07 SES 03 B, Women: Identity and Engagement
General Description: Social justice issues are deeply involved in educational provision in relation to who is recognised and respected and who gets what by way of resources and outcomes. Therefore, research examines what is entailed in providing a socially just educational system (Francis, & Mills, 2012). Academic literature on identity is also included in this field. From this perspective, Roma students are a vulnerable group as they confront exclusion in many countries and as a consequence, ‘Romness’ is frequently considered a demeaning dimension of these students’ identity. Furthermore, when the research focus highlights Roma female students, a form of ‘double exclusion’ (intersectionality) is recognised as being female presents an additional difficulty in educational progression. While children from Roma communities are found among the persistently lowest academic achievers in many European countries (Symeou, Luciak & Gobbo, 2009), there are some cases of Greek Roma who achieved educational success against the odds. In this paper, I explore the complexity of identity issues for some Roma females in Greece who have followed successful educational pathways.
Background: The Roma have lived in Greece for about one thousand years (Chatzisavvidis, 2007). Unlike most European countries, Greece does not apply the concept of minority for the Roma (Kostadinova, 2011); in contrast, the Roma in Greece are considered to belong to vulnerable social groups (Dragonas, 2012). Most Roma use their community language, Romani (Nikolaou, 2009), and mainly follow different cultural traditions compared to those of the Greek community. While the Roma in Greece are not a homogeneous group, to an extent, patriarchal attitudes and traditional gendered regimes are still evident in most cases (Chatzisavvidis, 2007).
In the Greek society, the Roma are frequently reviled and discriminated against. State education programmes have targeted Roma’s schooling for the last two decades. Overall, the effectiveness of educational provision for the Roma is in doubt as in many cases, problems (e.g. high dropouts and lower levels of performance compared to non-Roma peers) are still reported. However, it could be argued that the governmental tactics in play are generally ‘compensatory’ in style and seek to ‘immerse’ the Roma in Greek language and values in order to foster their Greek identity and promote social inclusion.
In the current Greek polity, the Greek Roma have access to different sets of identities: Greek Roma’s identity is constructed out of elements of Greek citizenship and their Rom heritage –which is less valued by the dominant Greek non-Rom society.
Research Focus: This paper’s main research question is as follows: “How do educationally ‘successful’ Greek Roma females identify themselves?”. This paper aims at exploring the ways in which identity is experienced by some Greek Roma females who have progressed to Higher Education. ‘Being a Rom female’, ‘being a Greek female’ and the relationship between these two dimensions emerge as crucial in the way my participants identify themselves particularly in relation to their successful educational pathways – something ‘unusual’ in the Rom community particularly for females. The way my participants approach their identity in relation to the institutional milieu of education –e.g. do they deny their Rom background or follow acts of resistance or anything else?- is of importance.
Conceptual framework: This paper offers an understanding of the complexity of identity issues based on the accounts of a small number of Greek Roma females who, despite the odds, have succeeded in education. Concepts related to social justice and narrative identity construction theoretically frame this attempt. ‘Romness’, ‘Greekness’ and the relationship between these two identities in relation to my participants’ gender are used in my participants’ attempt to identify themselves. Furthermore, discourses on ethnicity, socio-economic background and age inform these identities.
Chatzissavidis, S. (2007). Οι Ρομ στην ιστορία της ανθρωπότητας και στην Ελλάδα [The Roma in the history of humanity and of Greece]. In Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs-The University of Thessaly (eds), Ετερότητα στη Σχολική Τάξη και Διδασκαλία της Ελληνικής Γλώσσας και των Μαθηματικών: η περίπτωση των Τσιγγανοπαίδων, Πρόγραμμα: «Ένταξη Τσιγγανοπαίδων στο σχολείο», Επιμορφωτικός Οδηγός [Diversity in the Classroom and the Teaching of the Greek language and Mathematics: the case of Gypsy children, Programme ‘Gypsy children’s Inclusion in school’, Training guide] (pp. 39-64). Volos. Dragonas, Th. (2012) Roma mothers and their young children. Unpublished Report, Bernard Van Leer Foundation. Francis, B., & Mills, M. (2012). What would a socially just education system look like?. Journal of Education Policy, 27(5), 577-585. Gewirtz, S., & Cribb, A. (2009). Understanding education: A sociological perspective. Polity. Kostadinova, G. (2011). Minority Rights as a Normative Framework for Addressing the Situation of Roma in Europe. Oxford Development Studies, 39(2), 163-183. Nikolaou, G. (2009). Teacher training on Roma education in Greece: a discussion about the results of INSETRom experience in two Greek schools. Intercultural Education, 20(6), 549-557. Symeou, L., Luciak, M. & Gobbo, F. (2009). Teacher training for Roma inclusion: implementation, outcomes and reflections of the INSETRom project. Intercultural Education, 20(6), 493-496.
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