A treasure is our language that surges’ by Cristina Babii

It’s autumn and outside it is darker than in other days, not even a little sun does not sneak among the gloomy clouds. On the way to the school „Ion Bojoi” from Flămânzi children with colourful schoolbags run in their backs and on the long lane they walk easily, in Indian line, two by two, with their thick caps on the forehead. Through a window eye we can see a bunch of children, everyone with their fingers up in a „V” curved and fragile. In front of them, next to the agile teacher, a young boy looks scolding with his olive complexion, oceanic eyes which stop with every face in part. When Loren looks at them, the children hide their looks in the books of Romani language. His voice quarrels them, but from his eyes you can guess his kindness and the children who learn at the school „Ion Bojoi” know this.

Iulian Lăzărică, or Loren, how his Friends call him, is gypsy. And he is very proud. When he left the village from Botosani where the peasants’ revolt started from 1907, was not ready to confront life, but he knew his potential. His parents folded his clothes and sent him to earn a living. He knows the word ‘’discrimination” only from the dictionary, because he never felt that he is watched differently by the people around him. Loren came back to the village he left at 22 years old, as a school mediator*, to show the other gypsy children that the world is bigger than Flămânzi. And they can embrace it, in their hugs, entirely. Now he has a year since he teaches them Romani in a small colourful classroom, of approximately 20 children, some so little that they look in their books as if it were a part of classical music.

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Quarrelsome chairs

The teacher Virgil Cobzariu teaches lessons of Romani language in Flămânzi, Bălușeni & Coșula, and villages from Botoșani County. He says that for the little children who come to classes, what he teaches seems fascinating to them. „They feel Romani as something that is only theirs, something that belongs to them. They are not used to the literary form that they study here, when they talk in dialect at home”, says the teacher by rubbing his hands. When he is in one end of the classroom, Loren is in the other. The children are hard working in words and they compete one other to answer the questions. Letter by letter, the blackboard is covered in small sticks and white waves. The children go to the blackboard in turns to write, and they shake their fingers of chalk with pride.

– Tell me a Word that starts with the letter „T”

– (from all parts of the classroom) Tato (warm), Tikno (little), Tikne (small), Terne (young)!

– Come on, who goes to the blackboard to write? (All the fingers up)

– Why did I never go? Did I come in vain to school today? Shouts Manu, a child of about 8, from under his white cap. He is not allowed to go to the blackboard and he is very sad. He knows the answers to all the questions, although he did not come from the start to Romani lessons. He talks more of what he hears at home, everything he learns here is like a new language. At the blackboard goes his desk mate and Manu burst out in anger. Of disappointment, he changes his low & small chair, with the one of his friend, higher. He looks obediently at the way the boy at the blackboard writes, as if he sees even better, from the height at which he is sitting now.

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„Bang!” a noise is heard from the other corner of the classroom. Candy, a little girl with her hair seeming like blown by the wind, fell over her chair. And Manu laughs heartily together with the other classmates and he seems to forget about his unhappiness. The ruffled little girl cannot talk because of laughter and when Loren comes to help her to pick her up from the floor, she droops heavily, like a bag of grains, in his arms. She laughs continuously. „I am only a delight”, says Loren, scoring Candy with a serious look. The little girl hides her smile under her blouse’s collar with pink stripes, and she laughs in chuckles.

If you are bad, I will give you to gypsies

It was autumn and outside it was darker than in other days. Loren remembers perfectly the first day of school. He was the only gypsy child from his generation who received school education. „I remember as if it were yesterday. It was only me in the classroom, and the rest Romanian children, but I didn’t feel that I am treated differently. Never, never”, says the Young mediator. At the Faculty of Philosophy and Political Sciences from Iasi, Loren enrolled to a course of 6 months of school mediator. He seemed then and he still seems now, that he was made for that. „In order to be a good mediator, you must take part of the community, in order to get to know the gypsies needs, to be one of them. A mediator is a saviour of underprivileged children”, says the young graduate. His voice drops down and his eyes become serious, they lose for a moment the playful glance. He rubs the scarf in his brown hands and he arranges his collar. It’s not a funny thing with the stereotypes and discrimination. He didn’t feel it, but he sees it around him. „ I am aware of these. I can see gypsies who go to the shop or stand in a line somewhere and they are treated, so… (No. long break, waves his hands, to help him find a suitable word)… not bad. Not even discriminatory. It seems distant. With… indifference. “Yes, this is the word”.…

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Jennifer does not sit one second. She moves on her chair and she is about to hold the table in her arms because she wants so much to write with the chalk on the blackboard. She is a few years older than the other children from the classroom, this because you start from zero with everybody, from the alphabet, to complex compositions. When Loren puts her to read in a loud voice, the girl forgets that she didn’t turn the page and she skims it fast until she reaches at 23. She reads stumbling a short story about wolves. She follows the line with her thin finger as a little branch ready to crack. From the classroom, everyone whispers her. She is confused, but she recovers herself when Loren reads at the same time with.

The children from Romani language classroom have an appetite to learn as for fresh pies, but not all of them always come to classes. Sometimes they stay at home to help their parents with the housework or on the field. As a school mediator, Loren is not only a teacher for the gypsy pupils. He is also their friend. And a guide. He takes care that everyone should come to school and he scolds them every time when they skip classes, like a father who grabs his children’s ears. Loren says that „the majority skip classes because maybe they do not have what to wear in that specific day, they do not have shoes, or detergent in order to have clean clothes or they do not have a food package at school”. Gypsy women are very proud and they do not send their children to school in any circumstances. He walks from door to door, to see why the desks were empty at school, when the children should have put their books on them. But, anyway, „since I came, for 1 year, I feel that they are not absent as before”. Also since he came, the parents involved more in their children’s education. Loren organized different cultural activities with the gypsy children, even he recovered together with his sister, Bahtale (in Romani means „luck) and a band of gypsy dances. On the walls of a room next to the teacher’s room, Loren hung up photos from different activities and he is so proud of them.

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The Young man fights that the stereotypes about gypsies could die slowly, but surely. It cannot be sudden, says he. But he feels that he is on the right track and does not want to ever stumble. „This bad expression «if you are bad, I will give you to gypsies» says many things about the way people see the gypsy ethny. It is so wrong, oh my God”. He covers his forehead with his hand in a gesture of incapacity.

When Romani class is over, in the classroom do not remain but the words on the blackboard. In the middle, among those which in Romanian would translate „warm”, „small” or „young”, stays the sentence which Jennifer wrote so proudly: „Muro vast ckerel”. „My hands work”.

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* Note:
According to O.M.E.C.T. no. 1539/2007 regarding the norms of circumscription and activity of the school mediator, the main responsibility of this is „to support the participation of all the children from the community at the general mandatory education, by encouraging the involvement of the parents in their children’s education and in school’s life and facilitating the collaboration between family-community-school”. Another responsibility of this is to be involved actively in organizing multicultural activities through which he/she can promote the ethno cultural characteristics in the educational environment.

This article can be also read here: http://unblogobisnuit.com/2014/12/19/limba-noastra-i-o-comoara/.