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Frontpage News 2015 Magdalena’s story – supporting Roma education

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Magdalena Karvayova is a role model for children and young people from minority groups in the Czech Republic Photographer: Open Society Fund Prague

Magdalena’s story – supporting Roma education

Her grades were good. Still, the teachers wanted to move her to a special needs school. Magdalena has fought to break out of the vicious cycle many Roma children are caught in. She succeeded and today she is helping others to do the same.  

The article below was reproduced courtesy of Sunniva Adam, the Embassy of Norway to the Czech Republic

Magdalena Karvayova’s years at the public primary school in her hometown in the Czech Republic is full of memories of fights and bullying. In her third year, teachers suggested to transfer her to a special needs school, despite the fact that her grades were good. Her parents refused to transfer her, and she remained at her local school. The years were tough, and she dreamt about change.

Change

The idea came to her when she was eleven years old. At that time, she heard about an international school in the Czech countryside. The school where she was a student laughed at her idea. How would she be able to learn anything, when she could not speak any English? Magdalena admits that she did not impress the admissions officers at the international school, but still they gave her a chance. They did not regret their decision – after three months, she was recognised as the ‘student of the month’.

Today, Magdalena is 25 years old and holds a Bachelor degree in comparative law. She uses her own story and her education to fight for social inclusion of Roma in Czech society.

Many Roma today reject their background. That is not the case for Magdalena. She lives and works in Ostrava, the third largest city in the Czech Republic and the city with the largest Roma population. As a project coordinator, she works with her team to empower Roma parents, providing them with knowledge about the importance of education and supporting them in the fight to send their children to mainstream schools.

Support

Statistics show that one third of the pupils at special needs schools in the Czech Republic are Roma children, a figure disproportionate to their number in the Czech population as a whole. Magdalena hopes that by sharing her story she can inspire change. She has participated as a keynote speaker at events on inclusive education organised jointly by the Norwegian Embassy in Prague and the Open Society Fund Prague, and financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants.

Through the EEA Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway support a number of projects and initiatives contributing to an inclusive society in the Czech Republic. The events have gathered Czech politicians in the fields of education and equality, organisations working for inclusion with a particular focus on education, and Roma activists like Magdalena. By creating a unique meeting place, the projects and events are creating possibilities for change. A change that will make the education system in the Czech Republic more inclusive - also for Roma children.

Read more about the Czech 'NGO programme'

Projects for inclusive education supported through the Grants in the Czech Republic

Read more about the EEA and Norway Grants to the Czech Republic