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PEOPLE for PEOPLE International


PEOPLE for PEOPLE International

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Oppdatert 30.08.12


School, professional qualification and integration in Albanian society of the Roma families



Project title: “School, professional qualification and integration in Albania society of the Roma families”

Area of implementation of the project: Albania – Shkoze - Tirane

Project timeframe: 6 months

Organisation responsible for the project: “PEOPLE FOR PEOPLE”

“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good”. ~Thomas Paine
"People for People" was found on 2011 and is a non-profitable organization. This project involves the fields of development, emancipation and education by supporting the Roma tradition and culture in Republic of Albania.
The Mission of the “People for People” project
• Protection of the identity and rights of Roma community in Shkoza, Tirana
• Promotion of training and education of this community in Shkoza, Tirane
• Improvement of social and economic conditions
• Integration of the community in the Albanian society
To accomplish its mission, the “People for People” project supports and conducts various activities, such as:
• Various projects in the areas of infrastructure, health, education, human rights, culture, art, traditions and principles, support of small businesses and other activities aiming to increase the income of the Roma community in the periphery of Tirana, especially Shkoza.
• Activities for Roma women and youths.
• Training seminars, meetings that involve recognizing and solving concerning problems in the community.
• Campaigns for the active participation in the project.
• Information, publications and consultancy in various fields having to do with the issues of the community, etc.
History and origin of the Roma community
Many assumptions have been formulated regarding the origin of Roma people and only the inherited linguistic facts justify their Indian origin. Actually, it has still remained unknown why the ancestors of Roma have left their dwellings in the northwestern India. They began to move towards the west during the XI century.

Various stories and legends shed light on potential explanations such as:
• Other Roma maintain that their ancestors lived in a big kingdom and their king was very cruel to the neighboring peoples, which got together and declared him war. Following their victory, they decided to murder the king and to forgive his people, on condition that this people had to leave their dwellings and migrate as far as possible.
• Some other Roma say that India was attacked by a great Muslim king. The Indians of that time got together and established a big army with various Indian and non- Indian peoples and family groups. This big army fought for many centuries against Muslim forces, increasingly pushing towards west, but at the same time, they left India as far as possible. This war in the XI century is in fact recognized by history.

Some people say that after long wars for the independence of India, fighting against Muslim invaders in the vicinity of Traime, the ancestors of Roma, who constituted an aristocratic caste of warriors, were forced to leave their country. The Roma people in Balkans were settled in specific groups or they were brought by the Turkish armies, in which they formed specific units for the production of powder and weapons. According to an Ottoman registration of the year 1523, there is some data for the settlement of Roma in Albania. Some 374 Roma families were estimated, but it is presumed they had come 200-300 years before this registration. According to the professor Shuaip Isufi, in the III century BC, in India lived a powerful king called Roma, who really loved his people. After his death, common people wrote poems for him, which later created the epos Romajama. 220 best verses were selected out of this epos and they were sung in temples. In this way, the myth of Ramizim sprung up. The people who embraced this religion were called Ramist and later they were called Roma.

The Roma nation has its Anthem and Flag at an international level. These symbols were declared in the First Roma Congress that was held in London, in April 1971.
The Roma participants from 22 various countries unanimously decided the day of 8 April as the international day of Roma. They raised the Roma flag, half green (symbol of land) and half blue (symbol of sky) and a red wheel was in the middle, representing the movement. The Roma Anthem is “Gelem, Gelem” (I went, I went).

Four World Roma Congresses have been held so far. There, it was decided to use the term Roma instead of other terms that were used until that period and the use of the alphabet of Roma language as well.

Many Albanians often confuse Roma community with the Egyptian community (which in the slang language is often called gypsies). This community differs from Roma, as it does not have its own native language. Their origin is thought to be from Egypt and they are settled only in urban areas. In general, the term ROMA causes confusions to the non Roma people. In this context, many people think that Roma have come from Romania or are related to Rome, the capital of Italy.

