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Published: June 18th 2008
This classroom was learning about the biology of evergreen tree species.
Today I had one of the more interesting experiences I have ever had. Syvlia's aunt is a teacher at a special school in Slovakia. While these schools were originally intended for students with learning difficulties, they quickly became schools in which Roma (gypsy) children were placed. The principal of the school agreed earlier this spring to give me a tour and talk to me about the school when I came this summer. We toured through the school which has an enrollment of 400 students. Of those 400, 389 are gypsies. Many of the children live in horrible conditions and attend the school irregularly. Many are often quite dirty and don't have adequate clothing. Some are always hungry. Sylvia's aunt told me that one of her children will eat everything he is given, including anything the other students leave behind. If he is given a bannana, he will eat the entire thing, including the peel.
The principal is very proud of her accomplishments in the school. Earlier in the year, the school was visited by the Deputy Premier of Slovakia who gave her a letter of commendation for her work, which she was proud to show me. She was also proud that
This was a girl the principal selected from the biology class to recite a poem for us. She had won some awards for her recitation.
her school did not smell, which is common in gypsy schools because of the condition of the children. Often the schools will have a strong smell of chlorine because they are constantly disinfected. She even asked me to smell her as proof that the school smelled normal.
After the school visit and some lunch, we met up with Sylvia's aunt who took us into the gypsy village, which is outside of Jasov, the town in which the school is located. She met with several of her student's mothers to talk with them about the childrens' progress. We encountered many of her students in the village who had not been in class that day. Fewer than half her students had been in attendance. The village was in bad condition and it is difficult to comprehend how they are able to live in such fashion. It was a strange experience to drive through the well-developed town and then walk straight into what are literally third-world conditions. I won't forget this experience.
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