Roma public life and civil organisations _NGOs_ - PTE BTK by pengxiuhui



     The Roma community in Hungary at the Millennium
Edited by:

Katalin R. Forray
Erzsébet Mohácsi

Studies written by:

Gábor Bernáth
Katalin R. Forray
György Ligeti
Balázs Wizner

Report prepared by the Department of Romology of the Faculty of Arts and
Humanities of Pécs University of Sciences, on commission of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs

        In a speech delivered in Strasbourg in January 2001, Finnish President Tarja
Halonen paid particular attention to the situation of the Roma community, the
“Pan-European minority”, calling for the establishment of a consultative body at
European level. This proposal – which has a good chance of being implemented –
indicates that Roma communities throughout Europe are shedding their marginal social
status and are being taken as serious factors in the governmental policies of the nations
of Europe.
        Over the past few years the situation of the Roma has become a cardinal issue in
negotiations paving the way for EU enlargement. This is also reflected in the debates
surrounding the annual country reports on Eastern European countries. Any kind of
approach to the social integration of Roma in Hungary casts light on the methodological
problems of ethnicity-based statistics: it is simply not known how many Roma live in
Hungary. Opinions differ on whether the curbing of massive marginalisation in
Hungary – a reversal of the current process – requires support for social groups, families,
and individuals in a manner customised for the (separate and labelled) Roma
community, or by way of a social supply system, jobs, and education due to all citizens
without exception, and which institutions are patently unavailable for the minority in
question as a result of existing discrimination and prejudices. It is obvious that Roma
constitute a heterogeneous social group. As for heterogeneity, however, it is perhaps
more important that the Roma population in Hungary (rather than the much asserted
cultural, linguistic and lifestyle differences) is categorised along the same lines as
majority society, that is, in terms of educational qualifications, jobs, income status, or
access to information.
        This report could not claim to be comprehensive. On the one hand, the
complexity of the subject required that prominence be given to certain aspects; on the
other hand, an attempt was made not to repeat the contents of the report compiled on
commission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs two years ago, or at least only to the
extent absolutely required by the subject.
        Four aspects were selected to present the situation of Roma in Hungary. By way
of an introduction, the group to be presented will be specified, along with an attempt to
outline internal divisions and their relevance to society as a whole. The next chapter
describes changes in the area of education and “old-and-new” problems. The chapter
describing opportunities in life attempts to depict the inequality of opportunities
ranging from the labour market to the healthcare system as well as to show the efforts of
the government and the Roma community itself to improve its condition. Chapter four
explains Roma self-organisation, dominated by the growth of minority
self-governments and the non-governmental sphere.
        Fortunately, considerable research has been conducted in relation to the status of
Roma communities in Hungary in recent decades. The reason for this is partly the
aggravated social crisis characteristic of most Roma and partly the traditions of
sociology and Roma research in Hungary, actually induced by research into poverty in
the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Representative research headed by István Kemény
on commission of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1971 and 1994 yielded basic
data that led to dozens of other research projects being launched later on.
        One of the most exciting parts of the development of the non-governmental
sphere is the history of organisations involved in Roma affairs, which can be considered
as unique just as much as characteristically Hungarian or Central European as regards
some of its problems.
        This report attempts to present the Roma situation in Hungary, offering, through
the selected aspects, as nuanced an overview as possible. It was intended to avoid the
trap of a “history of miseries” as well as an apology of past governmental policies. The
report aims to make clear for the reader that the Roma community takes an active part in
shaping its fate and that each government after the political changeover has made
attempts to improve the condition of Roma citizens, as well as the fact that there are still
a great many things to do. The Roma community itself also bears responsibility for
improving the life of the Roma population; however, the assignment and the
responsibility lie with the decision-makers, that is the current political power. There are
problems the actual solution process of which lasts for generations, but it is dangerous
to shift responsibility to coming decades. Measures to eliminate unequal opportunities
should be introduced here and now.

Manuscript closed: March 20, 2002.

Budapest-Pécs, 2002

                                                                               The authors
                                    Who are they?

The problem of a scientific approach

        Similarly to everyday opinion, social sciences do not have a common standpoint
on who exactly is classified as being Roma. Although the overwhelming majority of
researchers deem self-classification to be fundamental – theoretically –, the
sociological research practice of recent decades has on many occasions deemed
definitions by environment to be authoritative, including the well-known surveys by
István Kemény which are frequently referred to. Others (János Ladányi, Iván Szelényi)
consider those people to be Roma who declare themselves to be so. Some researchers
(for example, Mária Neményi) emphasize that if a survey defines Roma people only on
an ethnicity or social basis, individuals pertaining to intellectuals or the middle class
will be left out of this group.
        In the course of scientific investigation, definitions generally depend on what
the investigations are intended to be used for; however, definitions in everyday life
provide indications of the worldview of the producer of each definition: they imply a
value judgement. Classifications like “I can’t decide” and “Those who declare
themselves to be Roma people” obviously emphasize a recognition of individuals’
rights, whereas definitions based on skin colour or lifestyle are highly suggestive of
prejudice. In Hungary, the word “cigány” (Roma) immediately conjures up
preconceptions and sentiments. Thus in Hungary if a person is deemed to be “Roma”
based on their lifestyle, this definition will generally automatically involve an
association with poverty, bad living conditions, and unemployment. Actually, common
thinking attempts to define tautologically those who are classified as Roma: i.e. Roma
are those whose lifestyle is “like that”, meaning poor, living in reduced circumstances,
etc. Following this logic, consequently, if we were to come across a ramshackle hut
with damp walls, we would expect it to be the home of Roma. However, those who are
not poor and not unemployed are not Roma, therefore the term Roma in itself is
associated with a lack of resources and a disadvantaged situation.
        Roma are somewhat different from non-Roma. Scientific researchers as well as
the general public agree on this; the only thing left unclarified is in what terms they are
different. The man on the street may wish to justify his own values, perhaps expressing
a belief in the ‘justness’ of the world by blaming the Roma for their own
marginalisation. Thus definitions serve to characterise the political culture of the
population and its ability to express problems and opinions rather than define Roma
        Features deemed to be characteristic in the culture of an ethnic group can be
operationalised only with extreme difficulty. “Hospitality”, cited as a Roma
characteristic, would be very difficult to measure, for example, because even the
accurate definition of the term is difficult. Moreover, almost all peoples consider
themselves to be quite hospitable as opposed to the neighbouring ethnic group.
Similarly, if an ethnic group describes itself as “ingenious” or “quick-witted”, the same
qualities could be expressed as “wheeler-dealing” or “crafty” as regards another ethnic
        The research projects referred to above were primarily directed to assessing the
degree of marginalisation of nearly half a million people in Hungary named as Roma for
whatever reason. Labour market opportunities, educational and healthcare indicators of
members of the Roma community are obviously worse than those of majority society;
furthermore, doubts have arisen in relation to the scientific cognisability of the life of
this group. The first and most important tautology is implied in the definition of being
Roma. Should researchers attempt to scrutinise the living conditions of this minority
and look for indicators, such as the mortality rate or the number of children in a family,
the intention is given to measure them within or outside the group under scrutiny. Now,
who should be classified as a member of the group examined? In our case, who are the
Roma? Perhaps those who consider themselves to be so? Those who are included in
some sort of register? Perhaps those who are considered by their environment to be so?
And for what reasons are people considered to be Roma by their environment? Is this
based on skin colour, lifestyle, language use, house facade, or the number of children in
their family? So if our assumption was that the number of children is different in Roma
and non-Roma families, then we may easily fall into the trap of considering families
with more children to be Roma.
        Similarly to the category of being “Roma”, the concept of culture is also
complex and not crystallised if taken from the viewpoint of the social disintegration of
Roma people. Neighbouring peoples also adopt a number of elements from each other
in their dances, music, etc. This, of course, applies equally to Roma. (For instance,
Roma are the only people to preserve the old recruiting dances: a number of elements of
Hungarian "verbunkoche" can be recognised in the dances of the Roma of Eastern
Hungary.) Quite obviously, hundred per cent original or authentic elements cannot
exist in a culture as ethnic groups in contact with each other keep on borrowing cultural
elements from each other. It may appear at first sight, for example, that those leading a
“traditional” lifestyle have the most ancient musical culture. Musicologists, however,
are quick to correct this misunderstanding: one of the reasons why many people are
forced to migrate even today (in Greece and Bulgaria) is that, for whatever reason, they
cannot find a job with a salary sufficient to allow them to save enough to buy a home.
Another reason is that mass communication is omnipresent. Tents in Greece are almost
empty of possessions, but there are TV sets, radios, and cassette recorders everywhere.


        When defining the number of Roma, naming is a recurring problem. It is not so
easy to know who exactly we are talking about when it comes to Gypsies, Roma, or
“Sinti”. Many peoples consider themselves to be descendants of God in their sagas, so
self-denomination may not provide a safe basis for specifying an ethnic group.
Nevertheless, various external names, such as “athinganos”, “bohemians”, “cigány”,
“gitanes”, “kalo” or “szinti” provide us with more information.
        In 11th and 12th century Greece, there was a Christian sect named athiganos
meaning outcast in Greek; the Hungarian word “cigány”, the Czech term cikán, and the
German word Zigeuner may derive from this term. Family names like Cigány, Czigány,
Zigány were to be found in the Hungarian language even before 1400; furthermore, the
name of a village called Egyházas-Zigány was recorded in 1377. However, it is not
proven whether such persons and villages were named after Roma.
        In the Romany language, the word rom means both ‘Roma’ and ‘man’.
According to some linguists, this word comes from the Sanskrit word domba, indicating
the name of a very low caste in the ranking order. The word dom in Hindi means
musician, rope-maker, and basket-weaver at the same time. It should be emphasized
that those belonging to the dom caste in India today can be of any language, therefore
this cannot be taken as evidence of the origin of the self-denomination of Roma.
        The language of Roma in Spain (called there kalo or gitanos) includes many
words of Arabic origin. However, this can be explained by the fact that Spain, for the
most part, was dominated by Moorish people for centuries. If the predecessors of
today’s Roma had arrived in Spain through North Africa, their language would not
include words of Greek origin.
        In the course of past centuries in Europe, Roma were defined as people from
Egypt (this is where the word gypsy comes from) or even “the pharaoh’s people”.
However, on the basis of Roma linguistic records it can be stated that the predecessors
of today’s Roma in Europe never entered Egypt: their language does not include words
of Arabic origin. The court priest and secretary of Imre Thököly lived in the town of
Ishmed in Asia Minor; his writings inform us that the town and surroundings were
called Kücsük-Misir, that is, Egypt Minor by the Turks. The heads of Roma groups
migrating to the west from the 15th century onwards were depicted everywhere as
princes and knights of Egypt Minor. However, this area has nothing to do with Egypt.
        Today, the Roma are mentioned under several names, such as Gypsy (or Gipsy),
Tsigani, Tzigane, Cigano, Zigeuner. Official communications and documentation
accept the words Rom, Roma, Romany, or their versions with a rolled "r". Based on the
recommendation of Roma organisations, the Council of Europe also uses the term
"Roma (Gypsies)" in its own official documents (CLRAE Recommendation, June 11,
        Roma in Hungary call themselves both Roma and cigány; there have been
attempts, however, to introduce another term into Hungarian use instead of the word
cigány which has accumulated many negative connotations. It should be added that the
several hundred Roma minority self-governments and many NGOs in Hungary also use
the name “cigány” to denote themselves. The act on minorities (Act LXXVII/1993 on
the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities) uses the terms cigány and Roma together.
        The group speaking the Bea language – formed from a version of the Romanian
language preceding the language reform – do not consider themselves to be Roma; they
insist on the group name “cigány”. For them, Roma are the “Oláh”
(Walachian/Romanian) Gypsies, called by them Lâkâtar (from the word locksmith) or
Kolompár. Bea-speakers consider it important to determine which of them are
“Muncsán” (from the mountains) and which “Argyelán” (from the woods), and these
group definitions frequently incite deep feelings. The largest Bea group consists of
Argyelán people. They call themselves Lingurár (spoonmakers) or tubmakers. Most of
them live in the southern counties of Transdanubia: Baranya, Tolna, Somogy, and Zala;
some families live in Veszprém. The people around them call them Oláh – because of
their Romanian mother tongue –, whereas those with Romany as their mother tongue
are called Kolompár. Muncsán people live in the village of Alsószentmárton in the
southern part of Baranya; Bea groups located in the Tiszafüred area are named Ticsán
(at the River Tisza).
        Two important groups of the Roma (Oláh) community in Hungary should be
highlighted: Lovári (Lovary) and Kelderás. The dialects of these two groups are the
most widespread and the most highly developed in Europe. In Hungary, the Lovary
dialect is generally accepted: most Romany publications use this dialect.
        Roma people with Hungarian as their mother tongue are called Romungro by
Oláh Roma, while this group calls itself Hungarian Roma or musician Roma in most
cases, though individuals may have nothing to do with music.
        The number of Sinti (Szintó) people is small in Hungary; information on them is
also defective; Hungarian social science is not really familiar with them.

 “Gypsies. Peoples coming from India, migrated into Europe in the 15 th century and spread in various
 countries. They call themselves rom (man), sometimes kálo (black), while all non-Gypsies are called
 parno (white). Hungarian wandering Gypsies also call themselves manus (man), calling non-Gypsies
 gadzsio (farmer, peasant); they call each other szinte (companion) in assemblies. According to some
 scientists, the word szinte comes from the Indian word Sindhu, the name of the Indian tribe Csangar
 (Cangar). Gypsy people are called by various names by different peoples. The most widespread names
 relate to the word Gypsy. According to Miklosich, this comes from the name Athingan or Acingan from
 Asia Minor; according to De Goeje, it comes from the Indian word tojeng (musician, dancer);
 according to others, from the name Cangar mentioned above. The German term Zigeuner originates
 from the Czech name (cinkán), which, in turn, comes from the Hungarian (cigány); it came to
 Hungarian from Bulgarian (ciganin) through Romanian (cigánu).”
 (Pallas Encyclopedia, 1893)

         Hungarian Roma have lived in Hungary for the longest time (since the 15th
century); Oláh Roma speaking the Romany language settled in Hungary in the 19th
century while Bea Roma arrived at the turn of the 19th century and in the early 20th
century. The small group of Carpathian Roma should also be mentioned: they live in
some villages in Northern Hungary and speak a particular dialect of the Romany
         In Budapest, members of all the Roma groups can be found, including
Hungarian, Oláh, Bea Roma and the Sinti group; their number is estimated at 120,000.
Outside Budapest, Hungarian Roma live in the Upper Tisza region, in the county of
Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, in areas between the Rivers Danube and Tisza (mostly in the
county of Nógrád and the Karancsság area), and in the southern part of the Great Plain.
         Oláh Roma are located in the county of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg (Cerhári
people, that is, tent-dwellers, and Csurári people, that is, sievemakers), in the southern
part of the Great Plain (Bodóc and Gurvári people), in areas between the Rivers Danube
and Tisza, and in Transdanubia (sporadic groups of Colári people and Lovary people in
the county of Győr-Moson-Sopron).
         According to the languages spoken by them – based on data recorded on
individual declaration – the following estimated distribution was characteristic in the
early 1990s. People of at least 15 years of age (not attending school) included people
         - of Hungarian mother tongue          89.5%
         - of Bea mother tongue                 5.5%
         - of Romany mother tongue              4.4%

        - speaking the Bea language                  11.1%
        - speaking the Romany language               11.1%

According to estimates on the basis thereof, the number of people of Romany mother
tongue is 22,000; 55,000 people use the Romany language; 28,000 people have Bea as
their mother tongue; and 56,000 people use the Bea language as well. (Kemény, 2000,

        It is highly problematic to specify the number of Roma living in Hungary more
accurately. According to the data recorded in the course of the national representative
sociological survey performed by István Kemény, Gábor Havas, and Gábor Kertesi in
1993 to 1994, “the proportion of Roma inhabitants compared to the total population of
Hungary is 4.69%”. (Havas–Kemény, 1995: 3.) The results of the 1992 household
panel survey are quite different (3.1% of the population of Hungary being Roma, and
ethnic identity being unspecified by the interviewer in a further 9.1% of cases).
        In the course of a survey carried out by the Central Office for Statistics in 1993,
“interviewers familiar with the place classified household by lifestyle”, and on the
basis thereof 3.9% of the population was qualified as Roma. In 1993, Szelényi et al.
classified 3.9% of the sample interviewed – people aged between 20 and 70 years – as
Roma and could not decide in 1.2% of cases. (Ladányi, 1996. 32.)
        While the above research projects estimate the Roma population at 400-600,000,
the nationality figures in the 1990 census indicate that the number of Roma is below
150,000 and the number of people declaring themselves to have a Roma mother tongue
is below 50,000. The corresponding figures from the 2001 census are not available yet.
(More detailed figures on the numbers of people will be included in chapter 3.)

