14.04.2019Gabrovo on April 12 - fear for the children is rising
Gabrovo on April 12
A large part of the Roma families temporarily left Gabrovo, and for the second day there are almost no Roma children at schools. The gendarmerie is located near the places with Roma houses, but the police show rather frustration, urging more Roma citizens from Gabrovo to spend the next few days with relatives in other municipalities. The tension and uncertainty among the Roma in the city are extremely strong, having in mind the expected protest tomorrow - Saturday, April 13, in which Plovdiv football fans are expected to take part.
Despite the increased police presence, two houses were burned by ultras on Thursday night on Batak Street. The houses have long been uninhabited. Gendarmerie successfully guarded the few dwelling houses on the street, called by mistake "Roma neighborhood". The horror experienced by the inhabitants led to the fact that there was only one woman on the street on Friday.
According to Amalipe Center's Gabrovo team, there were almost no Roma children at school on April 12th, and even those who dared to go a day earlier are now missing:
- All Roma children are absent from "Vasil Levski" Primary School, 4 Hristo Botev Primary School, 8 "St. St. Kiril and Metodiy" Primary School, 11 "Raycho Karolev" Secondary School;
- 25 students are absent from 6 Primary School "Ivan Vazov", and only 5 were present;
- 5 children are absent in the Second Primary School "Neofit Rilski";
- in 1 Primary School "Ran Bosilek" there are 4 children present out of 12
Amalipe's mediators' information was confirmed by the municipality and the Regional Department of Education.
Three quarters of the Roma families are not currently in town. Policemen have advised those who have relatives in other cities to visit them for a while. Even without this advice, many have already done so after the happenings on Wednesday and Thursday. The big fear is for the children - that they have witnessed the attacks and do not want to experience the horror again. In one of the houses attacked on the first night there was a child. The aggresors have retired when seeing the child, told relatives.
Rumors were spread during the day, that with a house order will be demolished those municipal dwellings with Roma, who are perfect payers. It was only a rumor: Amalipe Center received assurances that houses that are dangerous to live are being demolished. They have been emptied and their tenants have left or have been resettled.
Only a few Roma were at work in the cleaning sector on Friday and the problem of cleanliness in the city is deepening.
Gabrovo's experience of coping with secondary segregation
Although the Roma in Gabrovo are few, they are not separated in a ghetto and live under relatively normal conditions (part of the families are poor and low-educated, but not marginalized). Prejudices, non-tolerance, and misconduct of some school principals have led to the transformation of 3 "Tzanko Dustabanov" Primary School into a "Roma" school. It is near the center of the city, in a Bulgarian neighborhood, with good facilities, but it is ... secondary segregated: the Roma children from the whole town are directed to it and the Bulgarian children from the area visit other schools. This situation has not happened "at once" and the slightest "merit" for it is given to the teachers from Tsanko Dyustabanov. Gradually the surrounding schools "pulled out" the Bulgarian children, which went hand-in-hand with refusal on their part to enrol Roma children (even those living close to the respective school) and non-impropriety of the municipality to stop this vicious practice (which is not unlawful, unfortunately!). Thus, six years ago children of ethnic Bulgarians were enrolled in first grade for the last time.
In the second half of 2017 the Municipality of Gabrovo together with Amalipe Center (the organization has been working in the municipality for years and has a local structure there) led the struggle for the difficult decision to close the school and to integrate the students into all other schools in Gabrovo, and thus to avoid the segregation of another school. Despite the fears of many - both in the Roma community and mostly among the majority and the schools, on March 29, the municipal council decided to close the school and integrate the students to all other schools in Gabrovo. By his order of June 22 the Minister of Education Krassimir Valchev supported the decision of the municipality and the adopted approach by closing the Tzanko Dyustabanov Primary School and not defining a host school. Thus, as of September 2018, the Roma children in Gabrovo were enrolled in all schools, by separating them by several students at school, and 1 - 2 in class.
Until April 9, the process was successful, despite some minor problems. The protests and aggression stopped the children, and serious efforts would be needed to make them visit schools regularly again.