Roma holly days
-- 8 April, the Day of Roma Nation
is celebrated all over the world by various ceremonies: meetings and symposia, music, carnivals, rituals along the river shore, throwing flowers, lighting candles etc.
-- 6 May, the Feast of Saint Gjergj (George) is celebrated by getting together, having dinners and enjoying music. They come out at 3 a clock in the morning, wash themselves in the river “as their life may run, just like the river runs”.
There are four Roma family groups : Meçkar, Karbuxhinj, Kurtof and Cergar. The family group Meçkar is primarily settled in Myzeqe, Tirana and Berat; the family group of Karbuxhi is settled in Korça, Fushe Kruja, Tirana, Elbasan and Pogradec (it is presumed they had come in Albania from Greece); the family group Kurtof is broadly settled in Lezha, Shkodër (they are basically settled in the northern part of Albania, because they have come from Montenegro); the family group Cergar is settled in Berat, Elbasan, Delvina, Saranda and Gjirokastër (it is presumed they had come in Albania from Greece). However, the numerous movements have made those family groups scatter even in other parts of Albania.

The culture of Roma
The Roma culture has many oriental shades, due to their Indian origin. Many people imagine Roma as vagrant persons, sly salesmen or famous fortune tellers. In reality, only a few people may be able to know their true spirit, when speaking to them. They may not be rich in money, but they are rich in spirit.
Often, non- Roma people (original gaxhenjt) pass by and see with curiosity and fear those people worn in a different manner, speaking another language, even though we live in the same country. You can barely see them smile you back in the street. It is very difficult to speak to them. Even if you tend to speak to them expressing something unpleasant, they adjust an indifferent attitude, as if they want to protect themselves from any potential attack.

In fact, we have never managed to know these people with the freest spirit in the world. For the sake of their own freedom, they have not submitted to any law, king or regime for running centuries. They have paid a very high price for this freedom, living in extreme poverty, under various prejudices. They are amazing people, gifted for music and dancing. They live the moment and don’t care for the opinion of others. They like to domesticate bears and horses, they like to travel and be mysterious. They like colors and they are very romantic people.

When asked if Roma are like the running river or like the wind, the Roma journalist Ramazan Mile answered that Roma are like the wind, because the river has limits, which imprison it inside its bed. If there are three basic elements to live: air, sun and water, Roma need a fourth element, the music- he says. The symbolic animal for Roma is the bear. According to an old legend, a young woman had gotten pregnant and she jumped in the river to drown herself, but a bear saved her life. Thus, the bear became the dearest animal for Roma people.

The Roma man loves freedom more than he has to.

He leads a modest life, but is quite rich in spirit. Often the Roma people seem to have a difficult character and it is very hard to communicate with them, as poverty hardens the soul. Roma people are the greatest smokers in the world, because tobacco quenches the thirst.
Last but not least, Roma are excellent salesmen, although they have never studied economics, finances or marketing.

Religious belief
Historically, Roma have been converted to the religion of the country where they had settled. Finally, I would like to end this brief presentation, by appealing to all of you who used to have an unfriendly attitude towards Roma, to be more tolerant and try first to know those people you prejudice. Before accusing any Roma man cramming in the bus that he stole your wallet, check your bag or pocket.
The current situation of the Roma minority in Albania:
The Roma community lives in Albania alongside the other minorities and it is considered a linguistic minority. This community of people settled in Albania, as it did in many countries of Europe, during the period ranging from the XIII century until the XV one. Even though they established a peaceful attitude while settling in Albania more than 600 years ago, they still lack a spirit of normal coexistence with their co-natives. This is due to the indifferent approach concerning their situation, prejudices and discrimination towards Roma people. They feel discriminated. This discrimination is not direct, but it has lead to the self- isolation of Roma people.