2001 census: freely assumed national identity

Assumption of multiple identities
July 27, 1999.
There are no reliable data available as regards the number of ethnic and national minorities in Hungary.
While national minority self-governments estimate that the number of people pertaining to the 13
registered ethnic minorities is between 845,000 and 1,092,000, only 143,000 people declared themselves
to be an ethnic minority in the 1990 census. According to researchers, this salient disproportion may come
from overestimation by minority organisations as well as errors in the census conducted 9 years ago. Low
official numbers may be traced back, in a large part, to the fact that the historical fears of national
minorities have not been overcome in the course of time. Belonging to a minority is qualified to be such a
sensitive issue even by the act on minorities and data protection adopted some years ago that this
information may not be disclosed to anyone, not even the state, without the consent of the citizen
Questionnaires include as many as four questions on identity: what is your nationality, what is your mother
tongue, which minority culture do you feel close to, what language is used in your family and among
friends. According to Péró Lásztity, Chairman of the National Serbian Self-government, multiple ties
involve problems of interpretation since there are obviously many ethnic people who will cross Hungarian
as ethnicity just to make sure. Lásztity would consider it to be a serious mistake if in future census data
provided the basis for budget allocation distribution.
Mária Varga, Roma Press Center.

         With only slight exaggeration one could say that the only common feature of the
members of the Roma community is that they are labelled as Roma. Despite great
professionalism and goodwill, the series of social programmes and civic initiatives
inevitably reinforce the category of being Roma and assign to it negative connotations
such as poverty, poor health conditions, unemployment, and lack of education.
Initiatives to eliminate the disadvantages of the Roma shift basically social issues to an
ethnic level by naming their target group and not working with the concept of equal
opportunities which has come to the fore as a result of the development of modern
        How can the social integration of Roma in Hungary be imagined without the
members of the group losing their Roma identity involuntarily? In our opinion, the
answer lies in the revival of communication between groups and increasing the
knowledge of citizens. Culture plays a dominant role in assisting social integration, but
not in a normative manner. It would be a serious mistake to call any minority group to
account for compliance with majority norms since it is a fact that there are several
majority norms. Culture is not static: it is something dynamic as it is a quality of ever
changing people and the interweaving of all facets of life. As society itself represents
more than, and indeed is a different entity from the totality of individuals, so culture is
not borne by individual people either; it is rather defined by communication between
individuals. And the key to communication is information.
        A significant dimension of the social integration of Roma in Hungary is
information: the transfer of knowledge, skills, and abilities to both majority and
minority people through all possible channels. A prominent role in this is played by the
new electronic media: the Internet and a revised version of traditional education.

Let us cite RomaPage as an example. Now in its fifth year of operation, it provides assistance in the
Internet presence of Roma in Hungary.
Its objectives include the following: 1) to provide an objective source of news and information on the
Internet about Roma to Roma; 2) to enhance communication between experts and institutions involved in
the subject; 3) to provide a cultural and educational forum for the increasing number of Roma youngsters
with Internet access; 4) to supply Roma-related information to professional circles (primarily tertiary
education, social sciences, and social expert circles); and 5) to prevent the development of prejudices
among secondary school students and teachers by familiarisation.


        Whatever there may be behind the social issues related to Roma in Hungary,
neither the system of attitudes towards Roma nor public discussion about Roma can be
left out of consideration. The present status of Roma in Hungary is largely due to social
or cultural reasons; however, these factors are aggravated by social prejudices. These
issues will be covered from a different aspect in chapter 3 of this report; in the following,
some general correlations are highlighted in order to explain more accurately who the
surrounding (majority) society considers to be Roma, and what such classification
consists of.
        Significant research on the Hungarian national identity by Lázár Guy showed
that the Roma image of Hungarian society is closely linked to its self-image. Roma are
included in this self-image as an absolutely external negative reference group, mainly as
regards perceptions of diligence, honesty, and culture of lifestyle (Lázár G., 1992).
About two thirds of interviewees agreed with the statement that “Roma will never be
integrated into Hungarian society”.
        The first – still cited – research project to explore the image of Roma was led by
Endre Hann. (Hann—Tomka—Pártos 1979:7-53.) Although the document surveying
adults was prepared two decades ago, it still remains valid. Answers to the question
“Who do you consider to be Roma?” provide information about attitudes and value
judgements related to Roma. In the course of their survey, the respective definitions of
“Roma” and “Hungarian” were collated.

Definition of the categories “Hungarian” and “Roma” according to the frequency
of mention made of each aspect

           Hungarian Roma
           (%)       (%)
Blood      24        43
Geography 59         –
Identity   23        6
Language   16        8
Looks      –         17
Source: Hann—Tomka—Pártos 1979:7-53

         The above results draw attention to the tendency towards stigmatisation.
Answers reflected stable components of Roma identity, primarily origin and looks, as
unchangeable factors in the life of individuals and their offspring – particularly as
opposed to the definition of being “Hungarian”.
         Ildikó Szabó and Antal Örkény examined the culture of teenagers as related to
citizenship in a national sample (2610 students were interviewed) in May 1996.
(Szabó–Örkény, 1998. 115) The survey attempted to approach students’
citizenship-related culture from the aspects of political power, social facts and the
institutional system on the one hand, and various models of thinking and action on the
other hand. The levels of knowledge, feelings, and values were separated in each
thematic part. The structure of prejudices against Roma were examined according to
school type. Thus it was found that while vocational secondary school students “tend to
make harsh, radical, and directly discriminative utterances, grammar school students
rather present “drawing-room prejudices” (…)”. This phenomenon is explained by the
frequency of interactions, namely that the number of encounters between Roma and
non-Roma is much higher in the case of vocational secondary school students than in
the case of grammar school students. It is not the actual number of Roma students that
counts; the dominant factor here is that the appropriate social climate to promote
increased tolerance in students’ families, at school, and in classes made up by the
students interviewed is lacking. However, there is one thing on which the opinions of
students at all school types coincide: of all social groups, youngsters uniformly display
the most negative attitude towards Roma. This is a reflection of the label of being Roma
and the historical connotations attached to it rather than to Roma individuals
         “In Hungarian society, anti-Roma attitudes behind prejudices against Roma
minorities are mostly influenced by educational qualification and cultural capital.”
(Murányi 1998: 139.) Experiences from a 1992 national survey (Csepeli—Závecz,
1995) show that groupings of teenagers separated according to ideological profile were
determined by the level of education of the parents (and the age of the youngsters).
Besides simply presenting the research results, Murányi calls attention to the need to
examine the role of the place of residence in addition to demographic and religious
features as well as the decisive family background as factors influencing the prejudices
of teenagers against minorities. In the course of a second analysis of the 1992 research,
an answer is sought to the question to what extent youngsters of 10 to 17 years are
prejudiced and to what extent prejudicial behaviour differs in groups generated on the
basis of socio-cultural and regional characteristics.

Proportion of prejudiced youngsters in the sample and of Roma within the total
population by region

Region                    Prejudiced          Roma     people
                          youngsters (%)      (%)
Northern region           56                  9.0
Southern                  44                  6.5
Eastern region            45                  6.3
Great Plain               46                  4.1
Budapest                  51                  2.4
industrial area
Western region            53                  2.0

Source: Murányi 1998. 139.

        The higher rate of prejudices of youngsters living in the Northern region can be
primarily explained by the fact that the majority adult society of the region has a lower
standard of education and is poorer than the national average and people in other
regions (see also chapter 3). This is also related to the higher proportion of Roma
inhabitants in the region. After the political changeover in Hungary, unemployment
soared, mostly affecting Roma – mainly unskilled or with a vocation which had become
devalued in a changed labour market (e.g. heavy industry, building industry) – in this
region as well. Despite a low proportion of Roma inhabitants in the Western region and
in the Budapest industrial area, youngsters living here are more strongly prejudiced than
the average, which can be attributed to the phenomenon of illusory correlation based on
distorted perceptions – acts committed by members of minorities are more noticed. At
the same time, the lack of direct contacts with Roma further limits opportunities for
justifying stereotypes and attributes (lazy, dirty, aggressive) in practice.
        A somewhat more positive picture is derived from the figures of another
research project with similar objectives. (Barcy–Diósi–Rudas, 1996) The 800-person
sample of the questionnaire-based survey consisted of youngsters between 15 and 20
years of age, attending traditional Hungarian secondary schools, mixed nationality and
Jewish secondary schools. The research was intended to gather information on their
attitudes to Roma, Jewish, and black people, as well as other groups “considered to be
different from the norm” in Hungary (the insane, the homeless, the handicapped,
ex-convicts). Background variables included the financial and cultural background of
the interviewees’ families, the interviewee’s vision of the future, taste, and cultural
interests. According to this research, prejudice and intolerance against ‘difference’ are
more or less isolated phenomena among youngsters in Hungary: they are not
characteristic of the majority of youngsters. However, in a specific historical situation
or unfavourable political climate, ignorance and lack of knowledge common amongst
youngsters may give rise to racial / ethnic / nationalistic aggression. This runs counter to
research which concludes that if there is social consensus on one issue within this
generation, it is obviously anti-Roma feelings, that is, the negative attitude towards the
category “Roma” (see above).
       The questionnaire and interview-based survey completed by the Kurt Lewin
Foundation in Pécs approached 11-graders in secondary schools in the town. (Ligeti,

Who do you consider to be Roma?

Those considered to be so by their environment       4.2
Those declaring themselves to be Roma                37.1
Those with dark skin                                 8.0
Those who speak in Roma languages                    3.5
Those who live a Roma lifestyle                      29.3
Can’t decide                                         12.6
Those who were born Roma                             5.3
TOTAL:                                               100.0

Source: Ligeti, 2000

   These answers contradict those earlier referred to: students do not emphasize inborn
and unchangeable attributes, but they consider the assumption of identity and the
culture (adopted) to be more important.
   As for perceptions of social distance, more than half of the students appeared to be
completely tolerant, mainly those who defined Roma according to the identity assumed.
One in seven students can be considered as completely negative, while the majority of
these, in turn, define the category of being Roma on the basis of skin colour and lifestyle.
Looked at according to parents’ social status, children of those with the highest and the
lowest social status are the most receptive. Presence of a Roma classmate increases
tolerance to some degree, but if there are three or more Roma classmates, acceptance
levels decrease. It became apparent from interviews with form masters that the more
Roma students there are in a class the more tolerant teachers are towards Roma
generally. In classes where there are more Roma classmates, children are more
prejudiced and this cannot be remedied by schools – at least not in their present state.

        These issues lead to our next topic, education. Here, however, let us highlight
the aspect that attribution – we can also use the term stigmatisation – forms an
important part of who can be qualified as Roma. This was chosen as the starting point
for Roma research in Hungary, and this justifies the definition as well. At the same time
it is obvious that it is not sufficient to select this aspect only, however important it may
        Answers to the question posed in the title can only be provided on the basis of
various scientific estimates and customary law. More accurate answers can be expected
from the 2001 census and a more detailed research project launched in 2001. It is likely
that counting or registration, methods accepted by those concerned, will become
necessary sooner or later with a view to uncertainties related to both external
classification and ethnic identity as well as the assumption of identity. This might gain
importance as regards the distribution of resources and as a satisfying solution towards
ensuring political participation for the whole of Hungarian society and each ethnic
minority, including the Roma community.

Results and problems in schooling

        Low levels of schooling among Roma constitute a problem not only in Hungary
but in almost all countries in the region, indeed throughout Europe. The proportion of
Roma children taking part in primary education lags considerably behind the national
average throughout Europe, and their numbers in both secondary and tertiary education
are extremely low. This lack of valuable, marketable knowledge is a serious hindrance
to developing healthy lifestyles and integration into the world of work and customary
social life. (Simon, 2001)
        The reasons are similar in most European countries: inadequate knowledge of
the language of instruction and the culture of the surrounding society, the striking
poverty of many families - as well as all its attendant detrimental health effects - in the
Roma community; inadequate knowledge of Roma culture, lack of preparations for
school (nurseries), the segregation of Roma children in school (including frequent
placement in schools for handicapped children), and unfriendly, sometimes prejudicial
and debarring attitudes in the schooling environment. In most countries, girls are in a
particularly grave situation as – being part of a traditional Roma community – they fall
out of the educational system too early. It is essential to handle educational problems in
order to improve the status of Roma. This should involve contributions on behalf of
national governments and authorities as well as majority societies and Roma
communities. (Simon, 2001)
        Exemplary solutions have been initiated in several European countries. In Spain,
a network of “teacher assistants” has been established, running courses in primary
schools designed to close the gap between Roma and non-Roma children; in addition,
extracurricular programmes have been introduced to acquaint pupils with Roma culture.
Support programmes for Roma children have been launched in Ireland and Greece as
well. The presence of Roma teachers and assistants increases the sense of security of
children and contributes to success in school. Such arrangements are piloted, for
example, in the Czech Republic. In France and Great Britain, there are traditions of
assigning teachers to accompany “travellers”. (Report on the Situation of Roma and
Sinti in the OSCE area, 2000)
        No attempt has been made to provide a comprehensive picture of the
educational situation of Roma children and youth in Hungary since this would go far
beyond the scope of this study. Rather, the focus has been placed on key points in the
schooling process, either advancing or hindering the academic careers of these
youngsters, providing an overview of the components and instances of the educational
system playing a particularly important part in the educational processes of Roma
Schooling and changes in education

         All analyses pose the question: what is the reason for the underachievement and
frequent failure at school of Roma children? Answers usually include two dimensions:
disadvantaged social/economic situation and the difference of culture and language,
that is, ethnicity. Nevertheless, the task of mitigating schooling disadvantages arising
from the social/economic situation of families is not solely related to Roma; on the
other hand, it is certain that not every Roma family and child is at a disadvantage. And
as regards the right of preserving, cultivating, and passing on the language and culture
of an ethnic group, Roma are in a situation similar to other national minorities.
         By the 1960s, only a small fraction of Roma children of school age had
completed the compulsory eight grades of primary school in Hungary: most either did
not attend school at all or went there for only a short period of time. The 1961 resolution
of the state party was based on the recognition of this social problem and its
consequences; as a result of these measures, the number of Roma children going to
school increased dramatically. Of course, even the centrally controlled administration
could do nothing but accelerate the schooling process.
         According to figures from the research project led by István Kemény in 1971,
one quarter of people aged between 20 and 24 had completed primary school, and four
fifths of people over 14 had not gone to school at all. The appearance of large numbers
of Roma children at school was impatiently rebuffed by society. Nor was the inflexible
school system able to cope with highly backward children (and their families) not
familiar with the middle-class language and rules of school. As for homogeneous Roma
classes established for Roma children (an educational policy reaction to the same
problem taken not only by Hungary but a number of other Western European countries
as well), it soon turned out that they could not ensure efficient education and social
integration for Roma children and youngsters. This was partly as a result of the fact that
segregated Roma schools and classes were far below the national average both in terms
of staffing and facilities. Therefore, not only were they incapable of performing their
theoretical function – to place schoolchildren in heterogeneous classes after some
academic years of intensive education –, but they also made irreversible the educational
backlog of their pupils. This educational policy experiment was officially withdrawn
from the agenda after about a decade of operation.
Roma children’s schooling problems in some countries in the region
20.2% of Bulgarians and 0.9% of Roma living in Bulgaria have tertiary degrees; 54.0%
of Bulgarians and 7.8% of Roma living in Bulgaria have completed secondary school;
while 22.4% of Bulgarians and 46.2% of Roma living in Bulgaria have finished primary
school only; 0.2% of Bulgarians and 8.5% of Roma living in Bulgaria are illiterate.
According to estimates, a quarter of Roma children registered at schools go to school
regularly, while one third do not attend school at all. Problems are deemed to be rooted
in bilingualism and trilingualism.
Czech Republic
Roma make up 70 to 80% of pupils of special schools for the handicapped; the drop-out
rate is 80 to 90% at ordinary primary schools; there are regions where only 5% of Roma
children have completed primary school. There are a number of public and private
initiatives (e.g. school assistants), but there is no comprehensive programme.
                                                                       (Patrin, 2000.)
Most Roma children interrupt their studies at the age of 12; some youngsters are
illiterate. There are sporadic school experiments.
                                                               (CSCE, Warszawa, 1994.)
Roma do not constitute a recognised ethnic group; there are no official figures and

The government programme adopted in 1991 aimed, among other things, at the
improvement of the schooling situation of Roma. According to estimates so far, nearly
70% of Roma children study at schools for handicapped children. Annually about 30
youngsters pass the secondary school leaving examination; there are no Roma students
at universities and colleges.
                                                                   (Canek, 1999.)
         The sudden increase in the number of Roma children in public education also
gave rise to a problem, still virulent today, represented by the schooling of children with
slight mental deficiencies and learning difficulties. The concept of “auxiliary schools”
was cancelled by the Education Act that came into force in 1985; furthermore, some
seriously discriminative regulations were also annulled (e.g. completion of eight grades
in an auxiliary school equalled the completion of six grades in a primary school).
Moreover, ever since 1985 the educational administration has continually restricted the
professional content determining which children are transferred to “special educational
institutions for handicapped children” and increased the number of supervisory
authorities thereof. The process can be illustrated by the following figures: while 12%
of Roma pupils attended such institutions in 1974, this figure ten years later (1984) was
18% (at the same time, about 2% of non-Roma pupils attended auxiliary schools in both
periods). Despite the tightening of respective legal regulations, 16% of Roma children
of primary school age still attended educational institutions or schools for the
handicapped in 1992. Clearly, participation in pre-school instruction (nursery
attendance) would have decreased these proportions; however, while nearly 90% of
children of the appropriate age attended nursery schools in the 1980s, for example,
average attendance for Roma children did not reach 50%, and in some regions of
Hungary this rate was much lower.
         In the course of the 1990s, the majority of Roma children participated in primary
school studies; however, the gap between the level of education of Roma and
non-Roma has increased in recent decades. The greatest problem today, as indicated by
all recent research results, is the continuation from primary into secondary school
         Chances for continuing studies at secondary schools have barely improved.
Those who finish primary school at the age of 14 to 15 participate in “regular”
secondary education. Those who finish primary school in the framework of adult
education later on do not continue their studies in secondary institutions.

