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Roma Inclusion in the Greek-Cypriot Educational System – Reflections on Teacher Training Needs. Yiasemina Karagiorgi , Ministry of Education and Culture Eleni Roussounidou, Counselling Psychologist , Ministry of Education and Culture

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roma inclusion in the greek cypriot educational system reflections on teacher training needs

Roma Inclusion in the Greek-Cypriot Educational System – Reflections on Teacher Training Needs

Yiasemina Karagiorgi,Ministry of Education and Culture

Eleni Roussounidou,Counselling Psychologist, Ministry of Education and Culture

Chrystalla Kaloyirou, Pedagogical Institute of Cyprus, Cyprus

Loizos Symeou, Department of Education Sciences, European University Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus

Teacher In-Service Training for Roma Inclusion

Comenius Project


the study
The study
  • The study:
    • Focuses on the findings of a needs-assessment study of teachers and Roma families
    • Is undertaken within the framework of a European Union funded project entitled INSETRom
    • Aims:
    • Whether and how the educational system and the schools set an educational opportunity for Roma children, constructing a comprehensible picture about the ways in which education is perceived by schools and Roma families
  • Assumptions:
    • Teachers’ stereotypes, emotional reactions and attitudes towards Roma & Roma families’ concerns and perceptions of practical difficulties can substantially inform the design of appropriate in-service teacher training.
  • Data collected:
    • Through semi-structured interviews with Roma pupils, their parents and their teachers in the three schools attended by the largest numbers of Roma children in the Greek-Cypriot educational system.
roma in cyprus
Roma in Cyprus
  • Cigani or Tsiggani: the smallest minority living on the island(Muslim Roma:Ghurbeti, Greek Orthodox Christian Roma: Mandi)
  • The first written record in the Chronicle of Cyprus in 1468 AD
  • During the Venetian possession of the island, Roma came as soldiers for military purposes from Corfu
  • A second wave arrived with the Ottoman conquest of the island(1571 AD)
  • In 1911, during the British Colonial Rule in Cyprus (1878-1959), records refer to only 152 Roma
  • In 1960 became officially part of the Turkish-Cypriot community (520 Roma were reported as belonging to the Turkish-Cypriot community).
roma in cyprus4
Roma in Cyprus
  • 1974 Turkish invasion in Cyprus: Mandi living in the north were forcibly moved to the south and Ghurbeti to the north (Marsh & Strand, 2003)
  • October 1999 -during 2001: several Roma groups from the north moved to the south
  • Settled in socio-economically deprived areas
  • April 2003: the influx of Roma to the south increased
  • Larger numbers of Roma resided in the Republic of Cyprus-controlled south
  • Migration between the two sectors became more regular
  • No official records on the Roma by Republic of Cyprus
  • First half of the current decade: no allowances for medical treatment, education or work
roma education in cyprus
Roma Education in Cyprus
  • The constitution of the Republic of Cyprus: Roma pupils living at the south part of the country enrol in Greek-Cypriot schools
  • Roma who fail to send their children to school are not considered to violate the law (unofficially???)
  • Social services try to convince Roma families to urge their children to attend and stay in school
  • Parents are presented with various incentives, such as uniforms, shoes, school equipment, in order to keep their children in schools
roma education in cyprus6
Roma Education in Cyprus
  • The numbers of Turkish and Roma pupils in Greek-Cypriot primary schools:
    • 2000-2001: 30
    • 2003-2004: 90
    • 2004-2005: 91 (29 in Paphos and 62 in Limassol)
    • 2008-2009: 100
  • Studies on Roma pupils’ attendance:
  • Roma parents in Limassol saw no reason to send their children to school, as they understood nothing; they got into fights and felt excluded (Hatzitheodoulou-Loizidou & Symeou, 2003; Trimikliniotis, 2007)
  • Racial prejudice towards the Roma, as well as negative attitudes of the Roma towards education (Demetriou & Trimikliniotis, 2007)
factors predetermining the poor performance of roma students
Factors predetermining the poor performance of Roma students
  • Measures adopted to provide education for Roma were not evaluated
  • Inadequacy of the school curricula
  • Absence of relevant teacher training
  • Language barriers
  • Overall failure of the system to recognise Roma culture and contribution to society

