This story is a fiction, inspired from the interviews done with 35 educational experts (school inspectors, school principals, teachers and school mediators from Olt, Dolj and Gorj counties, Romania) and with 10 members of Roma families.
Two years ago, one morning, my mother woke me up and said:
- We are leaving for Spain tomorrow! Your father found a job there.
- Are we also taking Alin with us? He's only two years old.
- Yes. Grandma's too sick to take care of him. She can barely bear it with your five cousins.
- What about my dog, Gigi? It's my best friend and it is very quiet.
- Come on! Are you crazy? We'll take some clothes and that's all! We will see how to handle it there!
- I need to talk with my class master! She told me to go to the athletics contest on Saturday. She told me that I'm the best and I might win a prize
- We don't have time for nonsense. We're leaving tomorrow. You stay at home and take care of Alin until I go to my sister-in-law to ask her to feed the chickens while we're away! We'll do the luggage when I come back!
- But … mom, the class master really likes me!
- Enough! The school doesn't make money! Don't upset me … See? Now your brother has started crying! Give him some food.
Ever since I could remember, I had never left the big street, where the school was. All my friends and enemies lived there. In the spring, I beat up some guys who wouldn't leave me alone. I was about to be expelled. But the class master took me aside and spoke to me very calmly. She put me in charge of the athletics team, and she asked me not to disappoint her. She told me to keep up with school and that I could get far in life because I was ambitious.
Everyone respected me afterwards. Even the boys. I was the fastest runner and they feared me. But then … everything was over. I had seen some of the people who came back from Spain. Some with cars.
Others were worse off now than when they left. Some bought big houses. Others were begging on the streets. With us … what will it be like? We were supposed to be back in the fall. But a year has already passed. Such a hard life. We were trying to raise more money in order to "build a house", as my mother used to say. Dad worked wherever he could. My mother helped the neighbours. Me … with Alin. There was a school but …who would stay with the child? The people there only spoke Spanish. I missed my classmates, my team and my class master.
Now we are back. I'm 12 years old. My dog, Gigi, ran away and didn't return. I missed one year at school. My classmates are in seventh grade while I just got into the sixth. Now, someone else is the head of the athletics team.
People say that I went to Spain to steal and beg for money, and other nonsense. The boys joke that no one will take me as a wife. But I didn't do anything wrong! Why are people saying hurtful words behind my back?
My mother also says that she must find a husband for me in order for me to get married quickly, as long as we still have money, in order to finally stay at my house. She says that school is not for me because I'm a gypsy.
But I actually like the class master! How can I go back to school?
School is really MISTO!