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The Roma Of Greece – Roma in Rhodes

The Roma Of Greece

The Roma Of Greece, settled or displaced, are part of the Roma living in almost all parts of the world. They first appeared around the 11th century in areas of the Byzantine Empire and somewhere between the 14th and 15thcentury in today’s Greek area. Since then they have lived in various parts of Greece, from Crete to Thrace, and according to their particular perceptions and social structure have been organised in temporary or permanent settlements. They depend their economic activities on market needs presented to the surrounding society.

After the First World War, and particularly after the Asia Minor Disaster, a second large Roma migratory stream entered Greece from the Constantinople and Izmir area (Ioannidou 1990:436). Some Roma groups who have apparently moved from Romania and Albania, as early of the 20th century to just as recently, use many elements of the Romanian and Albanian language.

Today, the population of Roma living in Greece is estimated at 160 to 200 thousand (Vavougios, 2008), according to other estimates the population does not exceed 100-120 thousand. There are many areas in Greece where they are permanently installed or periodically installed. Some areas, in large population, include the following: Athens (St. Barbara, Liosia, Zefiri, Aspropyrgos  etc), Thessaloniki (Dendropotamos, Eleftherio-Kordelio, Evosmos, Menemeni, Nymfopetra etc), Agrinio, Alexandria Imathia, Alexandroupolis, Amaliada,  Amfissa, Gastouni, Didimoticho, Examilli Corinthia, Thebes, Kato Achaia, Komotini (Hephaestos), Mesolongi, Nea Alikarnassos iIraklio, Nea Ionia Magnisia, Xanthi, (Pournalic, Genisea, Gazchane, Drosero etc), Orchomenos, Sapes, Serres (N.Heraklia, Flambouro etc), Sofades, Farsala, Florina and Chios.The Greek Roma community is not a single national cultural and linguistic entity. The differences between them are many and may concern the country of origin (Romania, Albania, Turkey etc), the degree of their assimilation of the Greek society, religion (Christians, Muslims), the form of the language they speak and the degree of establishment (installed or removable) among others. That is why description of the Roma of Greece obliges the researcher to confine themselves to the data presented without major differences to almost all Roma living in Greece.

The settled Roma of Greece do not have a particular type of accommodation or any residence at all. Some reside in apartments (Agia Varvara Attici), others in shacks (IphestosKomotini) and some in classical houses in the Greek countryside (Flambouro Serres). Others who move for short or long periods of time stay in specially designed trucks, which are also used to transport goods, or in closed- type semi- trucks or tents. The practice of staying in caravans common to the Roma of Western Europe has never been adopted in Greece.

The settled or semi- settled Roma in Greece are of Greek nationality, they are registered at the municipality where they reside and enjoy the rights and obligations that all Greek citizens have. This possibility was generalised in the late 1970s, and until 1955 they were not considered as Greek citizens but foreigners and issued a special ID card from the Department of Aliens (Vassiliadou & Pavli-Korres, 2011 March 2013)

The long-lived coexistence of Greek Roma with non- Roma’ Greeks has had an impact on cultural and ideological elements, which in some Roma groups (very few) has been intense while in most groups the particular characteristics of the Roma society remain predominant. Those groups that accepted the cultural impact of the rest of the Greek society, assimilated and followed the social standards and cultural values that are dominant in Greek society (i.e. type of profession, economic activities, lifestyle, education etc). The other groups, which are exclusively mentioned by the relevant bodies of the Greek state and the European Union when discussing issues of racism, intercultural education etc; are those that have resisted and continue to resist assimilation. What differentiates the Roma from the rest of the Greeks is their insistence on diversity, which consists mainly of the different lifestyle, values and ideals they embody, and which are particularly felt in the field of education.

The reservations that the non- Roma’ society have towards the Roma remain within the school site, where they are forced to coexist. There, a peculiar racism develops in which the school is called upon to alleviate if they cannot completely eradicate it.

At the level of education we have been systematically involved with the Roma since the early 1980s, when the Ministry of Education set up a series of working groups/committees to study the issue of Gypsy education, while the local branches of the then General Secretariat for Popular Education (GSPE) were invited to reflect the situation of Gypsies in their area (Vasiliadou & Pavli-Korres, 2011). In general, it seems that at this time, dealings with the Gypsies mainly pass through the General Secretariat for Popular Education (GSPE), which represents the central adult education unit in Greece. At the same time, educational activities for the Roma are starting again mainly through the GSPE. Also within the two decades (1980 and 1990), we have had small and medium- scale intervention programmes such as: The program “ Poverty 3” by Aristoteleio University of Thessaloniki http://users.auth.gr/gtsiakal/Poverty3/ftwxeia.htm ( Kogidou et al.,1997), while large- scale intervention programmes have been refined and assigned to universities in the second half of the 1990s, which, with some intermediate management gaps in funding and  adjustments to their axes, continue to this day. Within these programs, but also independently, there is a continuing interest in the education of Roma children and this interest is substantiated by an ever- increasing production of relevant studies.

