Kiska Highlights Education as Key to Addressing Roma Issues

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Ihlany, April 7 (TASR) – Education is key to addressing Roma issues, President Andrej Kiska said on Friday during a visit to a school in the village of Ihlany near Kezmarok (Presov region), which is part of a private vocational school in Kezmarok.

Speaking during the visit marking International Roma Day (April 8), the head of state noted that Slovakia is home to around 400,000 Roma, who thus make up almost one-tenth of the country’s population.

“We often hear the questions of how to address Roma issues and what to do to make sure that they stop being viewed as a problem,” said Kiska.

In this context, he lauded measures that have been put in place in Ihlany as well as in Kosice’s Lunik neighbourhood and in the village of Spissky Hrhov (Presov region), singling out the teaching of crafts to the Roma as proof that “viable solutions exist”.

“Several hundred students have completed studies at this school, and more than 80 percent of them now have a job. They want to work, and they want education, and once they have it, they also find a job,” said Kiska.

“As a country, we need to reflect on and actually do our best to ensure that the school results of children from socially disadvantaged groups match those of the other children within a realistic timespan, say, at most ten years,” said Kiska.

The vocational school in Kezmarok, which operates several schools dispersed around the district of Kezmarok, is a project that merits attention, said Kiska.

“I’m convinced that this could also be implemented in other villages with a high proportion of the Roma population. This is a model that can be used throughout Slovakia,” said the president.

“We also admit pupils who’ve dropped out of compulsory education before making it into the ninth year. We focus on crafts and services,” said Anna Jurgovianova, who operates the school in Kezmarok. “We go to villages where our pupils live. Together with the villages, we open courses that they need,” she said.

That the school has been a boon to the village was also recognised by mayor of Ihlany Jan Turek. “Before the school was set up here, many Roma hadn’t been inclined to travel to a school outside the village,” he said.