• Spain's news in English

Spain's gyspy adults head back to school

AFP · 13 Dec 2013, 11:51

Published: 13 Dec 2013 11:51 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"I left school when I was 14 to work and help out at home. Now I'm unemployed and I decided to get my high school diploma," said Jesus Gonzalez, 27, as he stood in the hallway of the school with his books under his arm after class.

He was waiting for two of his three children who attend separate classes at the Mediterrani school in Tarragona, northeastern Spain, in a former shantytown district that is now home to tower blocks of social housing.

"They are still getting over the fact I am here, they don't understand it." 

But the fact that I go to school with them seems to motivate them," added Gonzalez, whose tall frame stuck out above the kids running around him in the hall.

SEE ALSO: The Local's interview with Roma Secretariat Foundation.

"This is a second opportunity for me, to try to study. But especially for my children, so they can go to university and do what I was not able to do."

The school launched the programme a month ago, letting parents attend classes separately from their children in a bid to improve the education results of the big local Roma population.

About 20 adults, many of them unemployed, are completing their high school diplomas at the school — and, officials hope, motivating their children to finish their studies as well.

In some respects, Roma, or gitanos as the Spanish Roma are known, have melded into Spanish life, with the country's signature flamenco music and dance drawing heavily from their culture. But Spain's population of around 750,000 Roma still suffer social exclusion.

About four percent of all gitanos still live in makeshift camps and their unemployment rate stood at 36 percent in 2011, high above the national average, according to the Roma Secretariat Foundation, which works to improve their living conditions.

The record in education — an area that many experts believe is the key to pulling gitanos out of poverty — is especially poor.

Just over half of Spain's Roma have no formal education, and 8.6 percent are illiterate.

Families realizing education necessary

"There is a lack of family support. The majority of parents and grandparents have no education and have moved forward without it. For this reason they do not give it the importance that it deserves," said Monica Chamorro, the foundation's director for education programmes.

But with Spain struggling through a prolonged economic downturn since a property bubble burst in 2008, throwing millions out of work, this attitude appears to be slowly changing.

"Many families are realizing that education is necessary and it can improve the lives of their children," said Chamorro.

The school had a high absenteeism rate before, but not anymore, said 31-year-old teacher Teresa Castaneda.

Story continues below…

"Children did not see why they should go to school and their families showed no interest. Now they think: 'I do not want to be like my father, I do not want to return to school when I am older,' and they are more motivated," she said.

The school also provides courses in English and computer skills, as well as Spanish classes for those who can't read. Those are popular with immigrants and illiterate Roma women like Josefa Amador.

At the age of nine, Amador left school at her father's urging. Now a 34-year-old housewife, she can barely read and write — so last year she signed up for literacy classes.

"At least now if my son has questions when he does his homework, I can help him a little bit. Before I could not even read his assignments," she said.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available