect raw folklore, legends of the settlement, etymology of geographical names in different dialects
– study of predictions
– tracing of local / generic history (preparation of family trees)
– for making the most original souvenir
– for personal creativity
– to produce a powerpoint presentation
– for making a small clip
– others –
1.3. Ethnic Museum
1.4. Exploring the etymology of names
1.5. Open lesson
– with school teachers
– with parents
– with teachers and children from other schools
1.6. Presentation of a musical / fairytale performance, customs and music of Roma folklore
1.7. Arrange a photo exhibition of pictures of the everyday life of children taken by them
1.8. Exchange of roles between representatives of different ethnicities – presenting holidays, customs and more.
1.9. Ethnic Fashion Day – specific costumes and hairstyles; ethnic elements that have been reflected in contemporary fashion – headscarves, shalwari, etc.
1.10. production of dolls dressed in authentic costumes (exhibition – male and female costumes)
1.11. Creating a map of ethnic groups and tracing the different groups from India, marking the places of residence of different groups on the map of Bulgaria (history and geography link)
1.12. Using interactive techniques and games: “Do good to get good”, “Bunny writes a letter”, “Drunk carrot” and others.
Working with other students
2.1. Participation in school celebrations
2.2. Production of a newspaper
2.3. Powerpoint presentation to classmates
2.4. School radio transmission
2.5. Organizing quizzes and competitions on various Roma topics
3. Work with teachers
3.1. Open lesson with teachers
3.2. Powerpoint presentation – at a teacher’s council or other occasion
4. Working with parents
4.1. Meeting with parents (inside or outside school)
– lesson “I teach mom Roma folklore”
– open lesson with the presence of mothers
– meeting with parents “for coffee in Roma folklore class”
– parents-students sport meeting
– Spending an hour in an authentic Roma environment (at a child’s home)
– dramatization involving parents
– To set one day of the week dedicated to an ethnic group and invite parents to present elements of the ethnic culture (for example, Monday – Roma day, Tuesday – Bulgarians day, Wednesday – Turks Day, etc.)
4.2. Inclusion in the celebration of a calendar holiday
4.3. Involvement of a parent in Roma folklore classes
4.4. Ethnicity Corner (contact with parents) – crafts, handicraft items
4.5. Exhibition of crafts and ritual breads
5. Work with the local public
5.1. March 3 Celebration Campaign
5.2. Organization of celebrations on the occasion of: April 8, St. George’s Day, Easter
5.3. Production of greeting cards for different holidays (to the mayor, the Municipal Council, RIE, the media, etc.)
5.4. Local radio broadcasting
5.5. Invitation to media at school, working with the media