About 120- 150 thousand Roma inhabitants live in Albania; however there are no accurate records in this regard. The Roma population is basically settled in Tirana, Elbasan, Durrës, Berat, Fier, Korcë, Vlorë, Fushe Kruja, Gjirokastër etc. Regarding their current situation in Albania, the indexes of the level of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and trafficking are appalling. Actually, I do not intend to exaggerate this bitter reality. I would simply give a clear vision of the situation of this minority in Albania.

The low educational level is the most serious problem, impeding the integration of this community towards the majority society. Most of Roma children are illiterate. Some of the factors influencing this situation are the linguistic difficulties they encounter at the first grade of elementary school, the poverty in their families, the long distance dwellings from school and sometimes the wrong mentality of their parents. When asked about the discrimination or maltreatment of their children at school, the Roma mothers stated that their children are actually discriminated, but not in a direct manner. The teachers regard them as children with no future perspectives and they often treat those children with indifference or contempt, because of their poor clothes, the lack of finances to follow activities with other school peers or to buy books, school items and so on. If Roma children have no possibility to complete a certain educational level, it means that their future is in danger. When adults, the children with no education are offered to do ordinary jobs, such as cleaning streets at night or during the day, collecting garbage or cans and finally, using their oldest profession: begging.

De facto:
There are only two Roma students in Albania.
The figure of unemployed Roma in Albania is very high and that is not characteristic only for Roma. During the period of the socialist regime, most of Roma people were employed by various public enterprises and agricultural cooperatives, where their job was guaranteed. During the first years of the democracy, ranging from 1991 to 1993, the Roma who were settled in villages, profited agricultural land, in accordance with the law No 7501, where as the Roma who used to live in city had no income at all. Nowadays, some of them receive a minimum social welfare; some others deal with the trade of used clothes or do ordinary jobs, in order to earn a living.

De facto:
In the Roma community of Fushë Kruja live about 700 Roma and their situation is miserable. The trade of used clothes and begging in the streets of the town are the two most popular professions. Many women are obliged to sell their own blood, in order to provide some food for their children, who do not go to school, because of poverty (anyhow, that does not mean much hope for their future) etc. That is not the only community living in such an extreme poverty.

Some of the traditional professions of Roma people are musicians, handicraft workers (carving willow sticks. They also deal with, trade and agriculture. Most of them have created various musical bands and their fame has become internationally prominent. Even in the area of trade, there are many successful Roma businessmen, who have extended their activity in various counties of Albania. Most of Roma people who live in village, deal with farming and agriculture, in spite of their meager financial opportunities to plow the land and breed cattle.

Roma women
Dark, beautiful young women, with black eyes, black long hair, dressed in multicolored clothes, wearing golden rings and earrings stir the attention and curiosity of the pedestrians. Most often, they have a mole right in the middle of their foreheads. Some of them mark the mole as a sign of their engagement status and some others use it merely as an ornament. The Roma woman is a victim of the deep patriarchal mentality dating back to the Albanian past. This mentality leads to the low esteem towards them in daily life and in society. That is not all. The Roma women are twice discriminated as they are victims of family violence, maltreated by their husbands or fathers. On the other hand, they are the most discriminated group of the society.

Another serious problem is the lack of self- esteem, the lack of self- awareness with respect to their own positive values, the lack of confidence in the potentials and the opportunities they have while working out various problems, as they are supposed to be the protectors and conveyers of Roma culture and traditions, etc.

In comparison to the other ethnical groups and the Albanian majority society, Roma women rank the youngest to get married. Even Roma parents are often aware of the danger imposed by the marriage at a young age. However, customs and traditions are stronger than fear. The marriage before 18 years old, brings numerous problems for the health of those young women and these new families and numerous children born out of these marital bonds, are too fragile and prone to divorce.
In general, Roma have many children and they encounter a lot of difficulties to raise them. Being not registered in the Registrar Office, these children do not profit from the obligatory vaccination or other medical facilities. The involvement of Roma women in informing programs on family planning, training seminars dealing with the reproduction health and care for children is now a necessary issue.