                       Rates of admission to secondary education as compared
                       to eight graders, 1993.

                                               Total                          Roma
                       Vocational school                      6.0
                       Skilled workers’ school                35.5
                       Vocational secondary school               32.0
                       Grammar school                         24.2

                       Secondary school total                 56.2
                       Sum total                              97.7

                       Source: Kemény, 1996

        A direct consequence of the low levels of education and vocational qualification
was a sudden increase in the rate of unemployment of Roma after the political
changeover in Hungary. According to a labour market survey, the chances of being laid
off – as opposed to people with tertiary qualifications – is more than 2.5 times higher for
people with secondary qualifications; 3.5 times higher for people with skilled worker’s
certificates; 5 times higher for people who completed only primary school studies; and
10 to 20 times higher for people who have not finished primary school. (Kertesi, 1995)
        There is an almost total lack of macro-level scientific research in the areas of
culture and language. This means that there is scarce and incomplete information on the
proportions and degrees of each Roma language understood, spoken, passed on in
families and whether teaching of these languages has been or would be requested.
Linguistic socialisation and consequent linguistic drawbacks were systematically
explored by Zita Réger. She pointed out that the lack of the use of writing in the family
and the special rules of linguistic socialisation make it difficult to understand the
language and communication of the school. Here, the problem is not primarily posed by
a different mother tongue and, consequently, the inadequate knowledge of the
Hungarian language: better integration is hindered by the structure – different from the
official one – and deficiencies of the linguistic competency of socially disadvantaged
Roma families and children with Hungarian as their mother tongue. (Réger, 1990)

Weak spots in schooling

The debate documentation formulating “the guidelines of a long-term social and
minority policy strategy for Roma”, providing a basis for parliamentary decision, and
made available for wide-ranging social discussion (Inter-Ministerial Committee on
Roma Affairs, 2001), specifies one of the main strategic goals as follows: “To clearly
differentiate measures designed to compensate for social disadvantages from those
measures promoting minority identity in order to prevent and impede segregation

    Specific objectives include the following:
-   make three-year nursery instruction general;
-   eliminate disadvantageous positions and discrimination by placement in special
-   increase the chances of continuing studies at secondary schools;
-   provide conditions for marketable vocational education;
-   promote the enhancement of Roma intellectuals, increase their participation in
    tertiary education;
-   develop teacher training and further training in order to reduce discrimination and
    prejudices against Roma.

Scientific research also shows that these components are essential for improving the
social status of Roma. The problems discussed in this chapter follow this logic of
priorities, as these are the very points where the academic careers of members of the
Roma community should be remedied.

Pre-school instruction

        Partly as a consequence of the general employment of women in Hungary, there
are deep-rooted traditions of pre-school institutional instruction / pre-school
preparations within an institutional framework: in the course of the past 20 years,
almost the entire age group between 3 to 5 years of age has gone to nursery school. This
favourable rate was maintained in the second half of the past decade, even though many
nurseries operated by companies closed down. Nearly 90% of children of the
appropriate age have participated in pre-school instruction made compulsory at 5 years
of age by the Public Education Act (this is usually termed as part of the schooling
obligation or educational obligation). The majority of those not participating in nursery
school instruction live in settlements where there is no such institution or where most of
the inhabitants are socially disadvantaged (and most probably belong to the Roma
ethnic group).
        All observations and research results agree that a child’s adaptation to school
(their success) is closely related to whether the child attended nursery school. Nursery
school attendance, however, is measured by statistics, and statistics do not indicate for
how many years and how frequently a child went to nursery school.
        Besides acquiring certain knowledge, skills, and abilities, the most important
function of nursery schools is to teach the basics of those regular activities that are used
as a basis and assumed as provided in general by primary schools. The nursery school
“teaches” not only children but their parents as well to abide by possibly unfamiliar
routines: to bring and collect children at given times of the day and to provide them with
the necessary supplies, that is, to prepare for the next day’s activities. If these routines
are missing, then even the first schoolyear might be a failure and the child will have to
repeat the schoolyear (or will be referred to a school for handicapped children) in
accordance with the Hungarian rules of public education.
        Institutional pre-school instruction according to the Hungarian conception has
legal forms in a number of countries in Europe: “school” is compulsory on completion
of one’s 4th or 5th year, while nursery schools are classified as educational institutions
for children of 2 to 3 or 2 to 4 years of age (e.g. the Netherlands, Belgium, France).
During the first years, schools rather resemble nurseries and only gradually take the
shape of institutions that are similar to Hungarian schools. This system has many
advantages: the most important one from our point of view is that education in the
family is gradually extended to the field of institutional education in early childhood.
        An inference from occasional observations rather than systematic research
might be that if Roma children do not like going to nursery school, the reason is simple
and not “ethno-specific”: that is, they enjoy staying at home, and just as children in
general, they like getting up, eating, playing as they wish rather than conforming to
institutionalised rules controlled from outside. If families do not recognise the
importance of institutional pre-school instruction in getting accustomed to the school
system, and they are not enforced to take their children to nursery school, they will at
best only recognise the social function of nursery schools. The Roma population with
low levels of education can hardly be expected to demonstrate any “pedagogical
awareness”. Furthermore, if there is no nursery school operating where they live or in
the immediate surroundings, parents will not take the considerable time and energy
required to transport their children to a more distant nursery school, especially when
this may also have to be done against the child’s will and with him/her protesting.
Children are not taken to the nursery, either, if parents have to pay for catering, which
would anyway be “free of charge” at home.
         Naturally, this only applies if there is a nursery school close to where the family
lives and if the Roma child is admitted there. Since local governments are not obliged to
provide nursery care for all children between the ages of 3 and 6, there may be nursery
schools, but only for children whose families cannot take care of them during the day.
This means that the children of unemployed parents are not always admitted to nursery
school. A special problem to be solved is that Roma children admitted to nursery school
actually attend nursery school activities irregularly or rarely. Another problem is that
many of them attend nursery school for a maximum of one year, so their disadvantages
have already started accumulating even before starting school although they have
complied with regulatory requirements. The 1993 act on public education specifies the
ages between 6 and 16 as the obligatory schooling age; however, it prescribes one year
of preparation for school (educational obligation), to be completed either at nursery or
at school. However, the implementation thereof and control of local practices are left
         The potential consequence is a vicious circle: the very children who most need
school are the very ones unable to prepare for it.
         If the first institution intending to play a significant part in the life of a child (and
their family) is the school – let it be the friendliest school ever –, the difficulty of
adaptation is not surprising. This may take shape in the form of frequent absences on the
part of the child (or the family), the penalty being potential failure and/or repetition of
the schoolyear.
         Preparation for school is essential, adequate methods for which should be
developed by educational policies. Versions range from making institutional attendance
compulsory and making the institution accessible both geographically and in terms of
transport to settling the “institution” and/or its main functions where Roma families and
in general most disadvantaged families with many children reside (e.g. travelling
nursery school teachers). Whatever form this takes, it is essential to co-operate with
families. Domestic and foreign experience has shown that this can only be arranged in
projects launched at a local level.

Overage pupils in primary schools

       This – somewhat euphemistic – definition indicates those who repeat a
schoolyear and are 2 to 4 years older than their fellows in the same grade. This does not
play a really significant role in childhood – before 11 to 12 years –, but in puberty it can
give rise to serious pedagogical and psychological problems on both (or all three) sides:
schools are unable to prepare groups in which there are teenage Roma already
considered to be young adults. Their family roles, norms, and values may differ greatly
from those of their classmates classified by the school system as being in the same grade
or age group. Schools (teachers) cannot cope with these differences and as a
consequence the proportion of Roma pupils who repeat a schoolyear is on the increase
in the upper grades of primary school, particularly in grades 6 to 8. Therefore the
opportunities for Roma youth to continue their studies at a secondary institution are
        Besides simply accepting and suffering this phenomenon, schools generally
react either by exempting those who are over the compulsory schooling age (in better
cases such pupils may become private students, or in the worst case they may abandon
their studies altogether, thereby no longer posing a daily problem for schools), or by
establishing separate (segregated) classes for pupils overage by several years. “Team
teaching” methods or similar attempts practised in many countries have not elicited any
response in Hungary.
        In the course of the 1990s, nearly three quarters of Roma youngsters completed
their primary school studies within the obligatory schooling age of up to 16 years;
however, a considerable part of them only obtained their final certificates by the age of
16 or 17, thereby barring their entry to regular secondary education (although this is not
specifically prohibited by law). In the course of the 1990s and despite the demographic
decline, the rapidly expanding secondary school network offered loopholes for
youngsters lagging behind their age group. There are no accurate figures available, but it
can be inferred from the number of students with grants that a fairly large number of
people make use of this opportunity. Therefore the estimated proportion of Roma
students among regular secondary school students is lower than the actual number of
Roma youth preparing for their secondary school final examinations.
        Nevertheless, forms of schooling to ensure completion of studies for youngsters
(and older people) who dropped out of school are almost completely lacking. There is
usually only one such school in each county in Hungary. Those who live further from
the school find it impossible to attend twice a week – including travel. Thus those who
have not managed to complete primary school are put into a hopeless situation.

Main areas of conflict between schools and families

School aims and expectations                      Roma interpretation

(self-image of school)                                    (Roma image of outsiders)

                       1. Aims of education and instruction
school operation is based on a social school operation is based on laws and
consensus as regards aims, values, regulations (enforce, penalize,
norms, etc.                              retaliate)
children (pupils) prepare for life at the “real” life of children goes on here
school                                   and now, outside the school
school offers a better chance in life schools teach basic knowledge,
through education and formation         including reading, writing, and
                                        counting skills
the knowledge to be taught is           children (families) have the right to
specified by schools                    specify the knowledge to be mastered
pupils are qualified by grades at      children are qualified by teacher’s
school                                 praises and rebukes at school
the language of the school is the      school language cannot be accurately
language of educated society,          understood and children are not
which we all understand and            taught it, either
                              2. School instruction
school comes first in schooltime       the family and the community always
                                       come first
families are obliged to send           schools are obliged to prepare children
children properly prepared to          as schools wish
the school assumes tasks of            child rearing is solely a family and a
instruction from the family            community concern
                    3. “Hungarian” schools versus Roma families
pupils are always “children” at        children are only actually children
school in terms of relating to their   until pre-puberty
the essence of work at school does     schools are acceptable when teachers
not involve personal feelings          develop personal emotional
                                       relationships with children
school conflicts only involve          school conflicts essentially arise
teachers and students and              between Roma and gádzsó people
students and students,                 (black and white people)
parents should not be present at       parents (families, communities) are
school during schooltime               obliged to protect children even at
Roma pupils lack motivation, are       teachers and classmates are
aggressive, even destructive           prejudicial, racist, and hostile
Source: Forray, 1997
Roma ethnic minority educational programmes

        Ethnic minority nursery instruction and school education is subsidised from the
budget by way of a special supplementary norm. The operators of institutions receive
these subsidies to perform particularly ethnic minority educational tasks. The task is
implemented in the form of schools with the ethnic language being the language of
instruction, bilingual schools, and schools teaching the ethnic language, as well as
school programmes for the education of traditional ethnic minorities. Supplementary
norms for the education of the Roma minority were first included in the 1990 act on
local governments with the aim to ensure that Roma nursery school attendees and
schoolchildren catch up with their fellows (tutoring after school). The situation was
slow to change as both the public education act and the National Core Curriculum
published in 1996 failed to determine a solution to the problem of regulating – similarly
to the other ethnic minorities – the schooling backlog of Roma pupils and the
cultivation of the culture of the Roma ethnic minority. Proposals for the inclusion of
Roma ethnography and culture into the curriculum were submitted; however, the
content of supplementary financing for programmes according to the number of
participants was regulated rather informally by the ministry. (Forray-Hegedűs, 1995)
        In the course of a major survey related to the utilisation of supplementary
normative subsidies (Setényi, 1998), 120 proposals submitted to the Ministry of
Culture and Public Education by nurseries and schools were examined. The conclusion
was that most were not satisfactory in terms of quality. Moreover, as a result of the fact
that public financing is used without limitation by local governments, a number of local
governments simply “swallow” their supplementary subsidies.
        As a supplement to the National Core Curriculum, an approved pedagogical
programme for nurseries and schools was published under the title Guidelines on the
instruction and education of national and ethnic minorities at nurseries and
schools (1997). Supplementary grants were available on the basis of the undertaking
specified in the deed of foundation of the respective institution, in the same way for
organising a so-called “gap-closing” Roma programme as for other national minority
programmes (German, Slovakian, Romanian). However, there was still criticism that
the Roma community was being depicted as a group in need of “catching up” and that
pupils similarly disadvantaged but not coming from the Roma ethnic group were
omitted from the ethnicity-based gap-closing process.

Estimated number of participants in ethnic minority education by local
governments operating such institutions according to school type. 1998/99.
Type of institution   Teaching ethnic          Roma minority /          Ethnic / bilingual
                      language                 catching up
Nursery               32 770                   42 392                   6 846
Primary school        45 304                   50 435                   8 458
For the handicapped   180                      7 216                    89
Grammar school        696                      132                      1 429
Vocational secondary  124                      42                       94
Vocational school       30                                     290                             -
Skilled workers’ school 257                                    362                             -

Day-care facility                                              20 290
Student hostel                                                 1 629
Source: Forray, 2000

        As from the academic year 2000/2001, the system criticised by experts changed.
Supplementary resources allocated for education and aimed at closing the gap between
pupils can be requested by school operators regardless of ethnic nationality;
furthermore, programmes and financing for Roma minority education were made to
comply with the rules for the education of other minorities: they can be launched if at
least eight parents request in writing that their children participate in (Roma) ethnic
minority education. In this way, the education of Roma pupils will also be characterised
– theoretically, and at legal regulatory level – by a separation between financing the
compensation of disadvantages arising from socio-cultural situation and school
programmes for preserving and cultivating Roma culture. These latter require at least
six classes a week including Roma ethnography, culture, and one of the Roma
languages officially recognised in Hungary (Lovary or Bea), although institutions have
so far been exempted from obligatory language teaching.
Erdőtelek: prejudicial sections deleted from teaching materials, programme to be reviewed

According to the ombudsman, the 1996 document used as a basis for the course syllabus at Erdőtelek
Primary School contains several passages likely to enhance or engender prejudices against Roma.
The biology teacher at Erdőtelek Primary School taught children, among other things, that Roma have a
particular smell and they are characterised by aggressiveness. Chairman of Erdőtelek Roma Minority
Self-government Miklós Pusoma submitted a complaint in the case to the ombudsman of minority affairs.
Since then, the director of the school has instructed the teacher in question to revise the course syllabus
and delete the sections refuted several times. At the same time, the teacher referred to the fact that the
course syllabus was based on the pedagogical programme and compiled from various newspaper articles
and books. In his recommendations, Jenő Kaltenbach requested the Minister of Education to have the
publication revised and examine if there is enough information available for teachers in order to be able to
teach Roma ethnography and to what extent further training opportunities are available to teachers.
S. Kállai, Szilvia, Roma Press Center
 
       The clarification of the financing and legal status would be enhanced if it could
be established whether and how educational institutions (and local governments)
comply with the legal provision stating that the launch of a national or ethnic minority
programme is subject to the written statement of at least eight parents and the
consent of the local Roma minority self-government. This issue has not yet been
formulated in relation to traditional ethnic minority education, much less as regards
Roma programmes. However, it would be important, particularly in the latter case, that
those concerned utilise these somewhat stigmatising subsidies on the basis of free
acceptance of their identity.

Special education

Relocation – that is, classification of pupils as slightly mentally handicapped, is based on tests performed
by several panels of experts. However, the official definition clearly shows that the process includes only
one fixed point: segregated education.

“The development of children with slight mental deficiencies is quite varied depending on what other (…)
development disorders they have. (…) Symptoms characterising the slightly mentally handicapped are
less salient before schooling age. They are trained, for the most part, in primary schools (specialities,
classes) established for the education of pupils with slight mental deficiencies.”

Directive for the nursery education of handicapped children and curriculum directive for the school-based
education of handicapped pupils, MKM, Budapest, 1997. p. 45.
        Besides segregation, the main problem of substance is the curriculum. Pupils
classified as slightly mentally handicapped are required to learn only 4 to 26% of the
knowledge prescribed to be mastered in ordinary schools and they do not learn a foreign
language during the eight years of primary school training. It is hardly realistic to expect
that anyone with such a background could continue their studies in an ordinary
secondary school (skilled workers’ training for a decent profession, particularly in a
form of training providing a secondary school leaving certificate).
        Actually, proportions of pupils attending schools for handicapped children are
extremely high in a European comparison: according to a 1996 report by the OECD, 35
pupils out of one thousand are classified as slightly mentally handicapped, whereas, for
example, only two out of one thousand in Turkey, four in Finland, and nine out of one
thousand in Italy are so classified.

