Dragon manicure

Dragon manicure

I begin this article a little intimidated by the level of the other articles in this series, written by people I appreciate very much and above.

What follows is a version with fewer words, but more autobiography, about subtle discrimination, the unconscious one, the one we don’t even detect most of the times – not in our own cases, nor in the others’.

From now on I’m writing as an activist for social education and justice, as a museum educator, and as a former teacher. However, what you are going to read is not about certain institutions, but about practices that I have witnessed in the Romanian society.

Firstly I’m writing from the point of view of a member of the Association Human Catalyst which has been fighting for the last 2 years to publicly finance the program ”School after School.” A key step for reducing the inequity in the educational system –access to the educational resources.

I’m also writing from the point of view of a museum educator at The National Museum of Art of Romania, where the majority of the „educatables” comes from privileged environments – (approximately) middle class, with at least high school graduate parents, and so on. However at NMAR we offer exemptions for schools and associations which minister to disadvantaged groups, and I’m sure this happens in the cases of other such institutions as well – it is very important.

The third perspective of my writing is that of the teacher which I have been for a short, yet remarkable period of time. I taught 18 middle school classes and I was the form teacher in a school with 1500 children from a Roma community. I no longer teach, but I maintain my active love and responsibility for the community which continues to teach me every day. Unfortunately I have learned that about 1000 children from that community have never been registered for school.

Access to educational resources is very important.

But not enough.

If I, as a child, go to the afterschool, and the way I’m treated makes me feel stupid or poor compared to my colleagues, I will either stop going, or I will hate the experience and collect the necessary trauma for a total disengagement from the society’s well-being. Because this well-being never reaches me.

If I go to the museum and I don’t understand what I’m being told because I’ve never heard anything like that before and I don’t have a foundation to support that information, which may have no relevance for my day to day life… I will either stop going, or I will continue to go because ”I have to” which is almost the same as in not going at all.

If I go to school and the teacher makes me understand very well that they cannot work with me, that I am not normal, that I don’t deserve it – whether I stop going, or I grasp this lesson so well that I give it to my children as well.

When it comes to education, discrimination is a dragon with looots of heads. In my point of view, oftentimes we just cut its nails, clean them and paint them with the nail polishes that are trendy in the EU.

I, for myself, keep believing – really! -  in the adaption of the educational activities to the needs and the experience of the beneficiaries , because they play the main role in their own learning process and their developing as humans. I keep supporting the importance of motivation – the financial one included – and formation of the teachers into being aware of their own biases. We all have plenty of them! The jaundiced ideas roam inside us and come out in the most unexpected and toxic ways. And in the harsh and stressful conditions implied by teaching, particularly for the unprepared teachers, these ways are harder to be guessed than we can remember from our school years. So I desire a solid support network, psycho-emotional and much more, for those who forge the next generation in their own image.

That’s because education is not for exams, not for a job, but to understand the whole life! A life where people understand and are happy with their differences, but are nonetheless valuable in the big economy of the Universe.

by Silvia Râpeanu

Silvana Râpeanu: A free spirit (as much as possible). She believes in a continuous, profound and diverse education. She worked as a hostess, gallerist, translator, a tour guide, proof-reader, teacher and museum educator – as far as she can remember. She dances for 80% of her spare time.

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