Roma families encounter many difficulties in their social life. The scarce employment opportunities and the very low salaries force Roma people to immigrate in the neighboring countries, in order to have a better life. The immigration is usually illegal and the movement is often clandestine. The immigration encourages the divorce, the deterioration of traditions and culture, the prostitution of Roma females, the trafficking of Roma children and the abuse of their rights.

Many people do not understand the meaning of the word “trafficking” although they may be involved in it, directly or indirectly. Those mothers, who send their children abroad to work (to sing in the streets or beg) think that they are offering to their children a good lifestyle. The divorced women who become prey of criminal networks and various families that force their children to work with the status of non-official immigrants, think that is the only opportunity to survive.
The prostitution and trafficking lead to a higher level of poverty, even though they are used as instruments to fight poverty (when other mechanisms are not available or do not meet the basic needs of the family). Thus, the economic conditions stimulate these negative phenomena and in reality, only the victims of trafficking understand its true consequences.
There is an obvious lack of knowledge concerning the registration, particularly when it comes to the documents needed by law for registration, ownership, employment, movement within the country, legal immigration, heritage, education, prisons of juvenile delinquents etc.

Until the years ’60 most of Roma people led a nomad life, but after that period, they began to settle in permanent dwellings. Most of Roma people have provided comfortable and safe houses for their families, but some communities live in plastic or board barracks, where the electricity, potable water and other minimum living conditions are not available

De facto
“We are Albanians just like the rest of the population. Why does nobody want to help us or at least listen to us?”- asked in tears one Roma mother from the community of Lana (Tirana). Following the order of the Municipality to clear the shore of Lana River from all illegal constructions, the police forklifts broke down her house (a plastic barrack). That was a good example to show that even the members of the community have to apply the tasks just like every other Albanian citizen.

Is there anybody to think about their shelter? Is there any solution for almost 100 families that have remained in the middle of the street? Does someone deign to listen to the cries of the children saying they are out there, in open air? Don’t they deserve even the minimum attention by Governmental, Central or Local Authorities?

Certain people think that Roma like to sleep outdoors, they don’t prefer to have their own houses etc.
• Imagine you go to sleep without locking your main door... Would you fall asleep? Would you feel safe?
• Imagine you have only river water to drink, to wash clothes and to wash yourselves...not simply for a week or a month, but for running years.
• Imagine you do not have aspirins for your headache, the drugstore is too far and actually you don’t have enough money to buy them...
• Imagine you are in the middle of a storm and you have no possibilities to protect your barefoot children from frost and rain...

Referring to the facts we have observed and if you had the chance to see what we have concluded from our observations, then you would agree with us that these forgotten people need a strong supporting hand from the members of this community, the majority society and the Central and Local Government.

Roma Youth
Roma youngsters constitute the most marginalized group in our country. Raised under very difficult socioeconomic conditions and the striking pressure of the society, it was very hard for them to integrate into the social and cultural life of the country. Their involvement in professional courses, cultural activities and various training seminars would influence the improvement of their situation.
If we do not do something today, tomorrow will continue to be gloomy. Now it is the right moment to do something and help those who will represent a young generation in the coming years.

Participation in politics
The President of the Union of Albanian Roma “Amaro Drom” Mr. Skënder Veliu says: “The Albanian Roma are excluded from the political life. At national level, there are no Roma representatives in the governmental structures, where as in the local structures there are very few representatives. This fact leads to the inability of Roma to appeal their needs to the central or local governmental structures. Although various efforts have been made to send representatives in the Albanian Parliament, such a thing did not happen, because of the representation in various political parties.
There are no newspapers, magazines or TV stations in Roma language to make their problems public and serve as sensibilization instruments. Various publications have been made, basically in Albanian and English language, but a relevant radio or TV station would promote a broader participation of Roma people in social, cultural and political life of the country.”