                            Roma pupils in special schools

YEAR                    NUMBER OF PUPILS                     PROPORTION OF ROMA
               Total        number of Roma pupils included %
1974           29 617                 7 720                            26.1
1977           31 666                 9 753                            30.8
1981           33 079                12 107                            36.6
1985           39 385                15 640                            38.7
1992           32 090                13 662                            42.5

(Roma pupils in primary and secondary education, ME, Budapest, 1986, 1993.)

        There are no up-to-date accurate figures on the ethnic composition of pupils
attending special schools; however, not even further restrictions on relocation practice
could change the proportions since academic year 1992/93. Moreover, there is no
reason for optimism in terms of the trend: not only is there a high proportion of Roma
pupils at this school type, but the tendency is increasing as well. This assumption can be
made because, based on organisational sociological information, institutions for the
education of handicapped children continue to be interested in their own existence and
survival; what is more, their struggle to “recruit” pupils is obviously intensified in
periods of demographic decline. And there is no doubt that they pool their replacements
from population groups that are more difficult to enrol at schools. Besides theoretical
considerations, a county case study is also referred to (Loss, 1998): it was prepared on
Northern Hungary, the area most densely populated by Roma, and showed that nearly
90% of pupils attending special schools for those slightly retarded in learning were of
Roma origin. A more moderate estimate than this latter, perhaps one-off figure is
provided by Mesterházi (2001.263.), who claims that at a national level the pupils of
these schools “are socially disadvantaged and/or members of the Roma minority to the
level of 40 to 50%”. This proportion essentially equals the figure of a decade earlier.
        Both the report by the parliamentary commissioner responsible for minorities
(1998) and expert studies called attention to the importance of solving these problems.
Attempts were directed, on the one hand, to impose restrictions on the administration
and control of relocation, and on the other hand, to adapt the curriculum to local
demands. Some experts have expressed scepticism about curricular modifications. In
their view, the Roma cultural programmes integrated in the curriculum of special
schools in line with the “fashion” for multicultural education are only “decorative” and
not only fail to solve the problem of schooling for the education of handicapped
children, but they offer a specious solution exempting educational administrators and
society from responsibility for passing out tens of thousands of youngsters from these
schools without any usable or convertible vocational knowledge. (Pik, 1999)
        In the government’s debate documentation on long-term Roma-related
strategies, “the elimination of discrimination by relocation to special schools” is also
included as a priority.
        According to experts of education for handicapped children (Mesterházi, 2001),
the problem can be solved by recognising that multiply disadvantaged children do not
need separate schools but the co-ordinated operation of support systems, rather than
imposing restrictions on relocation. Teachers of handicapped children play an essential
role, but only within the limits of their competency: they may successfully co-operate in
the co-ordination of various systems of assistance.

The problem of segregation

        Based on the historical traditions and practice of national minority education in
Hungary as well as the principles of financing adjusted to the number of programme
participants, it was possible to forecast the process – not supported officially – of the
revival and legitimisation of intra-school and inter-school segregation of Roma pupils.
(Havas-Kemény-Liskó, 2001) This type of segregation can be easily realised,
particularly in large settlements. School operators are not obliged to organise Roma
programmes in each school, even if (perhaps) demanded by parents. With the operator
acting “rationally” and legally, one or more schools are designated for the education of
pupils in poor social conditions who struggle with learning and behaviour problems and
participate in the Roma minority programme or the “gap-closing” programme, and thus
segregated schools are readily established.
        Institutions taking advantage of the support of the Roma minority programme
may be gradually homogenised as a result of “spontaneous” choices made by parents.
For decades, in fact ever since the authorisation of the free choice of schools, there has
been a spontaneous process whereby non-Roma parents remove their children from the
local school if the number of Roma pupils increases. As a result, completely
homogeneous schools with solely Roma pupils are also formed. Referring to the lower
performance of Roma pupils and simpler pedagogical procedures, Roma classes have
been organised even in heterogeneous schools. This more recent type of segregation has
the same social, staffing, and material implications, that is, it represents the same lag
compared to “ordinary” schools or classes and the same stigmatising practices as the
Roma classes created on the basis of the “enlightenment concept” twenty to thirty years
ago. Although attempts are frequently made to support the establishment of separate
Roma classes with pedagogical principles related to catching up, statistics reveal a
different picture: data recorded in 1995 by Schooling District Education Centres
(Harsányi-Radó, 1997) show that the drop-out rate of pupils is higher in segregated
Roma classes and in schools for the handicapped.

Solidarity action to support Roma children forced to celebrate school leaving separately at

– Common school leaving celebration for Roma and non-Roma secondary school students in Budapest
Wednesday 28 April, 1999. – A common solidarity school leaving celebration is to be held by Roma and
non-Roma students of several secondary schools and grammar schools in Budapest on the afternoon of 6
May. The event has been organised to commemorate the segregated school leaving celebration at
Tiszavasvári two years ago and the final court judgement passed in the case last week. As already
reported, Roma pupils at Ferenc Pete Primary School at Tiszavasvári had a separate school leaving
celebration from non-Roma children in 1997. The incident has been condemned in a court judgement.
Several hundred Roma and non-Roma youngsters are planned to have their final celebration together at
Czóbel Ernő Secondary Student Hostel.
Students of almost all secondary schools in Budapest as well as three Roma schools: Kalyi Jag National
Minority Special School, Gandhi Grammar School in Pécs, and Józsefváros Training School were invited
to the event.
The patron of the event is minority ombudsman Jenő Kaltenbach; guests include Cardinal László Paskai
and many politicians. The initiative came from Mátyás Kovács, a graduate of Kalyi Jag National Minority
Special School, who told the Roma Press Center that non-Roma students and teachers had gladly accepted
the invitation. The common school leaving celebration is intended to become a regular event in the
framework of the student movement “Together for Peace”. This association will work for human dignity
and human rights as well as to strengthen ties between Roma and non-Roma children.
Varga, Mária - Roma Press Center

        Some recent empirical research was directed to schools where the proportion of
Roma pupils is at least 25% of the total number of pupils (Havas-Kemény-Liskó,
2001). Individual schools for the handicapped were not examined; however, one third
of the 192 schools included in the sample operated a separate class for students with
slight learning difficulties. The fewer pupils a school has, the greater the chance for
Roma children to be placed into such classes. Similarly, in schools where the
percentage of Roma pupils was higher, larger proportions were included in classes for
the handicapped. In most cases ethnic segregation between institutions was coupled
with institutional segregation.
        There are schools where teachers undertake work more demanding than the
average – teaching Roma pupils – because of their sense of vocation and interest;
however, in a considerable number of schools it is deemed to be a punishment to detail
a teacher to a “Roma class” and this work is often assigned to teachers in a problematic
situation for whatever reason (qualification, age, behaviour). This is the reason why
teachers at some institutions are threatened with unemployment due to a decrease in the
number of children, while there are many teachers with no pedagogical qualifications at
schools with increasing numbers of Roma pupils: 30% of teachers are unqualified, and
60% do not teach the subject in line with their qualification. (Liskó, 2001)

Vocational training

       The problem of vocational training for Roma youth has not been properly
addressed in educational policy. Obviously, this was partly due to the fact that in the
course of the 1990s vocational training (except for special schools) was a responsibility
of the Ministry of Labour. Indifference was strengthened by the fact that elite training –
the education of Roma intellectuals – was a more spectacular task than providing
masses of Roma youngsters with a profession. (For instance, the medium-term package
of measures for improving the situation of Roma, published in 1997, mentioned only
one vocational school, probably just because it was founded by the National Roma
Minority Self-government.)
        One serious problem is that until the late 1980s the most important route for
Roma youngsters completing primary school was to continue their studies in skilled
workers’ schools based on socialist large-scale state farms. Their collapse resulted in
the collapse of most traditional skilled worker training institutions as well. This was
frequently coupled with the fact that vocational skills became unmarketable in the new
economic environment. Moreover, a large part of the Roma population lives in the most
backward regions of the country, where vocational opportunities and vocational
training are made all the more difficult by the fact that there are no jobs available and
there is limited demand for the services and products of potential enterprises. In some
regions the general lack of job opportunities has led to intense competition for positions,
and potential Roma employees are frequently illegally discriminated against. (Liskó,
        Training (socialisation and, in many cases, re-socialisation) is a local
assignment, although preparing for the labour market is considerably limited by this
local level. This is a pressing problem not only for Roma communities but the many
living in areas of Hungary stricken by recession. The labour market training system –
within the sphere of responsibility of the Ministry of Education since 1998 – offers, on
the one hand, training opportunities for people who finished at least primary school,
particularly for those with a secondary school leaving certificate; on the other hand, it
frequently offers training courses with only limited utility on the labour market.
Training programmes such as security guard/bodyguard courses are extremely popular
among Roma youth, but with such demand these are also subject to school
qualifications, mainly a secondary school leaving certificate. Less attractive training
courses or ones with a low labour market value (such as dressmaker shop workers or
Roma community organisers) do not provide real opportunities on the job market.

Attendance at secondary schools

        Only a fraction of Roma youth actually get to schools that provide a secondary
school leaving certificate, and even then their dropout rate is also high. Besides the
grant system, there are two alternatives to promote their participation in secondary
        One scheme is the secondary schools organised on the model of national
minority grammar schools. Examples of this include the Gandhi Foundation Grammar
School in Pécs, recruiting talented but disadvantaged Roma students from primary
schools within the Southern Transdanubian region, and the Kalyi Jag National Minority
Special School, admitting students from the slums of the inner districts of Budapest in
order to provide them with vocational skills. This solution emphasises that similarly to
other ethnic minorities in Hungary, the Roma population is an ethnic group with an
independent cultural image (language). The system of “talent nurturing halls of
residence (collegiums)” has a similar theoretical basis, but it follows a different
schooling practice. A successful example is Collegium Martineum, established with the
support of the Roman Catholic Church and foreign churches, and operated at Mánfa
near Pécs. According to the concept, reminiscent of former people’s hostels, student
residences are institutions aiming at socialisation and the correction of deficiencies of
upbringing in the family; students can study at any secondary school in the region.
Csapi Collegium aims at educating the entire age group along the lines of the national
minority schooling ideology implemented in practice rather than theoretically.
Józsefváros Training School also offers extracurricular education and courses for
catching up in the framework of programmes to prepare for secondary and tertiary
         The other alternative is mostly represented by model institutions approaching
the intercultural paradigm; schools worthy to be highlighted include András Hegedűs T.
Foundation Secondary School in Szolnok, operated under the programme Roma
Opportunity (it was founded by the organisation Lungo Drom and the National Roma
Minority Self-government). Its programme and practice aims at developing
co-operation between the Roma and the surrounding cultures, implementing this in
target groups of disadvantaged Roma and non-Roma students. This means that each
student is enrolled and trained in various special sections, including training providing a
secondary school leaving certificate, and declaring that its programme emphasises
learning the Roma language and culture (including symbolic actions such as singing the
Hungarian official and the Roma anthems during school and public celebrations). The
Don Bosco Primary and Vocational Training School, established with the support of the
Roman Catholic Church, operates on the basis of similar principles; the demand for
such an institution is shown by the fact that in just a few years and in addition to its
primary school it has been expanded by several vocational training courses and a special
branch providing a secondary school leaving certificate.
         Although there are occasional theoretical skirmishes between the two “trends”,
the 1990s have proven that there is demand for both and the two alternatives do not
exclude one another.
         Educational model institutions are operated as foundations. An advantage of
this is that they have more scope for action both professionally and financially.
Foundations as a form of operation also indicate that these institutions were established
as civil initiatives based on local demands and received state recognition only on the
basis of their operational achievements. They are financed primarily by public resources.
However, only the Gandhi Grammar School is operated by a public foundation, that is,
it pertains to a separate chapter of the state budget. The rest receive supplementary
resources (besides normative public financing) through tenders or as occasional
subsidies. Such resources come from public or private foundations and churches.
        The significance of these model institutions cannot be overestimated; however,
the vast majority of Roma youth should primarily continue their studies in “ordinary”
public secondary institutions.

Systems of support
         The system of affirmative action in educational policy is mainly represented by
grants awarded to students who assume their Roma identity. The scholarship system
was developed, from the early 1990s, by drawing on public resources and the Soros
Foundation. Public subsidies were gradually extended from primary school pupils with
good results to secondary and tertiary students. Today’s division of duties is the result of
a process extending over several years: The Public Foundation for National and Ethnic
Minorities provides scholarships for Roma students participating in adult education; the
Public Foundation for Roma in Hungary supports primary school pupils based on study
results; regular students attending secondary and tertiary institutions may submit
applications; the Ministry of Education assumes the cost refunds (tuition fees) to be
paid by students of tertiary institutions. In the autumn of 2001 the Open Society Institute
(OSI) launched a tender for scholarships for all Roma students studying in tertiary
institutions. At the same time, the Prime Minister’s Office invited applications for
Roma students studying in tertiary institutions to lease computers. Besides national
resources, local resources (coming from Budapest, county and other foundations) are
also allocated under similar terms and conditions. All scholarships are awarded by
tender, the terms and conditions of which are publicly available. Tenders for
scholarships are based on the Constitution of the Republic of Hungary which states that
it is a personal right to assume one’s national identity.

Governmental scholarship system for Roma youth, academic year 2001/2002

Primary schools (from grade 5)                                                 6,995

Secondary schools and grammar schools providing
school leaving certificates – regular courses                                  2,838
Secondary schools, skilled worker training
– evening and correspondence courses                                           1,514

Universities, colleges – regular courses                                        950
Universities, colleges - evening and correspondence courses                     267
Universities, colleges – abroad                                                  24

Total                                                                        12,588

Number of young Roma receiving scholarships: academic year 1996/97 – 785;
academic year 1997/1998 – 805; academic year 1998/1999 – 1468; academic year
1999/2000 – 2881; academic year 2000/2001 – 7580.

Source: Office for National and Ethnic Minorities, 2002.

       Problems also arise in the distribution of subsidies, a matter which raises little
coverage in the media but all the more among the people concerned. The essence of the
problems is rooted in the question of “who is Roma”. The Hungarian practice of
“affirmative action” has not induced any public debates so far. Roma communities
maintain an awareness of who belongs to them; however, anonymous juries complying
with democratic constitutionality have few points of orientation. (More recently,
students have been requested to submit recommendations from local Roma minority
self-governments or other significant Roma organisations, and applicants have to
enclose a colour photo for the computer tender.) Therefore, it is not known for sure
whether only Roma actually receive grants, and on the other hand, whether all the
people concerned are properly informed or undertake to be stigmatised (as is the case in
some localities) by admitting and assuming their ethnic identity. A further problem is
represented by the potential for conflicts between poor Roma students and similarly
poor but non-Roma students caused by the awarding of ethnicity-based subsidies.
        It is a serious problem – because it may challenge the results of widespread
sociological research – as to whether the number, realistically estimated, of young
Roma students studying at secondary and tertiary institutions is closer to five to six
thousand, as reflected by the number of applicants for scholarships, or one to two
hundred, as recorded in sociological surveys. Despite all our doubts formulated above,
the latter appears to be more likely.
Educational model institutions for Roma pupils

Gandhi Public Foundation Grammar School and Halls of Residence (Pécs, Southern
Transdanubia): this Roma grammar school is a unique model throughout Europe aiming at
educating Roma intellectuals committed to their communities. It has 170 students in six grades,
all of them living in the student hostels of the school. The first year of graduation was 2000.
Kalyi Jag Roma Nationality and Vocational Training School for Computer Technology
(Budapest): aiming at preparing youth aged between 14 and 25 years – who finished primary
school but do not continue their studies – for secondary studies and providing them with basic
IT skills. The majority of its 50 Roma students are youngsters living in the nearby slums
Dr. András Hegedűs T. Alternative Foundation Vocational Training School, Secondary
School, and Halls of Residence (Szolnok, Northern Great Plain): aiming at providing
seriously disadvantaged Roma and non-Roma students with weak general knowledge who
finished primary school with vocational qualifications and the ones with higher achievements
with a secondary school leaving certificate. At the same time it is the only school in the region
where adults may finish their primary school studies. Its aggregate number of students is 230.
About half of them are Roma.
Don Bosco Vocational Training and Primary School (Kazincbarcika, Northern Hungary):
when founded it was specified as an institution providing shelter for neglected children; in the
course of ten years, the primary school programme has been expanded with a two-year
vocational training school, a skilled workers’ training school, and a class providing a secondary
school leaving certificate. There are more than 400 students in the aggregate, about one third of
them Roma.
Józsefváros Training School (Budapest): in the afternoon, culture transfer programmes are
provided for socially disadvantaged local youngsters, mainly of Roma origin, who are about to
finish their primary school studies or go to secondary school. Culture transfer is related to
school materials, extended by language courses. The school has about 50 permanent attendees.
Collegium Martineum (Mánfa, Southern Transdanubia): a talent nurturing residential hall
where poor Roma students are accommodated. Students study at secondary schools in Pécs and
surrounding towns; the Collegium is home for them in the sense that it provides them with
middle-class education, but also emphasises the promotion of ethnic identity. There are 60
boarding students participating in these programmes.
(Source: Mrs. Éva Orsós-Hegyesi, et. al., 2001.)

