• Xhenson Cela

Roma and Egyptian community in Albania: Is there a political dialogue?

The Roma minority in Albania varies somewhere from 8,301 to 120,000 people. Are you surprised by the considerable gap? I am too. All I can say is that the number depends on the source of information. It can be either the National Census of 2011 or the Roma Civil Society Organizations database. Of course, there are other statistics between the gap, yet we are about to conduct the new census this year. But that is another topic.


Nevertheless, the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) must avoid past discrepancies and consider the Roma organizations and leadership recommendations. Here are two most important, the inclusion of the Roma in the process and training to the float of the interviewer.


What is the state of education?


In the 5th workshop that brings together civil society and government institutions, I participated in the thematic session on education and antigypsyism, which I prefer to call anti-Roma rhetoric or Romaphobia, depending on the circumstances, but this is another topic.


Considering my extensive experience, I could contribute more and better in that regard. The first and most crucial aspect was preparing in advance, with argumentation and recommendations. Thus, I developed the classic scheme of problem identification, proposals for solutions and deadlines for timely and accurate interventions.


The social and economic background is a concerning issue that directly affects the attendance rate and brings about dropouts among Roma. Many students in vocational education training have to commute from one local unit to another. Although the Ministry of Finance and Economic provides scholarships for all students in VET, the bureaucratic procedures and weak coordination at the local level create delays.


Usually, the scholarships are provided in tranches at the end of the year. But, Roma students in difficulty need scholarships every month to cover many expenses, yet it is not enough. Another emerging issue, the number of Roma students is decreasing. According to the Roma Versitas Albania database, only one Roma student enrolled at VET school in Berat in 2021 - 2022.


Roma students from primary to secondary and then tertiary education are constantly shrinking. One of the reasons is the increase in the GPA rate from 6.5 to 7.5. On the one hand, it is a relevant action by the policymakers to ensure education quality and quality entrance to university. On the other hand, it holds back the Roma students who do not have a fair and equal starting point with the rest due to social and economic conditions, discrimination, and long-term exclusion. Reasonable and sound recommendations have been provided. GPA should not hinder the talents and experience of young students.


An acute issue is gender inclusion. None of the girls or women approached the Roma Versitas Albania info session about short-term and VET opportunities. The participation and access for girls are jeopardized due to several issues starting from gender-based norms and stereotypes in the community, not excluding non-Roma from rural areas that share the same characteristics even though lesser. The issues are not exhaustive and the list continues to each of the six thematic sections.


Roma participation in social dialogue


However, I should take you to the core topic of this article. The advantages and hindrances of the workshop. Without further complications, I have spotted one very important advantage, although there might be several. In the fifth seminar, I witnessed the impressive participation of Roma organizations, activists, scholars and students. If in the previous similar occasion, the number and variety had their own limitations. This year, all the thematic sections were covered decently.


Now, what are the hindrances? The following are my own critiques regarding the technical organization of the seminar. Undoubtedly, every activity has room for improvement. But I am referring to the basics.


First of all, the stakeholders, Roma civil society organizations came up with the classic scheme, problem identification from their domain of operations in the field and consecutive recommendations. But counterarguments were little to none from the end institutions present in the workshop. The lack of opposition, counter argumentation or debate, at least in my thematic session, sounds more like a bucket list of wishes. Does it mean all our recommendations will be taken into consideration since there were little to no counterarguments? Certainly, no. In a consultation process, we are sitting to assess what is feasible, agree or disagree with each other and come up with the most affordable and sustainable solution.


The moderation of Seminar V could have been organized better. All stakeholders, both from civil society organizations and local and central level institutions, are sitting to work together and sort out the objectives and activities for the upcoming five years of the National Action Plan for the Roma. However, it was a sit only for extroverted people. Those who can jump in and take over the speech. Others, probably introverted, sit quietly, thoughtful and raised their hands in the best case. I wished the conversation could go around and each of the participants had the chance to succinct their stance with clear argumentation and solution.


Again, no one stuck from start to finish on a single topic brought by the participants on the moderation part. Participants talked back and forth on several issues missing the opportunity to focus and give 100% and exhausting each one. I could relate if it was a brainstorming session, but we were far from that stage. The V Seminar passed through several filters of consultations. This occasion was to cement the narrative of intervention, the objectives, activities and results.


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