School for Roma

 

From caterpillar to butterfly

Today, Timos* is a ten-year old boy. Since its opening, he has been attending the Pedagogic Centre Petalouda for children in a Roma settlement in Athens: when he arrived there about two years ago, he was neglected, unable to concentrate and didn’t know how to use a pencil, scissors or a toothbrush. He had no idea of rules. He tried to solve problems with aggression. During his first two years in the Centre he learned that each action also has a consequence. He experienced that what he had learned at school was of practical use in life. And he realised that it not good to give up, even when things get a bit difficult. Finally, he had matured to such an extent that he was able to leave the Centre and to go to a normal school.

Hence, our Greek partner wanted to help his parents to enrol him. However, they hesitated. They struggled to contact the school – one of the reasons being that they have no phone. Apart from that they were unable to understand the school’s application forms, as they cannot read. And they are not able to get him to school on time in the morning or to collect him at lunchtime. Not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t have a watch. And even if they had one, they wouldn’t be able to read it.

Responsible employee makes school attendance possible

After a number of unsuccessful attempts, our Greek partner finally succeeded in enrolling Timos in the last available school of the residential area. It is five kilometres from the settlement where he lives. One employee decided to act as a responsible link between school personnel and family to give his education a chance. He became Timos’ official guardian. He checks his progress, supports him when learning difficulties arise and ensures that he gets to school and back home again.

In spite of the rejection the boy has to deal with at school and in spite of being excluded as an outsider, Timos is a good pupil. His teacher is confident that he will succeed in future. But this is not all: Timos and the other children of the estate, who went to various schools of the residential area, continue to visit the Pedagogic Centre Petalouda once a week to get help with their schoolwork. And what seems to be an equally welcome delight for Timos and the other school children: they listen with enthusiasm when the group sits together and the head of the centre reads a Bible story and explains what it means. Equipped with the knowledge gained at school, the children can grow and develop. However, at least as important is their mental and spiritual development, which results from hearing and understanding the Word of God.

Petalouda is the Greek word for butterfly.

* Name changed