Thursday, January 14, 2010



Star readers aid Roma students
January 09, 2010

Louise Brown
Education Reporter

Star readers have surprised the Toronto District School Board with offers of help after a recent story about the struggles posed by the flood of Roma children in city schools.

In response, the board has assigned an official to match the offers to schools in need.

Readers of Czech, Hungarian and Roma background contacted Trustee Irene Atkinson after reading the Nov. 28 story about how schools in her Parkdale ward have been deluged this fall with Roma refugees who speak scant English, have little formal schooling and often are often distrustful of book learning and daily attendance.

Star readers were moved by the plight of these refugees, who say they are fleeing prejudice in Europe, and offered to serve as translators and interpreters at Parkdale Collegiate, Queen Victoria Public School and Parkdale Junior School, where many Roma children have enrolled. Others have offered counselling advice, teaching tools and even a cultural workshop on Roma musician Django Reinhardt, to help boost the students' pride.

"By all accounts the Roma children are attending school but there are gaps in their education and we need to build trust before we can address them," said Jonathan Shoss, the board's point person for Roma issues.

The board has set up catch-up classes for Roma students in the three schools, Shoss said, and has bought Hungarian-English and Czech-English dictionaries.

"But I'm going to assess what else is needed," he said. "The complex needs of the children and their families requires a careful, multi-layered approach in order to lay the groundwork for the students to succeed."

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