In recent years the Comprehensive Plan for the Roma People in Catalonia has made great strides in promoting the education of Romani children, youth and adults. One of this initiative’s most significant programmes is the University Access Group for those over the age of 25 (GAU), a family-based educational programme for Roma who want to go to university even though many of them may have previously dropped out of the education system.
October will mark the seventh year of this successful educational initiative which has – throughout its existence and together with other complementary initiatives within the Plan – helped 18 Roma make it to university. The aim of this seven-month programme is to provide useful training to everyone over the age of 25 who aspires to sit university entrance exams. The academic subjects covered are Catalan, Spanish, English, text commentary, history, geography, biology and mathematics.
The kick-off for this year’s programme comprised a presentation ceremony attended by about 70 Roma at the offices of the Department of Labour, Social Affairs and Family. The event was hosted by Ramón Vílchez, head of the Romani People and Social Innovation Programme, who encouraged all those present to work hard throughout the academic year. “This course is not easy. Those who do not study enough will not pass. A clever person without perseverance will not pass. Perseverance and sacrifice are the keys, and if you do not pass on the first try do not get discouraged. Instead you should rather think about pushing forward and trying even harder next year”, said Vílchez.
The objective of this family-based training programme goes beyond helping certain Romani individuals get into college and earn a university degree. The aim is rather for these people to be drivers of change and transformation within their families and in their neighbourhoods. We want them to be a mirror for children and youth who have never had Romani university students as role models.
Indeed many of these new role models – Romani students who are now attending college thanks to GAU – wanted to personally accompany these new students for the start of the course. This is the case of Aurelio Cortés, a Romani student from the Sant Roc district of Badalona who has just started a degree programme in Psychology at the University of Barcelona. Aurelio encouraged all participants to make their best effort. “I am very happy. In spite of being 51 and having eight grandchildren, I have done everything I could to make it to university. It changes your life and transforms your family, human, spiritual and social outlook. It is a step forward for us that goes beyond what money can buy.”
Aurelio’s example is not an isolated case. This initiative has led to 17 other Romani people fulfilling a dream that until recently had seemed unattainable. Along with this impressive result, another of GAU’s achievements is that the number of Roma who decide to go down the same path and take the course has increased year after year. This year the number of registrations has reached 60, and we are planning to also launch the course in a second city (Terrassa) in the coming months to make this training available to Roma who do not live close to Barcelona. Another novelty this year will be the presence of a childminder to look after the children of those attending training sessions.
Anyone who is interested in this family-based training programme can contact the Comprehensive Plan for the Roma People in Catalonia by phoning (+34) 93 882 23 46 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.