(Demetriou & Trimikliniotis, 2007)

  • Fieldwork in schools
    • 3 schools: 2 primary (P1 and P2) and 1 secondary
    • Number of Roma pupils:
      • P1-urban area: 44 Turkish-Cypriots or Roma, 9 Turkish speaking, 57 Greek-Cypriots, other
      • P2-rural area : 6 Roma
      • Secondary: 10-12 Turkish-Cypriot or Roma
    • Irregular attendance
    • Language of communication: only Turkish
    • School characteristics:
      • Presence of Roma, Turkish-Cypriot and non-Greek speaking students
      • Low socio-economic composition of the region
      • Large numbers of children facing educational difficulties
      • Belong to the Zones of Educational Priority
  • Semi-structured interviews of a sample of teachers’, Roma parents and Roma children
  • Comparison between the outcomes of the three groups: Similarities and differences in perceptions on the emerging themes
findings teachers accounts
Findings (Teachers’ accounts)
  • Absenteeism
    • Roma sporadic and unsystematic school attendance
    • The schools DID not pursue the reasons behind disappearance
    • Attendance better during lower primary school grades (compared to higher grades)
  • Motivation
    • Problems frequently attributed to Roma culture
    • Appeared related to Roma children’s lack of various skills (adjustment, language, literacy)
    • School adjustment
    • Roma integration, an ILLUSION
    • Despite reported behaviors indicating prejudices, no measures or initiatives against upcoming discrimination.
findings teachers accounts10
Findings (Teachers’ accounts)


  • No or limited background in intercultural education
  • Lack of knowledge about legislative aspects concerning Roma education
  • Perceptions of Roma culture related to Roma nomadism and disposition towards music, sports and fighting
  • Application of pedagogical approaches resembling the traditional spectrum, despite reference to mixed-ability grouping and individualistic instruction.
findings families accounts
Findings (Families’ accounts)

Social isolation

Cultural background completely unknown to teachers; Roma culturally ‘invisible’ within the school

Limited learning in school

Language Barriers

Assistant (belonging to a community centre) as a mediator

Importance of having a Turkish speaking teacher at school

Interviewed children noticed to have limited understanding of Greek


Bullying by other children because of Roma origin and cultural difference


Administrators and teachers expect Roma children to quickly conform to typical classroom curriculum.

Trying to involve Roma children to practices related to how ‘typical’ school children look and act -eg. through homework- the schools confirm rather than challenge Roma children’s feelings of marginality.

Roma habits, rituals and other expressions of meaning and value to Roma families lay open to ignorance by the schools while parents, unable to communicate in Greek, rely on teachers for help with regards to school work.

Teachers’ accounts reflect inadequate training background and lack of specialized knowledge on Roma education.

repercussions for teacher training
Repercussions for teacher training

Need for a comprehensive teacher in-service training programme, based on this initial needs assessment.

Specialized training not only in multicultural or intercultural education, but particularly focused on Roma culture & training on how to methodologically address Roma education, urgently provided to Greek-Cypriot teachers.

Curriculum development: Need for teachers to tailor the curriculum to Roma children and reform teaching material appropriately.

Effective classroom management: Need for teachers to manage ethically-diverse classrooms and deal with the bullying problems.

Teacher-parent communication: Need for teachers to learn about community-oriented educational approaches with high levels of community involvement.

  • Project INSETRom aimed to break through the indicated cycle of social exclusion, perpetuated through lack of educational integration of Roma children, indicated by several research studies.
  • Roma education = A challenge to school officials and practitioners, who face the daily charge to integrate these children in the Greek-Cypriot educational system.
  • Teachers and administrators not prepared professionally or temperamentally to meet the challenge the schools perform no miracles for Roma and their children.
  • Teachers in urgent need of appropriate teacher training to improve their understanding of Roma history and culture and enable them to respond to the challenge of teaching in classrooms with Roma children.
  • Reported findings point, in particular, towards training programmes addressing needs-based interventions in curriculum development, classroom methodology as well as parent-teacher communication.