Let us highlight the following as model institutions not linked to secondary schooling:
Edelényi Labour School (Edelény, Northern Hungary): originally it was an auxiliary school;
its attractive new building was constructed using subsidies from the Soros Foundation and
public support; it provides schooling for children from the local Roma community. It also has
nursery and pre-school programmes, after which children are admitted to regular primary
school. It has 180 pupils.
Csapi Primary School and Halls of Residence (Csapi, Western Transdanubia): weekday
student hostel and primary school for mainly Roma children living in small villages in the
neighbourhood. It has 210 pupils. The organisation of the student residence is exemplary, as is
its co-operation with the primary school.
Ocsi mnyo Bea Playhouse (Pécs, Southern Transdanubia): small children of 2 to 5 years of
age (28 in all) coming from the run-down former mining settlement in the neighbourhood,
inhabited by Roma, attend the Playhouse. Extremely close co-operation with the families
provided the basis allowing this particularly vulnerable age group to regularly attend the
Pleasant House (Nyírtelek, North-eastern Hungary): weekday student hostel for
disadvantaged Roma primary school pupils from small villages in the area. Its co-operation
with the local primary school is exemplary.

Kovács Zoltán National Minority Nursery (Budapest): it educates disadvantaged
Roma children (about 20 persons) from a traditional industrial area, emphasising the
promotion of Roma culture and ethnic identity.
        Scholarships (and similar forms of individual grant support) are truly efficient if
they actually decrease disadvantages arising from the social and economic situation,
and eliminate obstacles towards further studies or more successful studies generated by
the financial situation of the family (individual). Moreover, their symbolic strength
should not be underestimated, either. However, it should also be taken into account that
the target social group for this popular form of financial support is one with an uncertain
self-definition and classification by others. Therefore it is far from certain that those
targeted always benefit from positive discrimination (due to its theoretical and practical
        The 1999 Phare programme provides considerable financial means to improve
the educational status of disadvantaged Roma youngsters, increase the opportunities for
village nurseries, schools, and vocational training, and integrate the subject of
Romology in teacher training and further training. There is no doubt that these projects
will exert a significant impact on the improvement of the school achievements of Roma
children. Another, though ambiguous, factor should also be mentioned, namely that in
the course of the more than ten-year existence of the Phare programmes operated with
considerable professional and financial assistance from the EU, this is the first one to
target this most afflicted layer of Hungarian society. Its value is increased by the fact
that two more Phare programmes designed to achieve similar objectives have since
been launched.

Social integration support for multiply disadvantaged, primarily Roma youth;
subjects and winners of Phare programme no. HU-99.04-01
(from July 2001 to August 2002)

Subject                                 Number of winning proposals         Amount
                                                                      (EUR ‘000)
I: Nursery and primary school
(nurse training, teacher development,          78                             3 000
procurements, etc.)

II: In-school and extracurricular              45                             3 600
vocational training

III. Secondary school talent support
and tertiary education                         15                             1 500

Secondary school hostel (investment)            2                             1 100

Technical arrangements                                                          400

Total                                          140                            9 600

Source: Information publication, OM Phare Programme Office, Budapest, 2001
Tertiary education and teacher training

         Efforts are being made in two directions of tertiary education: to educate as
many Roma young people as possible, and to integrate Roma-related information in the
         Even though it is difficult to get indications from sociological surveys, still we
know that the number of Roma students attending colleges and universities is
increasing year by year. Although their numbers in higher education are far from giving
them proportionate representation, still the fact that they have appeared in areas where
there used to be no Roma students at all (science universities, legal, technical, IT,
medical training, etc.) should not be depreciated. The Ministry of Education – that is, its
legal predecessor – initiated the preparation of an entire group of Roma youth to
continue their studies as early as 1993. The Ministry provides support for tertiary
institutions (some faculties of ELTE), NGOs (Soros Foundation, Romaversitas, Kurt
Lewin Foundation, Amrita Association, etc.), which in turn have tutored several groups
of Roma youth for years to continue their studies in tertiary institutions. Several tertiary
institutions grant benefits for prospective Roma students on the so-called zero-year
course, although positions for admission are not provided formally.
         Perhaps the number of students involved does not yet justify the consideration
and discussion of some basic principles, but the visible launch of processes does. Such
issues would include the following: whether educational policy should prefer specific
faculties (institutions) or tertiary education in as many directions as possible; which
form of preparatory work should be supported: zero-year courses or more general
preparatory courses; and whether the institutions themselves should be encouraged to
take an interest in the admittance of Roma students. A solution applied in several
European countries and to be developed in Hungary affects not only potential Roma
graduates, although they are affected more than the average: promoting the acceptance
of non-customary careers (this means “making up for” secondary school leaving
certificates by vocational experience and general knowledge in some specialities of
tertiary education). There has been no such initiative so far, perhaps due to the failure of
positive discrimination measures, the so-called “numerus clausus”, implemented for
blue-collar workers.
         In Hungary today, courses on Roma-related subjects are run by a number of
institutions training nursery school teachers, lower and higher-grade teachers, district
nurses, social workers, social politicians, and social pedagogues; however, attendance
is not compulsory and degrees can be obtained without having passed such courses.
This deficiency is highlighted by the 2001 report of the minority ombudsman,
particularly emphasising the fact that a large part of prospective teachers are
unacceptably prejudiced against Roma. The report goes on to state that student attitudes
are also influenced by a lack of knowledge about the Roma population.
         A lack of properly trained teaching staff has already been mentioned in relation
to Roma minority education. Demand to learn the Romany (Lovary) and Bea languages
is a rapidly increasing throughout the country (triggered by the language certificate
requirement for tertiary degrees and the additional payments due to civil servants who
can use foreign languages in their work). Not only are language courses being launched
by some tertiary institutions and Roma organisations, but advertisements placed by
private language schools have also appeared. Dictionaries and language books,
although still not readily available, are increasing in numbers. Presently, foreign
languages can be taught by people with a degree and an advanced-level language
certificate, but the number of such experts is also low. What’s more, as yet there is no
language teacher training and teacher training specialised in the teaching of Roma

The parliamentary commissioner for minority affairs initiated a survey among teacher
trainee students. The resulting report, which has had considerable repercussions, states
the following:

 -“14% of students – about every seventh student – have inveterate prejudices or are
outwardly racist. (This can be broken down into a further two groups: 2.7% of
students are outwardly racist and 11.4% are strongly prejudiced.) Researchers classified
those students here who are definitely debarring. Their utterances include aggressive
components, even views reflecting racism....
- 7.4% of those surveyed are open and tolerant teacher trainees who can be deemed
    to be without prejudices...
- The uncertain majority – probably those most easy influenced – lies between the
    two extremes...
The teacher trainee questionnaire has also proved the well-known fact that there is a
close link between the degree of information/lack of information and the degree of
... It is not our objective to question the suitability of teacher trainees for their careers.
However, it is a fact that the school failure of Roma children is enhanced by the
prejudicial behaviour of future and already active teachers.”

Report by the minority ombudsman, 2001, pp. 54-55; 65.

        In a significant development, the Ministry of Education authorised the
establishment and launch of the Department of Romology at Pécs University of
Sciences in 2000, based on the approval of the Hungarian Committee for Accreditation.
This has opened up an opportunity for those interested in the status and culture of Roma
to obtain a degree in this field, even to participate in doctoral training. The move is
partly symbolic: with the creation of this department the Roma population is completely
recognised as an ethnic minority. On the other hand, it is of practical importance as
experts who are involved on a day-to-day basis with Roma can now acquire tertiary
skills and degrees, particularly in the form of postgraduate training.

Subject structure of the Department of Romology:

   Basics of social science
   Roma communities as viewed by social sciences
   Knowledge of Romology: linguistics, history, ethnography, arts
   Romany (Lovary) and Bea languages (compulsory language examinations)
   Vocational practice in a Roma community

In the academic year 2001/2002, there are 22 regular students participating in the
training course, half of them of Roma origin; there are nearly 80 students attending two
postgraduate courses (for a second degree), with 40% being members of Roma

        There have been serious efforts to establish Romology departments at two
teacher training colleges (Zsámbék, Kaposvár), so far with no success. Regular teacher
training also includes optional accredited programmes for familiarisation with Roma
culture. One of the priorities of the 1999 Phare programme mentioned above is to
increase the number of such programmes. As a result, postgraduate and further training
courses are expected to be launched at colleges training nursery school and lower grade


        Each government of the Republic of Hungary so far has made efforts to improve
the state of education of the Roma community. Significant results have been produced
in terms of the schooling of the Roma community in Hungary by the increasing
activities of Roma political groups and NGOs, coupled with the appearance of a
recognition of the real value of learning in an increasing number of Roma families. The
increase in the number of students in tertiary education, that is, the strengthening of the
potential layer of Roma intellectuals, is also to be highlighted.
        At the same time, the basic problems of the community’s educational level still
include primary school dropout and high participation in special education, which is
partly related to meagre and barely efficient pre-school education. Inter-institutional
and intra-institutional forms of ethnic segregation have remained unchanged or appear
to be reproducing. The lack of qualified teachers aggravates the consequences of
        The simultaneity of these two opposing tendencies threatens the Roma
community – already struggling with considerable internal ethnic divisions in itself –
with economic division, thus minimising the chances of those lagging behind ever to
catch up. On the other hand, it is hoped that the proliferation of highly qualified groups
of the Roma community with a healthy ethnic identity will result in more and more
people committing themselves to support groups with low levels of education still
lagging behind today – and their children.

Opportunities and inequality of opportunities
        In order to provide a more transparent review in this chapter, we are going to
follow “sectoral” logic in the description of disadvantages afflicting the Roma
community and activities aiming at the mitigation of these disadvantages:
underprivileged status in education, in the labour market, in housing, in their state of
health and in their social position. This logic, however, may conceal the difference
distinguishing the majority of the Roma community from average poor people with
large families living under poor housing conditions. This difference, on the one hand,
can be traced to general discrimination against Roma, and, on the other hand – as
experts put it in the context of these disadvantages – in the web of disadvantages
“feeding on and reinforcing each other”. Each element of the “Roma problem” is
given an ethnic dimension due to majority prejudice and negative discrimination. We
are also going to introduce fields or areas where the Roma community has opportunities
for social integration.

Social characteristics

20% of Roma live in the economically developed areas of Hungary (in Budapest and in
its industrial zone and in the north-western region), while the overwhelming majority
reside in regions hit hard by economic problems. This study will highlight the situation
of the Northern industrial region which suffered the deepest economic recession after
the transition and which has the highest proportion of Roma in the population.
According to surveys, the number of Roma living in small settlements offering a
narrower scope of employment opportunities is still very high compared to that of the
entire population (78.4% in 1971, 60.5% in 1994).

Hungarian Roma population data by region

Region         Number      Number Percentage Percentage Percentage Percentage
                (‘000)      (‘000) compared to compared to compared to compared to
                                      Roma        Roma        entire      entire
                                    population population population population
                                       (%)         (%)         (%)         (%)

                 1971        1994         1971          1994           1971           1994

North-west        65         119              20.4           24.3             6.5            9.0


Eastern         75—80         90              23.0           19.8             5.0            6.3

Alföld            50          55              16.0           12.0             3.0            4.1

Budapest           60          83              19.0            18.2            2.0           2.4

Southern           65          104             20.0            22.8            4.0           6.5

Northern           5           13                1.4            2.9            1.3           2.0

Source: Kemény—Havas, 1996. 354—355.

Housing conditions

In 1971 most settlements were established spontaneously, characterised mainly by
“putri (shanty)” type building methods; 44% of slum flats had no electricity, and only
8% of the flats had mains water; by 1994 only 13.7% of Roma lived in segregated

Proportion of persons living in Roma slums

%                       1971          1994
Budapest                29.5          -
Provincial town         70            16.4
Villages                69.4          14.5
Total                   66            13.7

Source: Kemény – Havas – Kertesi, 1994

        In spite of the above development, a considerable proportion of Roma still live
in segregated housing environments, if not actually in segregated slums: in 1994 60%
lived in segregated areas and 30% in homogenous Roma environments. It is an
increasingly common phenomenon in poor small villages to see, as a consequence of
migration, Roma making up the majority, or even an overwhelming majority of the
population. Indeed, even wealthier Roma inhabitants make every effort to leave these
villages and those who stay are almost exclusively multiply disadvantaged people.
      Housing conditions of Roma have significantly improved. While in 1971 61% of
Roma flats had a dirt floor, this was only valid for 10.1% of flats in 1994. In 1971 there
was electricity in only 56.1% of Roma flats, and in 1994 this figure was 97.9%. While
in 1971 residents in 38.8% of Roma flats had to collect water from a source more than
100 metres away, this rate in 1994 was 5.3%.
        There are still significant differences in the size of flats. 32.8% of the Roma
housing stock consists of one-room flats, 42.7% of two-room flats and 24.4% of flats
with three or more rooms. The proportion of one-room flats in the entire Hungarian
housing stock is 15.4%, 43.4% of flats have two rooms and 40.2% consist of three or
more rooms. Features of Roma flats in 1985 were characteristic of the flats of those
social groups with the lowest income in the entire population.
        Recently, cases of housing discrimination have arisen as well. A further
consequence of the economic restructuring which took place in the 90s, beyond the
mass unemployment of Hungarian Roma, is that a considerable proportion of
settlements tried to evict Roma families in arrears with rental payments or public utility
charges. In many ways, the last decade was the decade of ghetto affairs and overt local
action against Roma. Many local authorities – unlawfully, as it later turned out in a
number of cases – tried to remove Roma from settlements or attempted to bar their entry.
The openness and widespread occurrence of such intentions are reflected in a survey by
the Social Research Institute (Társadalomkutató Intézet, hereinafter called TÁRKI) in
1998 where 43% of surveyed local authorities openly admitted that they did not want to
see more Roma in their settlements. In more recent years the country has not witnessed
such serious cases, mainly due to the programmes of civil rights organisations and
particularly the minority ombudsman.

           In May 1996, four Roma families moved from the village of Ricse to nearby
Sátoraljaújhely. However, they soon came into conflict with other Roma families in the town. On
June 20, 1997 at a special meeting of the local government, the following resolution was reached
upon the initiative of the local Roma minority self-government: “In future, the representative body
of Sátoraljaújhely resolves to consider people not capable of adapting to the life of the settlement,
violating and endangering public security rules, as persona non grata, and all possible efforts
shall be made to have such people lawfully removed from the town." In July of 1997 the mayor,
Károly Lackó, said in a TV programme that such behaviour endangering public security was due to
genetic reasons. In August, an investigation by the minority ombudsman was completed. Jenő
Kaltenbach termed the affair in Sátoraljaújhely an example of local apartheid and established that
the resolution for the resettlement of Roma was unconstitutional, violating the right of free
movement and the presumption of innocence.
           At the end of 1997, as the final act in the “ghetto affair” in Székesfehérvár (local
authorities wanted to move 13 families living there without title, first into temporary
accommodation to be built in the suburbs, then “temporarily” into container houses), the town
council paid 30 million forints to buy flats for the families in neighbouring villages. However, this
scheme failed as the villages concerned protested against having the Roma families move in.
           In recent years, inhabitants of several Hungarian settlements have tried to prevent Roma
from moving in and have hindered welfare housing programmes by canvassing for signatures. In
early 1997 in Celldömölk-Alsóság in Vas County, 400 local inhabitants protested in an open letter
against the welfare housing programme plan of the local government. In June 1997 in the
Felnémeti district of Eger local inhabitants attempted to prevent three Roma families in arrears
from receiving temporary accommodation. Signatories argued that “these resettled people do not
observe written or unwritten rules (...), families accepting social norms do not have to be resettled
(...) for any reason, unruliness, troublemaking, anti-social behaviour are typical features of Roma

          In 1996 in Muhi, Borsod County, local authorities and local inhabitants refused to allow a
Roma family to be registered and move into their newly bought house. The municipal office gave
the following information to the family: “According to the corporate regulations of the office, only
reliable families are allowed to move into the settlement – ethnic minorities are excluded from
settling." In the end the family was forced to sell its house to the local government 2.
          There was a similar case in Heréd in Heves County where four Roma families from Ózd
had built a multi-flat block based on welfare support. Local authorities, however, refused
registration, referring to the unsolved problem of sewage disposal. Refusal by the authorities was
accompanied by spontaneous attacks launched by the inhabitants: windows were broken, metal
bars and stones thrown, and beatings. The families were finally forced to return to Ózd.
          Certain local authorities did not surrender to protests from inhabitants. In
Balassagyarmat the local government approved the welfare housing programme of the local
minority self-government in spite of the fact that local inhabitants had initiated the collection of
signatures in order to impede construction.

