Friday, March 20, 2009

The Old Segregated School in Dileu

The segregated school in Dileu in May 2006. Photo credit: Mona Nicoara
This is how the school looked until May 2006, before work began on it. It was a one-room school with no toilet - and often no running water. A wood-burning stove smoked up the whole room in the winter. 

The Roma remember this school being here for generations - at least since the 1930s. They say their grandparents made the bricks - the main trade in this community used to be brick-making, until industrial production put them out of business. It was always a Roma school. There is no memory of Romanian or Hungarian children coming to this school. For generations, those parents who wanted to enroll their children in the mainstream school were directed here. 

The school is about 2 km away from the center of town, where the mainstream school is. Since the Roma are spread out in several communities around Targu Lapus, some children would have to walk as much as 6 km into town, pass by the mainstream school in the center, and continue to walk another 2 km to reach "their" school - the segregated all-Roma school in Dileu.  Dana is one of those children. Alin, however, lives right there, a few short steps up the hill from the school.

The teachers changed at least one a year. Not that it made any difference - every teacher who came through, the parents say, would come in late, around 9 or 10 am, work a bit with the children, then let them out for a long recess. By 12 pm, the whole school day would be over. Extremely few children who finished 4th grade here would be able to go on to the high school in the center of town - let alone keep up there.

When we came scouting, we asked for directions to get the school. We kept passing the building without noticing it, until finally we saw the plaque above the door. Our driver exclaimed: "I thought it was a public toilet!"