There are rare cases of criminality within this community, so this phenomenon is not dominant. In fact, conflicts within the community are evident, but they can be settled within the community, by means of reconciliation. The Police Department in Tirana states that the rate of criminality within Roma community is not to be taken into consideration. We can’t say that Roma people are completely innocent and the others accuse them unfairly. Just like every other people, there are criminals and thieves in this community, but they do not aim at huge profits. They simply strive to survive. Have you seen rich people stealing or begging?

Roma language
Only by the end of the XVIII century, scholars provided evidence that the origin of Roma language is from the Indian language. Nowadays, some similar languages to Roma one are the languages spoken in India, Nepal, Bengal etc. Roma language has suffered numerous changes, because of the movements of Roma. In the majority of cases, Roma people were forced not to speak their own language, because of persecutions and violence exercised to them, so, some Roma groups in the world have lost their language, where as some others have lost it partially, inserting words from the vocabulary of the people with which they coexisted.

The word ROMA is translated into Albanian as man or person. That is a term used to identify the Roma people. All other non-Roma people are called in Roma language GAXHENJ (GAXHI-singular). Various countries have used different terms for Roma, such as bohemians, gipsy, tzigane, etc. Many people speak Roma language; however, that language is becoming extinct, because of several reasons:

• The adjustment of Roma to the native population;
• Many families avoid to speak their own language, because of discrimination;
This language is transmitted orally and not in a written form.
(The information above is referenced from the Amaro Drom organization )

Project details:
In the project for education will be participating 73 children. In the project of training courses will be participating their parents.
• Participation of 73 children in school and after school activities.
• 195 people of the community will be given weekly food supplies.
• 2 women per year in this community will to be trained to be teachers for children.
• Cooperation with foreign companies for the employment of men and women.
• Medical assistance and psychological support.

From the information obtained from our staff about this community it results that they live in tents in complete poverty. The level of unemployment and illiteracy is very high and the only source of money is selling the collected cans and begging on the streets. The lack of the social assistance, long distance from school, not affording the transport and the need to employ the children is a result why they are illiterate.

Furthermore, the use of violence is high and there are more problems such as: non-registration of children, marriage in a very young age and discrimination.
These families have agreed through the cooperation contracts to be part of this project and to comply with the rules established in order to integrate in the social life. Two Roma have agreed to participate in this project as teachers. One of them will be a Roma language teacher and the other will be an art teacher.

Our aim is not to change their traditions or to forget their language, but simply to adapt to the society in which they live.

The goals of this initiative are:
 an educational support for everyone in this community that is illiterate
 professional qualification for the youths
 weekly food supplies
 physical activity to boost their emotional and social development, by the help of a qualified staff to achieve the aim stated above.

Origin of initiatives

The success of this initiative is not only to put the society’s rules within the community, but also to convince the parents that the participation in this project is important. This project does not help only in the exchange of the ideas and experiences, but it transmits values and norms to form a human personality.

 The tents the Roma community live in.

 The tents the Roma community live in.

Roma children

 One of our staff talking to a Roma woman

 The magician Chris Brent performing for the children.

 The magician Chris Brent performing for the children.

The magician Chris Brent performing for the children.

 The singer Kim Fairchild performing for the Roma community.

A sick Roma baby.

 The painter Entela Hoxha giving paper and colourpens to the children.

Listening to the song sang by Kim Fairchild.

 Kim Fairchild performing for the Roma community.

Kim Fairchild and Kjell Hoibraaten talking to a Roma woman.

The Roma tents

The 2 talented roma girls dancing

Helping woth food the roma community withself

 The project aims to help this community overcome the problems of the children, youths and parents:
a) Social and family problems:
- Living difficulties
- Unemployment
- Discrimination
b) Educational problems
- Abandoning school
- Lack of schools in this zone
- Lack of professional courses

Problems that need to be solved

Illiteracy is an eminent problem in the Roma society. The exiting illiteracy in the youths implies that they do not know the value of education and as future parents they might not let their children go to school.
Education will allow women reduce the gap between them and their husbands by having opportunities to be part of the economical, social and political life.