According to plans, the government decree regulating the state support system for the
elimination and renovation of Roma slums would have entered into force in the autumn
of 2001. On the basis of a survey conducted in 1997, the government was planning to
eliminate and “replace” or renew 19,000 flats serving as homes for about 96,000
people. The idea was to spend 43 billion forints on such programmes within five years:
one third for the improvement of existing settlements, for building water mains and
paved roads, while two thirds of the amount would have gone on the replacement of
flats to be demolished. According to calculations, approximately half of these 19,000
flats should be demolished and replaced with welfare tenements, allocating separate
resources for the replacement of slum flats. According to this concept, a major part of
new flats would be established by restructuring or renewing properties now serving
non-housing purposes: garrisons, industrial buildings, former workers’ hostels, flats
without amenities, service flats, etc. Decisions on this would rest with the local
Földművelésügyi                        és

At the end of 2001, the government – with the involvement of the National Roma
Self-government - launched a 300-million forint housing project. This programme,
reckoning at present prices, shall have funds sufficient for the construction of 50-60
tenements; according to estimates, however, 15,000 families live in slums and a further
30-40,000 Roma families have severe housing problems.

As is evident from the above data, the housing conditions of Hungarian Roma
significantly improved between 1971 and 1994. However, this improvement was also
due to the fact that many Roma relocated to towns in the hope of finding jobs there, and
once in the towns they moved into the flats of relatives/acquaintances or became

Roma families building houses on the basis of favourable housing loans available prior to or just around
the transition period found themselves in a very difficult situation when in 1992 monthly instalments were
significantly raised. Many families could not keep up with the increased instalments, for instance because
they had lost their jobs. According to estimates, more than one quarter of Roma families have debts
related to favourable housing loans received before January 1st, 1988. In 2001 the government launched a
multiple consolidation programme enabling the remission or rescheduling of debts for those unable to pay
due to circumstances beyond their control.

Although comparison of the findings of the two representative surveys shows that the
number of persons living in one household has significantly decreased between 1971
and 1993 in Roma households as well, this number is still much higher than for
non-Roma households. Taking into account the generally lower quality of the Roma
housing stock with flats of poor quality, smaller in size and fewer amenities,
overcrowding is still high in Roma settlements.

Number of persons living in one household at a national level and among Hungarian

                        Period     national average Roma
                        1971       3.18 persons     5.6
                        1993       2.8 persons      4.5
                        1996       2.6 persons      no data
                          Source: Kemény – Havas – Kertesi, 1996

According to a survey carried out in 1998: “such levels of crowding are unacceptable
even in the case of an intimate family atmosphere; they are unhealthy both mentally and
physically. It is impossible for adults to rest, children obviously cannot focus on
learning and this has an unfavourable effect on their chances later in life.” (Bánlaky –
Kevy, 1998).

 

        The most shocking changes in the opportunities of Roma communities took
place in the field of employment. In Hungary, macroeconomic changes after the
transition had a dramatic effect on the Hungarian labour market. Between 1990 and
1997 the number of unemployed people increased by 1.5 million. (Csaba, 1999)
Unemployment rates in the economically active population were highest in 1992-1993
(in 1990 the unemployment rate at a national level was 2.7%, and 11.2% in 1993).
        While during the decades of socialism employment rates of the Roma and
non-Roma population were little different, Roma have been losing jobs at a dramatic
speed since the mid-eighties. Even though the latest available data related to Roma
employment are from 1993, they are still suitable as a means to reflect trends, i.e. the
Roma community has fallen from a previously almost full employment status into a
severe unemployment crisis.

                                    entire population (%)               Roma (%)
active wage earners                 87.7                                85.2
inactive wage earners (disabled,    13.4                                13.3
students, other dependants )
                                    100                                 100

Source: Havas – Kemény, 1997. pp. 153-169

Age                                 entire population (%)               Roma (%)
15-19                               12.9                                17.7
20-29                               68.0                                35.0
30-54                               76.9                                33.8
55-59                               43.1                                15.4
                                    63.4                                30.8
Source: Havas – Kemény, 1997. pp. 153-169

        By 1993, 70% of Roma males capable of working had been pushed out of the
labour market. Nearly 65% of Roma men above the age of 30 with an employment
history of more than 10 successive years had been made unemployed or became
inactive wage earners (living on disability pension, allowance or on regular welfare
benefits). Two thirds of Roma men over the age of 54 but within the retirement age
found themselves in the same situation, even though they could show an employment
history of more than 20 successive years. The majority of these individuals were
previously employed as semi-skilled or unskilled workers in various construction
projects, therefore their high unemployment rate is also explained by the collapse of the
sector. Furthermore, the generally poor education level of Roma is another (albeit not
an exclusive) factor in unemployment; various cases of labour market discrimination
also contribute to their inability to find work. According to the only calculation related
to such discrimination cases, their lower education level and the fact that Roma tend to
live and work in regions and industries undergoing crisis contribute to their poor
employment prospects. (Kertesi, 1995)


Perceiving the severity of the situation, the government has elaborated employment and
subsistence programmes targeted not exclusively at Roma but having a significant
impact on them as well (Roma participation is calculated on estimates by the

Employment and subsistence programmes in 2000
Government             Target of support         Roma               Amount of support
organisation                                     participatio        ( in HUF million)
Ministry for           Communal work             (estimated)        2,000 (proportion
Social and Family      programmes                40%                going to Roma: 800)
Labour Market          Communal                  (estimated)        7,700. (proportion
Fund                   employment                10%                going to Roma: 770)
Ministry for           Social land               (estimated)        285 (estimated
Social and Family      programme                 50%                proportion going to
Affairs                                                             Roma: 142.5)
proportion going                                                            1,712.5
to Roma in total

         Even on the basis of the programme of the Ministry of Economic Affairs
(Gazdasági Minisztérium, GM), considered to be the most detailed and the most
generous with its 2 billion forint budget due to a reallocation from the Ministry of
Welfare, the amounts received by Roma can only be estimated and cannot be precisely
determined. For instance, ethnic affiliation was not registered (as this would be illegal)
in communal work projects aimed at the unemployed and disposing of a total budget of
7.7 billion forints in 2000. The amount of 750 million forints was calculated on an
estimated 8-9% Roma participation.
        Calculating with the same rates in various retraining programmes, “ethnic
related expenses” were estimated at around 200-300 million forints by the Ministry of
Economic Affairs. According to the estimates of the Labour Centre in
Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, in 2000 approximately 250 Roma participated in the
retraining programme organised for the unemployed. At the end of support periods,
however, most are not re-employed, instead being replaced by people for whom state
support is available again. (Kadét, 2001)
        Among other employment and subsistence supports, the welfare land
programme launched by the Ministry for Social and Family Affairs represents a special
transition procedure. Winners of competitive bids announced for crisis regions and
participating families receive arable land and agricultural services on favourable terms.
Taking into account that 40% of Hungarian Roma live in small settlements, many
hoped that agricultural support programmes i.e. the welfare land programme of the
ministry, the agricultural programmes of the Public Foundation for Roma in Hungary
(Magyarországi Cigányokért Közalapítvány, MCKA), the National Employment Fund
(Országos Foglalkoztatási Alap, OFA) or the Autonomy Foundation (Autonómia
Alapítvány) would provide substantial support. In the early days of the scheme the
government believed that the majority of families supported by the welfare land
programme would gradually become self-supporting or competitive. Such hopes,
however, are rarely fulfilled. In 2001 the Ministry for Social and Family Affairs in
co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Regional Development organised a
welfare land programme with a 220-million forint budget. According to their estimates,
the proportion of Roma families participating in the programme presently stands at 38%.
However, due to the delay in the amendment of the land law, the programme has been
stranded for years, therefore it is practically impossible to introduce further applicants
into the support system. (Kadét, 2001)

            While the amount of support for the National Employment Fund (OFA) was reduced (by about 10%) compared to 1999,
it has launched a separate Roma programme. According to its report, 20-30% of training and job creation subsidies have reached
Roma, too. The complex Roma programme consists of elements similar to those of non-Roma programmes. The OFA spent 136
million forints for this purpose in 2000 and supported similar programmes run by the Autonomy Foundation with a further amount
of 25 million forints.

        According to a summary drawn up by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on
Roma Affairs (Cigányügyi Tárcaközi Bizottság), the ministries – as part of the Roma
programme of the government – spent 2.4 billion forints in 2001 and 2.8 billion
forints in 2002 for such purposes.
Central resources for the government Roma programme (in million forints)

                                                                 2001             2002

Total amount of central budget resources                                  9,364
Of which:
        Ministry of Economic Affairs                             2,300            2,500
        Ministry for Social and Family Affairs                   1,660            2,713
        Ministry of Justice                                        400              650*
        Ministry of Agriculture and Regional Development            353             588
        Ministry of Education                                       142             290
        Ministry of Health                                          136             236
        Public Foundation for Roma in Hungary                       350             550
        Gandhi Grammar School Foundation                            236             404
        Support for Roma Minority Self-governments                  455             470
        Support for National Roma Self-government                   171             188
        Support for Roma minority education                       2,395            2,800

* of which 400 million forints for scholarships for young Roma

Source: Inter-Ministerial Committee on Roma Affairs; in: Heti Világgazdaság
(HVG), March 16, 2002

        The several-year-long programme launched by county labour centres in 2000
to support young unemployed Roma entering the job market is the largest scheme
run by the Ministry for Social and Family Affairs. It will take some years before any
proper assessment of its results can be made.
       Support programme for young unemployed Roma to enter work

Region             Number in          Duration       Planned total        Expenditur
                   target group                      expenditure (in      e per year
                   (persons)                         forints)             (in forints)
Budapest           50                 2 years        31,959,000           15,979,000
Békés County       283                3 years        197,000,000          65,600,000
Győr-Moson-        20                 2 years        14,838,000           7,419,000
Hajdú-Bihar        700                3 years        258,042,000          86,014,000
Heves County       250                3 years        288,349,000          96,116,000
Jász-Nagykun       20                 3 years        21,735,000           7,245,000
Pest County        270                2 years        63,190,000           31,595,000
Somogy             400                2 years        186,000,000          93,000,000
Total                                                1,061,113,000        402,969,000

Source: Government summary on programmes related to the Roma minority over
the previous two years (November 14, 2000)

      In earlier years the government provided support for the inhabitants of
underdeveloped regions and for the long-term unemployed. A considerable number of
the programmes were restricted to supporting communal work providing employment
for a maximum of several months.
       In the programmes related specifically to the Roma community in the
medium-term package of measures, the work in Bács-Kiskun County,
Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County, Tolna County, Baranya County and in
Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County was mainly of a communal, public works type. At the
same time it was apparent that the government was channelling funds into retraining
programmes for long-term unemployed Roma: within the framework of special
programmes, community development assistants, job co-ordination assistants and
social helpers were trained. In several counties labour organisations contributed to the
training of home-care nurses and church welfare workers, while in three counties Roma
entrepreneur training courses were launched. However, the efficiency of retraining
courses is questionable: often there are still no jobs for those who have completed
courses. This doubt is only increased by the report of the Csongrád County Labour
Centre prepared in December 2000 for the Ministry of Economic Affairs in which it is
stated: “The majority of employers are not willing to employ Roma even if the
maximum amount of support subject to their employment is provided. The exceptions
are in jobs where non-Roma employees simply cannot be hired (as they reject the job),
e.g. in meat processing factories or unskilled work at cemeteries. For Roma job seekers,
communal work represents virtually their only opportunity for employment. Local
authorities have been continuously organising communal work, with our full support.”
As this report shows, due to prejudice the only potential employer of unemployed Roma
is almost exclusively the public/local government sector. (Gere, 2001) As is noted in
the discussion material on the long-term strategy of the government: “It would be
reasonable for local governments to elaborate programmes for the long-term
unemployed in which – on the basis of co-operation between labour and training
centres – training programmes and communal work could be combined.” At the same
time, discrimination at the workplace is not properly emphasised, which in most cases
paralyses the labour centres at the time of employment. The discussion material only
maintains that: “It is necessary to provide favourable financial terms for employers and
trainers employing Roma.” An important element of the strategy is the registration of
Roma who have dropped out of the system. “In order to end long-term unemployment,
it is very important that labour centres should provide services not only for registered
unemployed Roma but they should contact unregistered Roma as well.”

It is not easy to estimate the actual effects of employment discrimination, and revealing cases of
discriminative employer behaviour is also a difficult task. However, in recent years there have been cases
of companies ruling out applications from Roma in their advertisements.
In 1998 an advertisement was published in Expressz advertising paper stipulating that applicants had to be
white skinned and anti-alcohol. The building contractor who placed the advertisement was contacted by
the Roma Press Centre by phone and admitted that by inserting the above stipulations his goal was to
exclude Roma. He said he thought that the ad was not offensive. He argued that his workers were not
willing to work with Roma and he would lose clients if he appeared with Roma employees. An Expressz
employee was quoted in connection with the affair: the editorial board regularly monitors the content of
advertisements to determine whether it violates legal regulations. Discrimination using negative
adjectives is excluded. White skinned was accepted because in the board’s opinion it was not negative
discrimination. However, if the ad had contained the line ‘dark skinned applicants excluded’, this would
have been considered a violation of the law and the ad would not have been published.
Roma Press Centre, 1998.

Although the Constitution and certain laws prohibit discrimination in Hungary, it is
difficult to prove labour market discrimination – even if according to Hungarian law the
burden of proof is reversed. Investigations carried out by the minority ombudsman in
1998 and 2000 revealed several legal loopholes. According to the detailed investigation
carried out by the office of the minority ombudsman in 1998, “apparently severe
sanctions designed to have, in principle, a restraining effect are, in reality, simply not
enforced. We have established a shocking fact: that neither in the year under
investigation nor in the preceding year was any legal procedure due to discrimination
related to national or ethnic affiliation conducted, and there was not one case of a
labour fine being imposed.” The two core organisations under the same ministry of
labour administration, labour centres and labour supervisory offices, do not exchange
information related to cases of discrimination. The minority commissioner, who has
initiated an amendment to the law to expand labour supervisory investigations in case of
rejected employment, said, “Current legal rules do not ensure maximum legal
protection against prejudice emerging in the field of employment.”
        The minority commissioner continued: “We believe that the practice whereby
labour supervisory offices reject initiation of procedures in cases of unlawful rejection
of employment is unacceptable as in most cases claimants turning to us are not in a
position to hire legal counsel and seek remedy in court.”
Subsistence strategies

Júlia Szalai (2001), commenting on the basis of her research among the Hungarian
poor, has pointed out that “The monthly income of Roma families, irrespective of the
number of children, is far below that of non-Roma families, and within this backlog it is
valid for them – but only for them – that parallel with the increase in the number of
small children, the resources available for families can be somewhat expanded.”

Ethnic affiliation   Type of job carried out by family members                           Total
of the family
                     Maximum        Maximum                    Regular employment
                     casual work or periodical                 at least in the case of
                     day labour     contracted work            one family member

 (Poor) non-Roma 27                       8                     64                       100
 (Poor) Roma     46                       19                    35                       100
 Total           35                       13                    52                       100

Source: Júlia Szalai (2001)

Poverty: benefit dependency

        Jobs available to the poor and especially poor Roma are so badly paid and
uncertain that they can only represent a very small proportion of family income. “29%
of adult Roma live on day labour, on smaller assignments, occasionally selling goods
on the streets, while this rate in non-Roma families is half that number – 14%. Due to
this special downward segmentation of the labour market, wages represent a mere 4%
of the total amount of monthly revenues among Roma families.” (Szalai, 2001)

 Groups of the       Avera     Average           Family     At least one    Family        Average    Numb
 poor                ge size                  member with   unemploye      member         monthly    er of
                       of                        regular      d adult:   with at least    income    familie
                     househ      of           employment:     in % of     secondary         per        s
                      olds                       in % of    households education:         person
                                               households                  in % of         (HUF)
                                  nt                                     households
 Roma family          5.40      2.75             26.3          41.8           6.2          9,921     194
 living in deep
 Non-Roma          4.68     2.53        31.8         38.8       24.0               10,785    129
 family living in
 deep poverty*
 Roma family in 4.44        1.93        63.2         31.2       14.6               20,621    41
 Non-Roma          4.10     1.84        84.4          7.5       65.3               24,781    199
 family in
 Total             4.71     2.32        51.5         28.2       31.8               16,151    563
* deep poverty: monthly income per person below the minimum pension
** families in need: monthly income per person slightly above the minimum pension

Source: Szalai, 2001

        Poor Roma are sidelined from those schools providing marketable skills, and
largely due to this they are later pushed out of organised labour markets, too. At the
same time, there is a disproportionate increase in their chances of becoming locked into
the world of those living in deep poverty and almost hermetically sealed from majority
society, or into the labour market, welfare or penal institutions, the task of which is to
handle and socially legitimate this separation. Severe ethnicisation of deep poverty is
reflected by the fact that 83% of poor Roma families and 39% of poor non-Roma
families live in deep poverty. (Szalai, 2001)
         According to other analysts, there is not even one active wage earner in more
than half of Roma households. The situation is similar in one third of non-Roma
households. Roughly one third of the Roma population (including children and old
people) live in households where at least half of the potential breadwinners between the
ages of 15-74 are unemployed or passively unemployed (the comparable non-Roma
figure is 9%). (Kertesi, 1995)
        According to the Poverty Assessment Report of the World Bank published in
2000 (Poverty Assessment Report of the World Bank, 2000, Szívós – Tóth, 2000),
in spite of better macroeconomic indicators household incomes have not increased in
recent years and the continual deterioration of real incomes has caused an increase in
absolute poverty. The increase in poverty was accompanied by an increase in inequality.
However, a considerable proportion of social benefits have been lost: many
beneficiaries do not fall into the category of the poor.
        Besides domicile as an important factor determining likelihood of poverty —
the lowest number of people who have never been poor can be found among village
inhabitants and the highest number of long-term poor can also be found there — Roma
origin is one of the most significant factors in respect of long-term poverty. According
to the report, nearly 53% of Roma households live in chronic poverty (compared to
7.5% of all households). According to relevant data, the single risk factor contributing
to long-term poverty that is even greater than being Roma is the case where the head of
the family drops out of the labour market.
        According to the World Bank report on the system of social protection: “A
major part of social assistance is not well targeted and could not enable many
beneficiaries to steadily improve their financial positions.” In 1997, 6% of households
were receiving welfare allowances, and at the same time, the highest “leakage rate”
could also be found in this field: a major part of beneficiaries did not fall into the
poverty categories.
        Not every modification effected by the government changes this situation: the
real value of universal provisions has been continuously decreasing, while provisions
aimed at the middle classes and the value of tax allowances have been dynamically
increasing. The poorest groups of the population are increasingly dependent on local
government benefits which, due to discretionary procedures and the often residual
character of local social planning, frequently leave them defenceless.
   In 1998 the family allowance was reintroduced as an inalienable right, although its value was frozen. This type of support lost
   nearly two thirds of its value over the past decade. The similarly universal maternity benefit has also suffered a significant loss
   in value. The maternity grant (gyermekgondozási díj, GYED), however, reinstated in 1999, definitely involves negative
   redistribution as it is an income-related provision. A further example of negative redistribution is the family tax allowance, the
   most important family-support package of the government. Ranked among local government provisions, particularly
   significant from Roma aspects, up until 2000 the amount of child welfare allowance was determined as 20% of the minimum
   pension. However, since 2001 this amount has been fixed and its further indexation is the responsibility of Parliament. The
   child welfare allowance, however, being subject to school attendance, is definitely targeted at poor families with several
   children. Its importance is reflected by the following figures: the poverty risk of the age group between 7-14 years is twice as
   great as that of the average population; the poverty rate of families with three or more children is nine times higher than among
   average families. (Szívós-Tóth, 2000) The poverty risk of families with many children or single-parent families is extremely
   high. In 2000 the child welfare allowance was paid out to the families of more than 600,000 children – representing the poorest
   quarter of children in Hungary.

