Bathrooms and showers for Gypsy pupils

by Michael Smith

Rome, March 2009: A school in Milan, northern Italy, is considering making bathrooms and showers available to Gypsy children who attend local schools to allow them to wash before entering class.

The project, entitled 'Water and Soap', is an initiative by the Riccardo Massa public school, located in Milan's western outskirts.

Giovanna Foglia, the school's principal, apparently told the Italian daily 'Il Giornale' that Gypsy children come to school 'unwashed' making their classmates unwilling to sit next to them.

"Children from the camp”, she said, arrived at school very dirty: this made them feel embarrassed and the other pupils shared school desks with them reluctantly” and she claimed that many Gypsy families "are in favor of the initiative."

Asked about dirty Italian pupils at the school, Foglia said in her experience, they always come from socially inadequate families.

"In these cases, I speak to the families and if necessary, the social services are brought in," she said. "It's not a cultural issue."

So, it would appear that, according to the school's principal quoted, being dirty is part of the Romani-Gypsy Culture, Pfui! And such racism is permitted in Italian schools, a country that is part of the European Union

There are an estimated 160,000 Roma Gypsies in Italy, nearly half of whom were born in Italy and have Italian citizenship.

Others come from European Union countries such as Romania and the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

The Italian government claims it wants to give those who are in Italy legally better access to schools, medical and social services.

This all smacks of the same attitude that existed in some British schools some years back when in some cases Gypsy children were forced to have a wash at school.

One of those cases that I fully know of was of a Romany boy, aged then about seven, who was forced by the teacher at the primary school he attended to strip in front of the class and his classmates and was then washed by the teacher.

However, knowing the family it was knows that the child would not be sent to school unwashed. It was the teacher's assumption though that, being a Gyppo, he needed a wash it was assumed by her that he would not get one at home.

The truth, however, is that the family of this boy made sure that he left each and every morning washed and combed for school. That he had to travel a path that was often muddy and hence he might get a little dirty no one took into consideration. As far as the teacher was concerned he was a Gyppo kid and Gypsies are simply dirty.

We had hoped that such attitudes had become a thing of the past but, alas this does not seem to be the case and, in fact, things seem to be getting worse rather than better.

While the so-called watchdogs may bark and condemn this or that anti-Gypsy action in Italy or other countries those dogs just simply do not have teeth or are afraid to bite. Nothing gets done and the likes of Italy thumb b their noses at the folks in the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the European Union and its parliament. What a farce.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009