The major problems for the children are:
* Lack of obligatory rules to finish the primary education.
* Lack of frequentation because of:
- Different jobs
- Helping their family
- The family assumes that they have the right preparation for life
- Disagreements inside the families.
- Social problems and discrimination.
* Lack of the participation in after school activities
* Difficulty in learning:
- In the major cases the interrupted school leads to difficulties in learning.
- Lack of interest for those arguments and lessons that lie away from their reality
- Spoken language is very poor
* The fear that they might be wrong and refused
* Health and hygiene problems:
- Lack of a place to live with at least minimum conditions
- Bad nutrition.
- Chronic diseases caused by the place that they live and work.
- Personal hygiene is at minimal levels.
* Family:
- Lack of interest from the family to push their children to study and learn.

Strategy of intervention

Referring to the problems in this project we have decided:

1. To create a school where we will not remove the Roma language and neither their traditions.
2. To strengthen the relations in the family and in the community
3. To seek work opportunities
4. To value the potential of every one that are part of the project

General objective

- To contribute in the improvement of the situation of the Roma family.

Specific objective

To create and apply strategies which will improve the actual condition in which the families are living: poverty, lack of the school education, social rejection, unemployment and family disagreements.

Expected results

In quality terms:
 To stimulate the children to express their talents and communicate.
 Awareness of the parents for the education of their children
 Training courses for women so the school can continue.

In quantitive terms:
 Realization of the necessary infrastructure for different activities.
 The children at school should participate maximally.
 To train two teachers per year
 To guide the parents how to solve the problems without violence
 Involvement of youths in social activities.


A) Activities to inform the parents for different problems
B) Educational activities
C) Social activities

A) Activities to inform the parents for different problems
- In the meetings with the parents, they will be informed about the children that need help and motivation to develop their talents.

B) Educational activities
B.1) parents
B.2) children

C) Social activities
C.1) Work
C.2) Meetings
C.3) Games and art


In general similar projects have the risk of failing because education and life with our rules is not part of their mentality but we, as an organization, in accordance with the families have decided to succeed in this project.

Specific method of intervention

Improvement of the structures:

 To hold at least five meetings per month with parents to share different opinions or different problems that they might have.
 To improve the psychological condition.

1- Physical and creative activities
2- School education
3- Other education activities

The staff that will be working on: realistic analysis of the knowledge that the children have; their orientation towards the talents that they have; physiological help

Is planned that part of this project will be:
• An administrative coordinator
• A manager responsible for the educational activities
• A manager responsible for the social activities
The staff will meet every month to review the results of the project.
Human resources:

The Administrator is responsible for the well going of the project and coordination of different interventions, Organizes activities, event times and staff meetings. Also the administrator will promote actions for the educational development conform the programs.

A manager responsible for the teachers- is responsible for planning all necessary activities for functioning of the lectures. Has to supervise the courses and to evaluate with objectivity how much is achieved for what was planed.

A manager responsible for the social activities leads all the social activities to boost their talents.

Teachers have to follow the plans of both managers for the educational activities and social activities

(The program that will applied is conform ICDP program and the programs applied in the public schools in Albania)

a.1 – Staff
Quantity Month costs(€) Costs for 6 months (€)
Administrator 1 600 3600
Manager for teachers 1 500 3000
Manager responsible for the social activities 1 400 2400
Teachers 5 300 9000
Total 18000

 a.2 – Weekly food
Quantity Month costs(€) Costs for 6 months(€)
Family 53 3000 18000
Total 18000

Total (a1+a2) 36000

b.1 – Medicine
Month costs (€) Costs for 6 months (€)
Doctor appointments and medications 2000 12000
Total 12000

 c.1 – Begging expenditures
Loans 2000
Total in Euro 2000

 Total for 6 months 50000

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