        In 2000 the government, referring in part to the improving employment situation,
radically restructured the unemployment provision system. However, the long-term
unemployed were least affected by the slow increase in the number of jobs. Even so, the
restructuring of the unemployment provision system has primarily affected nearly
120,000 long-term unemployed people. In May 2000 the central element of the
provision, income supplement benefit for the unemployed, was cancelled, and the
remittance period for unemployment benefit was reduced to nine months. People
unemployed over the long term may receive regular welfare allowance for a period of
one year but this is subject to the acceptance of communal work for a minimum period
of one month. (Zolnay, 2002)

Enterprise and subsistence

        When talking about the situation of Roma communities after the transition,
everybody points out the extremely high unemployment rate. These figures suggest that
the overwhelming majority of Roma idly sit at home waiting for their monthly benefits.
However, many Roma officially classified as unemployed actually work, although they
are involved in activities not included in official statistics, partly because they work in
the black economy, partly because these are not income-productive activities although
they play an important role in maintaining families even if not representing a suitable
means of accumulating financial resources.
        The most typical subsistence activities available to – primarily rural – Roma are
the following: (Szuhay, 1999): picking produce and herbs growing in the wild,
collecting snails, gleaning crops left after the harvest, agricultural production, day
labour, unqualified casual and hired labour, participating in construction work receiving
welfare policy support, industrial production: making troughs and other wooden items,
basket weaving, “unofficial” brick-making, trade, usury, social care: accommodating
and looking after pensioners in return for their pension.
        Agricultural production plays an increasingly important role in the maintenance
of one segment of village families, although according to research in the case of the
majority of Roma even the minimum conditions are missing to launch production.
(Bánlaky – Kevy, 1998) Taking this problem into account, the programmes referred to
at the beginning of this chapter were launched by the Public Foundation for Roma in
Hungary (MCKA), the National Employment Fund (OFA), the Autonomy Foundation,
        Roma entrepreneurs have to face the challenges thrown up by the problems in
the agricultural sector. The profound crisis in agriculture since the transition means that
this sector cannot represent a solution to the employment of Roma; such programmes
may only provide help in day-to-day survival.

        “Financial aid from support systems in 1996 and 1997 provided opportunities
for a total of 7-8,000 Roma families (35-40,000 people) to start or continue subsistence
farming activities. This means that with such help nearly 10% of rural Roma got
involved in agricultural activities and animal husbandry in about five hundred
settlements over the past two years. (…) The positive effects of such programmes are
not only of an economic and welfare character but they also have social and
psychological features. There are places where the number of people applying for
benefits has fallen, there has been a positive impact on the Roma image, in turn raising
the level of their self-esteem and giving them hope and strengthened motivation to
continue work (…). In the case of most programmes yields are low, a large proportion
of produce is consumed by the families and there is not much left for the market.
Therefore, the repayment of instalments and the continuation of these activities is
Source: Lévai – Szijjártó, 1998.

Families in the north-eastern industrial towns – where there is no opportunity even for
subsistence agricultural production – are in the most hopeless situation.

“In one of the Roma settlements of Ózd unemployment is practically 100%. People live from the residues
of large-scale industrial production by collecting waste metal from spoil tips. After a daily 12 hours of
hard work families are able to scrape together metal worth 500-800 forints. This kind of "mining" from
the crumbling spoil tips has already cost several lives. Conditions here are well characterised by the fact
that the local government has failed to repair the frozen sewer, therefore human excrement flows onto the
street and children – for lack of anything better – play around a disused factory polluted with chemicals.”
(Puporka – Zádori, 1998.)

        Urban Roma entrepreneurs form a relatively narrow but very characteristic
group within the Roma community. There are numerous examples of the activities of
Roma entrepreneurs, from paprika vendors to successful building contractors. (Kállai,
2000) However, contrary to public belief, few ever become wealthy, and most generate
only a limited income from their enterprise.

“You know, too, that it is forbidden. But I’ll tell you if you don’t tell anyone else. So, early in the morning,
I drive to the wholesale market to buy the goods. It’s not always paprika, it can be some other fruit, too,
depending on the season. Then together with my wife and children we go to a subway to sell the goods
from cardboard boxes. We sell everything for 100 forints, this is the price everyone is used to and it is
easy to shout. In the meantime, the children are on the lookout for policemen or public area supervisors.
If they come, then we have to leg it. It’s not a problem that they register us because we don’t have a
registered domicile in Pest, but if they confiscate the goods, well, that’s a real problem because we lose
all our money. Because it is not a big business, there is only a few forint mark-up on each paprika. This is
just enough to buy the goods for the next day and to eat something, that’s all. If everything is confiscated,
then we have to start from scratch again.”
Kállai, 2000, 53.

         The majority of Roma entrepreneurs face similar problems to, and try to use
similar strategies as their non-Roma companions. There are certain sorts of enterprise
where some Roma entrepreneurs are quite successful (e.g. building contracting,
antiques, second-hand trade, distributing cheap city goods bought on so-called Chinese
markets in rural areas, etc.). A survey of Roma antique dealers in Budapest found that
activities like the second-hand trade or dealing with antiquities are based on making use
of family relations. (Lakatos, 2000) A certain group of Roma enterprises has
discovered the loopholes in a stalling capitalist economy and its institutions and in a
society deficient in resources. (Hajnal, 2000)

Employment and settlement abroad

        The westward migration of Roma communities from post-socialist countries
became an important issue for developed countries in the 1990s. It is known that the
British Embassy employed officers in Prague to filter out Roma passengers at the
airport, and recently Canada revoked Hungary’s visa-exempt status due to the increased
number of asylum seekers.

“Even those who only want to explore the opportunities may find they have problems at the frontier. This
was the case with E.G., an entrepreneur, and his friend. They went to Canada for two weeks. They did not
request refugee status at the airport. They took plenty of money with them, as they were accustomed to do.
In fact they had about ten thousand dollars with them which they showed to the customs officers. Right
after that they were separated, an interpreter was called for and they were interrogated for 2-3 hours.
The officers saw their tattoos, their gold jewellery, they saw they were Hungarian Roma (who usually
arrive with small amounts of money) and they were immediately treated as criminals.”
(Hajnal, 2000)

        Immigrants to Canada – as is nearly always the case with immigrants – are
mainly young people. They sell everything they have to cover expenses, and they base
their actions on information from relatives and acquaintances abroad. They are more or
less familiar with refugee procedures and before leaving they try to obtain documents
proving they have been discriminated against.
         Immigrants mainly cite economic advantages as the cause of migration, but all
of them mention discrimination against them in Hungary, too. The tolerant atmosphere
of Canada is also referred to. Naturally, not all immigrants are Roma, and many only
declare they are Roma to get the advantages of refugee status. (Hajnal, 2000) In spite of
the fact that the number of emigrant Roma has been increasing in recent years (until the
visa-exempt status was revoked), their number was never greater than a few thousand
per year.

“Almost everybody knows of a legendary TV programme which no one has seen but everybody has been
talking about. The film was about life in Canada, showing how well people live there. Allegedly it was
said in the programme that Canada was ready to accept racially discriminated Roma living in poor
conditions in Central Europe.”
(Kováts, 2000.)

        Immigration of Hungarian citizens applying for refugee status in Canada began
in 1995: according to the statistics of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), our
fellow citizens submitted 38 applications in that year while in 1996 the number of
applications was 64. In 1997 this figure was at 300, and in 1998 982 Hungarian
applications for refugee status were registered at Canadian borders. While until 1998
the IRB as the competent authority rejected the majority of applications, later the
number of accepted Hungarian applications increased – with reference to changed
conditions and new data: nearly two thirds of applications were considered
well-founded and applicants received refugee status, the first step towards Canadian
citizenship. As a result of these positive decisions, emigration increased, as reflected by
the number of Hungarian applications for refugee status in Canada: 1584 in 1999 and
2484 in 2000. The number of positive decisions, however, has dropped significantly.
According to statistics, there were 3535 applications registered until December 2001.
        The government tends to explain emigration as a purely economic phenomenon,
denying that Roma are persecuted in Hungary. However, institutionalised persecution is
not a pre-requisite to granting refugee status. According to the Geneva Convention on
refugees, for a positive decision it is sufficient to show that the local population is
discriminative or violent towards applicants and such conduct is tolerated by the
authorities, or the authorities prove incapable of providing efficient protection for
applicants. (UNHCR, 2000)
        According to IRB statistics, between 1995 and 2000 31% of decisions related to
Hungarian applications were positive: this means refugee status was granted in 571
cases. Due to the fact that official procedures can last several years, many decisions will
only be reached in coming years. (Roma Press Centre, 2001)

Unequal opportunities


        As already described in the previous chapter, unequal schooling opportunities
largely influence the situation and prospects of the Roma community. The inequality of
opportunities for young Roma to continue their education after primary school is more
than fifteen times, and after secondary school it is more than fifty times greater than
their non-Roma peers.
        Today, at the turn of the millennium, there are seven hundred segregated “Roma
classes” in Hungary. The three most typical methods of segregation are the following:
formation and organisation of “Roma schools", the establishment of Roma classes at
standard schools, and the despatch to special schools of large numbers of Roma
children. The formation of “Roma schools” is partly due to spontaneous migration and
the process whereby small settlements and regions inhabited by the majority of Roma
lag behind, and also to the fact that majority parents take their children out of schools
attended by Roma. (Havas, Liskó, Kemény, 2001)
         As a result of the development of the new local government system, the passage
of the public education act in 1993 and its later amendments and the acceptance of the
National Curriculum, a decentralised public education system has been established
restricting the competencies of governmental public education policies as well.


State of health, health care

According to available data (and bearing in mind Hungary’s already unfavourable
mortality indicators), the situation of Roma compared to their non-Roma counterparts is
considerably worse: on average Roma men live 12.5 years, and Roma women 11.5
years less than their non-Roma counterparts.
        When analysing morbidity figures, Neményi (2000) has come to the conclusion
that “there is high latent morbidity among the Roma population”, while “the rate of
infectious and digestive diseases is higher than that of the entire population and the
rate of perinatal mortality is extremely high.” In respect of the latter, researchers agree
that this is mainly due to the poor living conditions (housing and other conditions,
consumption of cheap unhealthy food) and prenatal care of pregnant women. The fact
that the majority of Roma live in environmental risk areas largely contributed to these
shocking figures. The heavy industries providing jobs for most Roma before the
transition were also extremely hazardous for their health.

        According to research carried out in certain districts of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén
County and Budapest, sick Roma – although this is generally true for uneducated, poor
people – usually go to see a doctor only when the physical pain has become unbearable.
(Gyukits, 1999) The lack of a prophylactic attitude – the enhancement of which, of
course, may be expected from health care – is valid for a significant proportion of the
Hungarian population. Roma living in villages and in rural areas normally have the
confidence to go to their local GP as soon as they detect problems. However, their
attitude to secondary care professionals, and particularly to hospital doctors and staff, is
completely different, being charged with anxieties. The reason for this is that some
professionals working in secondary care and hospitals have a biased, disdainful attitude
towards them. The Roma population is not hostile to health care in general, they respect
and accept the opinion of doctors they know well but, understandably, they try to avoid
frustrating and discriminative situations.
        Research on the situation of Roma mothers in the health care system (Neményi
1998) has pointed out that there are firmly rooted stereotypes and prejudices on both
sides – that is among health care staff and among Roma women – which hinder
communication and thwart opportunities for the formation of a trustful attitude towards
health care.
        A research project on the state of health of Roma (Puporka - Zádori 1999) was
ordered by the Hungarian Office of the World Bank. According to the findings of this
research, the state of health of Roma is mainly determined by social factors. As far as
epidemiological aspects are concerned, not the entire Roma population is at risk but
rather the poor and particularly those living in slums. However, there is a more general
factor which makes it difficult to get a more realistic picture or the facts: the deficiency
of the statistics related to Hungarian health care. While there are relatively precise data
available on mortality, there are no reliable data on illnesses.
        Other researchers also find that the communication gap represents a basic
problem. (Krémer, 1998) Some health care staff are not prepared to communicate with
poorer and uneducated people, particularly with Roma falling into that category. Taking
into account not empirical data but access opportunities to various special fields of
health care, the following areas of illnesses and deterioration of health afflicting the
Roma population may be pointed out:
- locomotor disorders and their late diagnosis,
- psychiatric and mental problems,
- public health problems related to sexuality,
- dental problems.
Institutions of preventive care are practically inaccessible to a major part of the Roma
        In the strategic public health programme elaborated by the Ministry of Health
(2001) a separate chapter is devoted to the Roma population, under the title: “Handling
inequality of health opportunities of severally underprivileged groups of the
population”. Although the programme is only aimed at the north-eastern region of the
country, its proposed solutions were meant to serve as a model. This stopgap
programme, however, also bears the signs of the paternalist attitude still prevailing in
health care. The most important practical objective of the programme is the
establishment of health centres. Within the framework of former poverty policies there
were many health centres in the past serving as a kind of replacement for the bathing
and washing facilities lacking at home. Thus it is somewhat embarrassing to see a
proposal like that among the objectives for modernisation in the 21st century. On top of
all that, the employment of “health guards” and “health centre supervisors” is
mentioned in the programme.

“According to interviews with health care employees, the rough image of Roma is as a population primarily differing from majority
population in being at a different stage of civilisation somewhere between "native" or "savage people" and "civilised people.”

Neményi, 1998.

        The discussion material related to the long-term strategy of the government does
not include many specific solutions in this field: besides wishes (“more efficient
communication”, improving access, expanding provisions, etc.), the enhancement of
the district nurse system, the provision of favourable terms for charged vaccinations and
the programme for the elimination of slums are also mentioned.

The language of public discourse

         Social support is a key element in the efforts aimed at the improvement of the
situation of Roma communities. The lack of solidarity on the part of majority society,
the prejudices of decision-makers responsible for the implementation of programmes or
the – often experienced and often well-founded – suspicion of Roma communities
towards majority institutions are factors which can cause even the best idea to end up in
         Research carried out by the Hungarian Gallup Institute since 1993 on a
continuous basis shows that even inhibitions in respect of displaying open prejudice
towards Roma have disappeared in public opinion since 1995. According to other
surveys, anti-Roma prejudice apparently serves as a basis for making ethnic-based
distinctions between “worthy” and “unworthy” poor people. When announcing the
provision of resources aimed at Roma programmes, mention is frequently made that the
government is able and willing to help only those “who themselves want it”. The
reiteration of this statement activates and reinforces anti-Roma prejudices.
         Even the political elite or certain circles of government are not free from bias. An example of this
phenomenon: in 2000 a high-ranking government officer (sitting on the committee responsible for the
co-ordination of the government’s Roma programme) proposed that Roma be offered free contraception
as a governmental action, saying “at the present rate of reproduction all the money of the Hungarian
budget is going to be wasted in virtually inefficient activities since the underprivileged strata are held
back both materially and mentally by themselves”. (Following widespread protests, the public officer in
question resigned his seat on the committee.)
Source: Bernáth, 2002

        In the past, public prejudices were reinforced through institutionalised examples.
For example, there were serious experiments carried out to establish a scientific basis
for “Roma crime” (Tauszik-Tóth, 1987), although research (Tauber-Végh, 1982) had
already proved in the 1980s that criminality is no greater among Roma than it is among
other groups living in similar conditions. This finding had no impact on public opinion
towards Roma and did not influence the rhetoric of public figures. The stereotype of
“Roma crime” was also supported by the law enforcement system itself. Until the 1990s
so-called ‘Roma lines’ were operated within the police force, carrying out offensive
press activity. Although these lines were closed after the transition, we still had to wait
until the middle of the decade to exclude “Roma origin” as a distinguishing mark from
police vocabulary.

