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Life Without Education and IDs

06.02.2012

Nino Kipshidze, Newspaper “Batumelebi”

Roma people are one of the most marginalized ethnic minorities in Georgia. Unlike many ethnic groups, they prefer living in groups and are not assimilated with the local population. The key reason of their marginalization from the social life of the country is lack of education. While generally people feel discriminated if they lack education, it is reality for Roma people.

How is life without knowing or badly knowing the state language of the country of residence and particularly when you are completely illiterate? First of all it means you do not know your rights and can be subjected to discrimination, marginalization and hard life. Georgian Romas live in similar conditions. Neither general population nor the government threats them seriously, though the authority distributed IDs among Roma people last year and honored them with granting Georgian Citizenship to them. Before 2011, majority of Roma people were not citizens of Georgia. Consequently, they did not have minimal chance to feel themselves plenipotentiary members of the society. A person cannot travel even by train in Georgia without ID.

Journalists have stereotypes that it is difficult to communicate with Roma people; that they usually refuse to take photos and give interviews. It is really happens but not always. Roma families living in Gelauri settlement in Kobuleti are good example of good communication.

Roma Aslanov was born in Adjara and he still lives there. He has a wife, children and grandchildren who live in Tbilisi and last visited parents’ house last summer. Many Roma people moved to larger cities for the last five years. Roma Aslanov said it happened because of general unemployment in Kobuleti and people cannot save families. Part of Roma people, who remained in Adjara, earns their living from minor trading. They bring goods from Lilo bazroba close to Tbilisi and sell them in streets of Kobuleti.

Before 2011, only several elderly Roma people had IDs. They had obtained the document in the 1990s. Last year, Roma people in Gelauri received IDs. After being registered as citizens of Georgia, many of them received allowances for socially disabled families. However, Roma Aslanov, who has sick wife and their main income is her pension – 70 GEL, received only two financial allowances and has not received any aid from the state for about a year. Aslanov thinks the family lost allowance after a social agent saw a satellite antenna on his roof. “Can anybody live without TV nowadays?” asked Roma Aslanov who pays 20 GEL for the credit taken for the gas-supply from his wife’s pension every month.

Another significant change in the lives of Roma people after receiving the IDs is that they can also take part in the elections. Leading specialist of the Kobuleti territorial entity Dato Kartsivadze told the newspaper Batumelebi that only part of Roma people took part in the elections and now all of them can enjoy their right to election. Kartsivadze added, Roma people were always very active during elections and they always arrived at the precincts at 8:00 am on the Election Days. The Batumelebi asked how illiterate people could vote and Kartsivadze answered: “Entering the polling station they were asking about the number of the desired political party and another vote was answering them not we; we could not suggest them anything.”

Roma people and Georgian population of Gelauri have common problems. The water system is not working in the settlement. There is no central line of canalization. The local government states that the canalization system is already constructed in the central part of the city and the same works are planned in the distant parts of the city in the current budget. The newspaper Batumelebi will double-check at the end of the year whether the obligation of the employees of the local government will be implemented. The head of Kobuleti municipality City Council Sulkhan Takidze promised the Gelauri population to solve this and other problems in the frameworks of the rehabilitation program of water and canalization of the city.

The employees of local government of city of Kobuleti state that they have friendly relations with Roma people and do not refuse to help in case of necessity.

Roma Aslanov noted with newspaper Batumelebi: “Roma people are not well taken care of. There are no doctors, no ambulance” and he recalls a fact which occurred two years ago when his five-year-old grandchild who fell from the balcony and was in severe state was refused to be given medical help: “When the doctors saw Roma people they did not pay any attention. They told us to bring the child to Batumi. I managed to get money and did so. Let us say they did not have relevant competence. Could not they give us primary help and explain why they are neglecting us? They are arrogant. Roma people are received in the hospitals in Tbilisi but they are neglected here.”

Aslavoni family is complaining about the indifference of ambulance brigades as well. “When the ambulance hears that Roma people are calling, they do not go. We had the same occasion. I do not want to talk about this. We called them several times when my wife felt bad but they did not come. There are people like that, bastards… They know we are Roma and you know how it happens… Some people are Nazi like that,” – Roma Alsanovi states. As for living with Georgian neighbors, Roma people state that they have good relations.

Roma Aslanov thinks that the one of the main problems related with the Roma people is the lack of education and the state needs to take more effort in this direction. Aslanov does not exclude that the problem is in Roma people as well and parents do not let their children go to school. This mostly happens in winter. Though the children often do not have winter clothes, Aslanov thinks that the children still must be allowed to go to school. Moreover, he states that the representative of local government should visit the parents and explain how important it is for children to go to school, _ “They must be strict a little. They must intimidate people so they have respect and go to school. This is why people become illiterate here. It is hard to even communicate with them. I read bible to them, they will open their mouth and cannot even understand a word. So I have to translate, explain every word. Educated people will have better lives. For instance, take Poland, Hungary and Germany where the Roma people live. They have different intellect there. They work as secretaries, doctors and directors. How come the same thing does not happen here? Because they are illiterate. The state should help them with it like it happens in abroad.”
The local government states that it is hard to raise interest among Roma people on this issue. Today approximately twenty children are educated in the public school of Kobuleti.

One of the hindering factors to receive education is the tradition of early marriages. Roma people get married at the age of 13-14 and give birth.

Source: Netgazeti

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