Spanish education minister, Isabel Celaá, announced on Thursday that the history of the Roma people will be taught in schools so that Roma students feel included and fight against their scholastic failure.
"We will develop the curriculum once the future education law is approved because it is fundamental that Roma students feel included and welcomed in school as well as see that their community is recognised so we start overcoming negative stereotypes," said Celaá.
The announcement was made as part of the presentation of the campaign "The Roma Desk" (El Pupitre Gitano) launched by the Roma Secretariat Foundation, which calls for specific measures against the neglect of Roma children classrooms.
The Roma Spanish population is made up of more than 700,000 people. A 2018 report by the Council of Europe estimated that less than half of Roma children finished the mandatory school years in Spain and urged the country to counter the problem.
But the information put out by the "Roma Desk" is even more alarming: six out of every ten Roma children abandon secondary school before completing it. In contrast, two out of ten children in the general population don’t finish secondary school.
"Within the multiple factors that cause this situation are the lack of inspiring representation of the Roma in Spain, low expectations and confidence in their abilities or school segregation," said the foundation in a press release.
"There are primary schools where 60% of students come from a Roma background," Isidro Rodriguez, the director of the Roma Secretariat Foundation told Euronews in a 2018 interview. "Schools attended by Roma children become a kind of ghetto, where no measures are applied to change these patterns."
A school desk will travel in Spain as a symbol of awareness and make visible the unknown reality to most.
"Education is a great way to fight against uneven social and economic structures, to which to this day, much of the Roma community has to face," said the minister.
What is already taught of the history and Roma culture?
In 2016, the Spanish region of Castilla and León was a pioneer when they announced the inclusion of Roma history and culture in the school curriculum to incentivise Roma children to attend school and fight against prejudices.
The guiding document published by the Department of Education of Castilla and León presented didactic units on Roma history and culture for the different educational levels.
For early childhood education, it's suggested they learn about "different family realities as a cultural and personal enrichment". While in primary school, they strive to teach children Roma languages — the caló and the Romani — their influence in Spanish, certain notions on society, as well as Roma art and literature.
In secondary school, it's suggested they learn about Roma history in Europe: from their arrival to Spain around 1415 to the Roma holocaust during WWII. It also covers one of the darkest episodes of modern Spanish history: the Great Roma Round-up — a raid approved by King Ferdinand VI of Spain in 1749 in which all Roma communities in Spain were arrested and put in labour camps.
The course will also explore the influence of Roma culture in Spanish cultural references such as the literature of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca or the art of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.
However, various teachers in Castilla and León told Euronews they ignored these units were meant to be taught in school.