The universities that undertook these programs in chronological order are: a) The University of Ioannina between 1997-2001 (“Gypsy Education Program” with scientific supervision by A. Gotov), b) Again, the University of Ioannina between 2001-2004 (Program “ Integration of Gypsies in school” with scientific author P. Papakonstantinou), http://www.uoi.gr/services/epeaek/metro11/ergo0664.htm

Program: “Gypsy Education” at the University of Ioannina 1997-1999

http://edu.pep.uoi.gr/eekaae/ROMA

Program: “Inclusion of Gypsies in the School” at the University of Ioannina 2002-2004

  1. c) The University of Thessaly (Program “Integration Of Gypsies in the School” with the scientific responsibility of N. Mitsis) between 2006- 2008 http://www.pre.uth.gr/main/index.php?option=com_ content&view=article&id=374:tsiganopaides-2006-2008 &catid = 35: epeaek-programs &Itemid = 52
  2. d) Between the period 2010- 2013 (with extensions until 2015), The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens undertook to implement the program in the regions of Attici, Peloponnese, Central Greece, Thessaly, Epirus, Crete, Northern & Aegean (Program: “Education of Roma children”)

and e) The Aristotelio University of Thessaloniki for the regions of Central Macedonia, Western Macedonia, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace(“Education of Roma Children” with the scientific responsibility of E. Tresos) http://roma.eled.aut.h.Education of Roma children >>of AUTH-ETS 2010-2013.

The ESPA Program “Education of Roma Children” / University of Athens / School of Philosophy /Center for Intercultural Education (KEDA) – http://www.keda.gr/roma

Program: “Education of Roma Children “, University of Athens 2010-2013 implemented by the University of Athens can be considered as the physical continuation of the programs by the University of Ioannina and The University of Thessaly respectively. Looking through the actions of the first program implemented at The University of Ioannina, we see that extensive mapping of the student population and families were done at the time, the quantities available were updated and verified, while central questions were raised about the accessibility and support of Roma school children. Already then, the issue of poor schooling and school leakage was raised, not as a cultural parameter but as a social parameter. We are not talking about other people, we are talking about poor, socially marginalized, therefore vulnerable Greeks of Roma origin who are at risk of falling out of educational institutions and resources. Also within the framework of the first programs, the University of Ioannina conducts specific field research to explore issues of economics, education, language, housing, the Gypsy family (Gotovos, 2004), as well as studies focusing on the views of Roma in particular and linguistic issues (see Maragoudaki, 1998). Innovative language aidsare also found, such as glossaries and small dictionaries in Greek and Roma language (Marcelos,). Finally, for the first time and with the expense of the Greek public and EU funds, we have the systematic production of customized teaching material depending on the age and level of language learning of the pupils, while teacher training is also being systematically introduced.

The conclusion is that for any education problems (poor attendance at school, leakage, poor performance) Roma children have areprimarily due to social and not cultural reasons.

Demographics for Roma in Rhodes

The Roma of Rhodes live by 57.9% in a nuclear family (i.e. couple and children), by 29.8% in an extended family (i.e. grandparents, cousins and other relatives) and 12.3% are single-parent family. 32% of the families have three children, 19% have four children and 17% have two children.

According to their statements, 30% of households have been living in Rhodes for about 20 years and 42% (24 families) said they are Rhodes citizens. It is worth noting here that out of the 24 households that have registered in the Rhodes registry, 16 are in Caraconero, 3 in the Cair vineyards and 5 in the Agious Apostolous.

89.5% stated they are Greek (51 households), while the remaining 6 households declined to declare their country of origin. 93% of Roma say they are Christian Orthodox.

Chart 1 : Number of households and years of residence on the island of Rhodes.

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Education level

Regarding the educational level of the population, 70.2% of the heads of the households did not go to school at all. Only 5.3% of the family heads said they went to 2 years of school and 3.5% said they went between 4 to 6 years. Regarding their spouses’ attendance it was stated that 68.4% went to no school at all and only 3.5% went to one year of school. 63.2% of the children attend schools and 69% consider the Aegean University Students’ initiative to support their children in the afternoon.

Education of Roma children on the island of Rhodes during the school year 2019-2020

Chart 2 : Gender and years of study in Education

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There are no large Roma populations settled on the Island of Rhodes. The three outposts/camps in Caraconero, The Agious Apostolous and the Cair vineyards number to about 400 people. This population grows greatly during the summer months where increased tourist traffic attracts many Roma to the island mainly for begging.

The widespread child labor in Roma communities and the consequent increased school leakage are significant obstacles to completing basic education for Roma children. During the current school year, 53 Roma students attend schools in Rhodes. Of these, 49 children attend elementary schools (Primary Education) in the city and 4 in First Grade Gymnasium (Secondary Education). The 49 elementary school students are divided into five elementary schools in the city of Rhodes and are transported daily to and from the school by buses that belong to the Municipality of Rhodes. The students who complete successfully the elementary school and continue to secondary basic education are all enrolled in the same Gymnasium.

It is noteworthy that in the previous school year 2018-2019, two Roma students graduated from a professional high school on the island. In most cases, Roma students do not complete basic education (9 years of study, up to grade three of high school), while girls do not progress to secondary education mainly because they marry and have children very early in adolescence.

At the Municipality of Rhodes there is a community center with Roma service and Ms Karagiannis Christina is responsible for all issues of the Roma’ community living on the island. This community center has a sociologist, a social worker, a psychologist and an accountant.

Every Roma family is entitled to a financial allowance at the end of each school year, providing their children attend school sufficiently.

The University of the Aegean, Department of Primary Education, and in particular the Laboratory of Linguistics and Mrs. Skourtou Eleni (Professor of Linguistics) in cooperation with the corresponding department at the University of Athens are implementing a special program to support the education of Roma children.  With the help of students in the department, they monitor the Roma students’ education, in order to ensure adequate education and achievement of the teaching objectives of each school level. To this end, groups of university students, with the supervision and coordination of their professors, assist teachers (during class hours) in primary schools that host Roma students and additionally supervise the afternoon study of Roma students.

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