Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mitrovica Roma Settlement and Education

I had my first opportunity to visit a Roma settlement today, this one in Mitrovica, the divided city where one side of the bridge is home to Albanians, while the other side is home to Serbs, with the bridge itself guarded by heavily armed men keeping watch.

This particular settlement is made up of Roma who for the past 10 years were 'housed' in camps where lead poisoning was a common problem. The Roma population was only recently moved to what are now more modern housing units (it's all relative, I realize).

The settlement now includes a Learning Center, implemented by the Roma and Ashkalia Documentation Centre (RADC), the NGO I am currently working with during my stay in Kosovo with funding contributed by Soros. The Learning Center is equipped with what could be considered modern classrooms, perhaps 4-6 of them, with modern furniture and several fully outfitted HP computers. Sitting in one of the classrooms, I can see drawings on the wall done by the children, with one of drawings saying "Enjoying English."

We had a meeting with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), which is asking the RADC to take over its educational activities it has been managing. There is currently close to 150 Roma children attending the Center, with another 50 or so to be included once the DRC completes it transfer of its educational activities over to the RADC. The children are taught by locals who don't necessarily have a diploma, although that is said to be changing slowly.

While I did not have my camera with me, as we walked the grounds I felt that even if I had one, it would be an injustice to take photos. Roma settlements are not tourist attractions; while they consist of sights I may never see living in the US (although I understand Native American reservations are in very bad shape), trying to capture their despair on camera amounts to poverty porn in my mind.

Next week, we have scheduled 4 visits to the field to interview several Roma families around the country for monitoring and evaluation purposes. I imagine it would be a prime opportunity to capture the situation in images, but it is something I will first ask permission for rather than assuming it's okay to snap pictures.

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