All of a sudden, they ‘disappear’… Similarly, they ‘appear’ after a year. During the first year, after the first rains they would ‘disappear’ … (just like snails coming out after rain, these people would do the opposite, i.e. disappear after the raining period starts’). (teacher 1)

They come to school regularly but they do not attend all their classes.(teacher 5)

…As time goes by, more and more Roma children are enrolled in our school from early ages whereas Greek Cypriot pupils avoid enrolment in our school because of the Roma presence… They go to other schools… (teacher 2)


They are happy just living as they live. They do not want anything else from school and do not expect anything else from us.(teacher 4)

They [the Roma pupils] are not interested in learning, they come to school to play and socialise, they search for an excuse to go out of the class… these are aspects of their culture. (teacher 3)

Roma pupils lack skills to comply with rules. It is very difficult for them to integrate in the classroom. I do not believe that these pupils benefit from school. (teacher 4)

Roma [pupils] feel like strangers at school. (teacher 2)

school adjustment
School adjustment

The children do not get integrated and they never will. They may acquire a number of desirable attitudes/habits such as the love to learn, the habit to hold a spoon and a fork to eat; however, they will always stand out as different. (teacher 1)

They are close to their family….they only communicate with their family members…. they form a clique against others….they feel to be treated as ‘them’ and ‘others’.(teacher 3)

teacher training needs
Teacher training needs

Roma apparently like music and sports… Also, girls like dancing, but after they are 11 years they start helping in housework and taking care of their younger siblings. (teacher 1)

Once one of the female teachers got into conflict with a student, who threatened to beat her up. I ask the student ‘Don’t I get angry with you as well?’ The student answers ‘Yes, but you are ‘human’ (man)’. This is a social dimension of their culture; that it is OK for a man to get angry but not for a woman. We need social research studies to know more about Roma culture. (teacher 2)

…to know about their history….from where they came… they appeared in our country…..why they were not affiliated in the system…. (teacher 3)

teacher training needs19
Teacher training needs

What do we (the formal society) want from them? What exactly are the needs of these people… and do we really want to fulfil their needs and how? Can someone give us an answer? (teacher 5)

teacher training needs20
Teacher training needs

I do this job without having any training that would enable me to teach this specific group of pupils. Part from what I know for these people comes from my experience and part of it from what I read. I would like to know more from organized seminars that would be designed for our -teachers in this kind of schools- needs. These seminars should be designed and executed by experts.(teacher 2)

I have not acquired any knowledge on Roma culture on an organized basis. I have read by myself several books. For the first time, I learned about the Roma through my school experiences… I would like more organized seminars from specialists. (teacher 5)

social isolation
Social isolation

They (the teachers) do not know how we live here. They never came to see us. Nobody knows us. Nobody asked us what we need. (parent 4)

I would like my teachers to know more about the way we live. We celebrate different things, we eat different food…(child 1)

The Turkish-Cypriot play football and with the computers at school and the Greek-Cypriots read. (child 1)

language barriers
Language barriers

There should be a Turkish teacher as well in school ….Some children do not speak Greek so well. If there was a teacher speaking Turkish this would be very helpful for them. (parent 4)

If our teachers could speak to us in Turkish, I think I would have stayed in school. (child 4)


Other children hit my children. My daughter has a broken arm… My son was hit on his ear. (parent 3)

He [his son] was older than his classmates. They were making fun of him […] He went to the school nearby but got in quarrels with other children. He did not have a good time there. They called him “Turk” […]; my girls went to school but did not finish because of the fights. (parent 2)

I like school, but I do not like it when children fight each other. Turkish-Cypriots and Greeks fight each other. There are a lot of fights, but I am not involved.(child 4)

This teacher, he teases us and make us fight between each other... (child 2)