In 1982 the secretary of the Inter-Ministerial Committee co-ordinating the government programme wrote
thus about “the main obstacles to a positive outcome of Roma issues”: “The most significant factor,
however, is undoubtedly the widespread myth in public opinion that the government is devoting huge
material resources to raising up the Roma population. This results in the mistaken belief in non-Roma
society that Roma are being favoured by welfare policy at the expense of others.”
Source: Kozákné, 1984

        In an internal memorandum (1996) the police superintendent of Hungary put it
this way: “It is a violation of norms if the police apply phrases related to a minority or
ethnic group in case of warrants or in descriptions of persons”, thereby denying the
frequent assumption that naming ethnic affiliation makes investigations easier. Such
labelling – in most cases – is not suitable for defining bodily features and is
objectionable from professional aspects as well.
        The timeliness of this statement is well illustrated by the findings of research
carried out among Hungarian police officers (Csepeli-Örkény-Székelyi, 1997):
according to more than half of the people surveyed, crime is a key element in Roma
identity, and two thirds of them believe that incest is typical among Roma. It has to be
noted, however, that this research project itself is a part of the process initiated by the
police force to fight anti-Roma prejudice within the organisation.
        In anti-Roma prejudice there is the several-century-long covert and
contradictory tradition of “cultural racism”. Today, differences originating from the
“specific”, “different” or “special” Roma culture are referred to as explanation by
everyone: the media, teachers, and the mayor approving an eviction order.
        It is matter of regret that in the chapter on exclusion in the discussion material on
the long-term strategy – beyond holding the view that the main reason is the lack of
knowledge about Roma – it is pointed out again that: “Among the reasons for exclusion
a very important role is played by the way of life, and certain features of that way of life.
This, however, often becomes the source of conflict in the relationship with the majority
environment or the basis for prejudice projected on the Roma community as a whole.
(...) Consequently, it is desirable to strengthen the institutions - family support centres,
children’s welfare services, mentor networks – capable of evoking and spreading
cultural requirements related to way of life.”

Roma public life and civil organisations (NGOs)


        In the last decade a thriving civil world has been created in Hungary
representing several interests and meeting the demands of many; the number of Roma
activists and experts in both civil and government spheres is growing, even though their
proportion in not specifically Roma organisations is far below their ratio in the
population as a whole. This chapter attempts to depict this diverse world by discussing
the questions and issues of most concern to the civil sphere of Roma and non-Roma
activists, politicians and researchers.
         It is not easy to decide which organisations should be qualified as significant
since they are all relative newcomers. There are nationally-recognised organisations
operating on only a limited budget but in a very active and innovative way, and there are
other organisations which enjoy considerable financing and yet they remain relatively
obscure. There again, there are other organisations active and recognised at local level
and virtually unknown at national level.
        This review lays stress on how priorities set by certain sponsors influence the
operation of this sphere (whether the Roma civil sphere is built up by communities,
whether it transmits messages from the grassroots to centres of power, or whether this
process takes place the other way round i.e. the authorities sending messages to society)
and whether there are existing relations between organisations/institutions dealing with
Roma issues and Roma communities.
        This review also compares a unique institutional system, the minority
self-governments, and Roma civil organisations, describes their relation to each other,
and attempts to give an accurate — albeit not comprehensive — view of Roma public
life by representing some organisations and programmes.

Historical background: decades of socialism
Continuing a tradition going back hundreds of years, socialist Hungary pursued an aggressive assimilation
policy towards Roma. The majority of Roma communities (today 80-90%) assimilated in their language,
and yet they continue to represent the most excluded minority in Hungarian society. Despite the fact that
official policy refused to acknowledge Roma as a nationality or minority, but only as a socially
marginalised stratum, relatively significant groups of Roma intellectuals and workers were born in the
sixties. These people were sensitive to the Roma cultural movement and were looking for a new
community. "We visited workers’ hostels and played music there, we always encouraged them to play
music too. It was a very special situation. An unacknowledged and thereby depressed Roma culture,
which the majority only ever saw on so-called ‘black trains’ and commented on thus: ‘they only sing
loudly in a language we do not understand’, suddenly appeared on stage as part of elite culture.”
(Selection from an interview with Ágnes Daróczi)

It is important to mention the activity of documentary filmmakers and socio-photographers who
transmitted these issues towards broader strata of society. Interest was raised not only out of scientific
curiosity or solidarity with the poor and the shunned, but by the political content hidden in this question –
speaking about poverty was implied criticism of the political system.
Another important factor was the Hungarian dance house movement born in the seventies, which again
was not free from ideology. It served as a model for the Roma movement, which manifested itself not only
in their similar mentality, but also in co-operation between leading personalities of these two movements.
The turning point came in the mid eighties with the economic crisis and successive shocks borne by the
political system. This process led to political concessions, part of which was represented by Roma self
organisations gaining greater control over their affairs, particularly in the area of culture.

Roma civil organisations

        The structural foundations of Roma self-organisation were laid in the first third
of the 1990s with the establishment of a whole variety of Roma organisations. Support
from the Soros Foundation granted in early 90s was essential to this process; through
the provision of small subsidies to a large number of organisations, it followed a certain
“expansion” logic: to advance the foundation of as many organisations as possible.
Mainly as a result of this, more than one hundred Roma organisations were founded by
the middle of the decade, operating with different profiles and at different levels. All
this was especially important because until recently the “Roma issue” – to a different
extent in different areas – was not really integrated as a thematic issue into the activity
of larger civil organisations in Hungary. No survey has been prepared on the topic yet,
but the experiences of the ProjectR programme launched in spring 2001 – within the
framework of which several meetings have been organised between leaders of these
organisations – provide evidence to support this.
        It has to be emphasised that Budapest plays a less central part in the case of
Roma organisations than it does in other segments of society. The most significant
Roma organisation with the largest membership and the greatest influence – Lungo
Drom, headed by Flórián Farkas – is based in Szolnok. Valuable programmes have been
implemented in Nagykanizsa, Pécs, Debrecen, Kiskőrös, Gyomaendrőd, Szolnok and in
a nearby settlement, Tiszabura. Through the efforts of minority self-governments or
Roma civil organisations complex programmes have been launched in recent years,
achieving significant results in education, retraining and vocational training and in
organising local employment programmes. And last but by no means least, besides civil
sponsors they have been able to mobilise local authority and state resources to
implement their programmes.
        Due to the relatively small civil activity and limited sponsorship, the majority of
these organisations still require support. According to an analysis of Roma programmes
operated during the 90s prepared on behalf of the World Bank (Zolnay, 2002),
programmes financed from budgetary and private resources are not harmonised, and in
most cases the sponsors often have an interest in the results of supported projects too.
From among government sponsors, the Public Foundation for Roma in Hungary, the
Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry for Social and Family Affairs created a
monitoring system accompanied by the strict collection of refundable loans granted to
private entrepreneurs. Of the non-governmental sponsors, only the Autonomy
Foundation has been monitoring its programmes continuously. In other cases the
control of programmes and appropriation of funds is more sporadic and occasional. A
considerable part of Roma civil organisations operate on the basis of tender funds
available through certain projects and for certain programmes. In other words, their very
existence depends on the funds granted. In recent years only a few Roma organisations
were able (by responding to the needs of local communities) to establish broad and
well-functioning relations to local majority institutions — to employment centres,
county pedagogic institutes etc. — and via them to obtain new sources of funding.
       In several cases Roma civil organisations, built from the grassroots up, have

found it difficult to operate since the minority self-government system was introduced.

    Obstacles to co-operation

    In recent years the National Association of Roma Leaders (Cigány Vezetők

Országos Egyesülete, hereinafter called: CVSZE, Debrecen) – as one of the most

successful local organisations – has launched a number of programmes, from a job

registration scheme through a legal aid office, Roma organisations and expert education

to professional training. The training programmes of this organisation cover 36 Roma

minority self-governments, nearly 40 Roma organisations, and 31 post-graduate Roma

community development assistants.

          The quality of these relations also depends - to a large extent - on the openness of majority
institutions. As these institutions have reconciliation and co-operation obligations only towards minority
self-governments, political relations sometimes “overwrite” professional cooperation. A perfect example
of this is the question of employing Roma community development assistants, whose training was
financed through employment centre funds, as employment organisers. Just one third of the nearly 20
persons who received training were able to find places as employment organisers in the settlements
although this was the job they were trained for. The County Labour Centre, in engaging employment
organisers, did not respect professional skills, but rather paid heed to the joint proposal of local authorities
and minority self-governments within the network of the National Roma Self-government. The leader of
CVSZE said, “It is in the interest of the Labour Centre to engage persons trained as employment
organisers, but they do not want to come into conflict with Roma minority self-governments (cigány
kisebbségi önkormányzat, hereinafter called: CKÖ). For the time being, six of these people are employed
because the president of the CVSZE county organisation rang up all the notaries and mayors in the
county.” In the meantime, the number of unemployed in the county stagnated around 34-35,000. The
Regional Labour Development and Training Centre in Debrecen responded to the situation in another
way. According to the deputy director for training: “It is a real problem. We concluded an agreement with
the most successful organisation, CVSZE. Unintentionally, we became involved in this situation of
engaging employment organisers. I care for people, and now CVSZE is the most suitable for this
programme, as they can reach local people. Debate should not be continued at the expense of
Bernáth, (2000)

        As far as the sustainability of Roma civil organisation programmes is concerned,
the fact that they are practically totally dependent on available resources is an important
issue. Like Hungarian civil organisations in general, the majority of Roma civil
organisations too regularly undertake more activities than necessary and follow a
certain “programme expansion” logic. The main reason for this is that most sponsors do
not finance operational costs, so the organisations have to cover these costs by
launching new programmes. In the following, a detailed description of civil
organisations shall be given by main scope of activity.

Minority self-governments

        The establishment of the minority self-government system has had an even
greater impact on Roma self-organisation than Roma civil organisations.

The system of minority self-governments is a typically Hungarian arrangement. According to the
Minority Act which entered into force in 1993, all 13 acknowledged national and ethnic minorities in
Hungary have the right to elect self-governments under conditions determined by law; these
governments operate locally, and fulfil tasks primarily in establishing cultural autonomy.

        Minority self-governments operating in settlements may create national
minority self-governments. The system of minority self-governments was
established in 1994 after the second local authority elections. Although experience
has taught that the system requires modifications in several areas, it still represents a
positive step towards implementing cultural autonomy for national minorities.

Problems for Roma communities are summarised in the report of the ombudsman
for minorities (1999) as follows:
    - since Roma minority self-governments receive relatively limited funding from
       the central budget, they are in effect almost totally dependent on local
       authorities, which have to provide infrastructure and possibly further
       operational funds for their work. Of course, this guarantees their loyalty toward
       local authorities;
    - the main task of minority self-governments is to establish minority cultural
       autonomy. However, this is not the area in which Hungarian Roma experience
       their greatest problems. Roma communities have unreasonable expectations of
       the CKÖs and expect them to solve — mainly social — problems they have
       neither the means nor the authorisation for; several local authorities also try to
       order them to carry out certain tasks, e.g. CKÖs have been asked to distribute
   -   lack of information and preparedness are problems for representatives of
       minority self-governments (this problem was underlined in the report on
       Hungarian minority self-governments drawn up by Liégeois, 1998);
   -   the majority of CKÖs have no appropriate information on opportunities, and in
       most cases they do not receive the necessary information even from the National
       Roma Self-government.

While due to abovementioned situation Roma minority self-governments face
serious legitimacy problems with Roma communities in the majority of settlements,
most government and local authority organs and majority institutions accept them as
legitimate partners in all professional questions concerning Roma.

   Survey on the attitude of Roma in Hungary

     A considerable proportion of Roma (46.4%) assess the work of minority self-governments as
    40% of Roma do not believe that minority self-governments live up to their expectations.
    All Roma think that local minority self-governments are unsuccessful in performing (e.g.
      cultural) tasks determined by law.
    Great differences were discovered in the efficiency of minority self-governments operating at
      five different locations.
    90% of Roma asked said they were against eliminating minority self-governments.
    Instead of cultural, language or history education Roma would welcome minority
      self-governments in areas of labour training, social aid, housing and investigating cases of
      discrimination. The only area where Roma do not want CKÖs to play a greater part is
      performing the tasks of local authorities (e.g. waste disposal, water or energy supply).
    Roma consider it more important for minority self-governments to support the exercise of social
      rights rather than that of minority rights.
   Koulish, 2000

    Leaders of Roma minority self-governments are often members of social
committees, sometimes as chairs of these committees too. This leads, of course, to
conflict: minority self-government representatives often do not have a strong
position, although their participation in local authority work strengthens the position
of the minority self-government system.
         More than 800 Roma minority self-governments receive funding amounting
to 470 million forints i.e. on average 600,000 forints per self-government, which of
course cannot cover their actual operational expenses. In order to be able to operate
they have to win support from local authorities. Consequently, they have become
dependent on local authority financing; these authorities tend to grant support in
order to ensure the loyalty of local CKÖs. This, naturally, makes it difficult for
CKÖs to defend the interests of the Roma community against local authority
         The situation of minority self-governments protesting against segregated
education is a good example: the viewpoints of locally elected Roma representatives
were neglected when appointing the management of several local educational
institutions and approving their educational programmes. Even though according to
legal regulations the appointment of minority institution management and approval of
local pedagogical programmes require the consent of minority self-governments,
surveys show that they do not always take the opportunity to do so or proposals from
those trying to exercise their rights are sidelined by local leaders.
        In 1997, the Centre for Regional Research of the Hungarian Academy of
Sciences carried out a research project on minority self-governments in Baranya County
— focussing, among others, on relations between minority self-governments and local
governments, local and national media and national minority self-governments.
(Csefkó, 1998) Local minority self-governments may play a very important role in
informing local communities, but as the research indicated their limited relations
considerably diminish this opportunity.
        The life of minority communities may be strongly influenced by how well their
self-governments are informed about local decisions and whether they have regular,
formal relations with local governments. Where these are missing, not only may
minority communities find themselves placed in situations they had no forewarning of,
but also, if formal relations are missing, conflicts between majority and minority are
also almost certain to arise. According to the research paper: “Minority
self-governments are often not integrated into the drafting and decision-making
process. This situation is [problematic] because the impact of decisions may be
observed in the life of communities much faster and in a more direct way. In spite of this,
both parties implicitly accept this situation. These bodies contact each other only if a
problem arises.”
        If a minority self-government representative is not a member of the national
self-government “there is practically no functional relation between the two
organisations” which also influences how informed minority self-governments may be.
Among minority self-governments surveyed in a sample this ratio was the lowest (10%)
among Roma minority self-governments.
        The report indicates that relations between minority self-governments and
minority communities should be improved: data show that their communication is
mainly informal, whereas “in order to develop bilateral and mutual communication —
corresponding to local characteristics — minority self-governments have to attempt to
regularly inform their electors on their activities, objectives and decisions. This type of
communication necessarily takes place within a formal framework”.
        Finally, it is of critical importance that each and every Hungarian elector be
permitted to vote for minority self-government representatives at municipal
elections secretly, in the same way and at the same time. In extreme cases this could,
theoretically, lead to control of the Roma self-government system, although there is
no sign of this so far.

Possible control

 “The leader of the local minority self-government and that of the local Roma self-organisation are of
the opinion that the local majority population elected two non-Roma representatives onto the minority
self-government because the inhabitants were afraid of the “Romaisation” of the town and schools.
One of the non-Roma members of the Roma self-government is a teacher from the Földi János School
who, according to senior members of the school and the town, actually assists in promoting
co-operation. The chair of the CKÖ is of another opinion. He believes that majority representation
means majority control, and the teacher as a CKÖ member has already prevented the self-government
from reaching critical decisions on several occasions.”

(Viktória Mohácsi– Gábor Bernáth: Cross grip: battle for the local elite and Roma education at
      Despite their problems, it has to be stated that minority self-governments have
managed to establish a system in Hungary in which Roma communities may or could
express their own interests in hundreds of settlements all over Hungary. The Roma
Self-government in Nagykanizsa led by László Teleki is a good example as it has a very
broad and versatile network of relations and there is a complete institutional and service
network built around it: among them the Roma Public Museum of South-western
Transdanubia, the weekend boarding school, the linguistic study circle for the Bea
Gypsy language, the Youth Teahouse, traditional folk ensemble, poetry group and legal
aid service. The scope of activities of this minority self-government also extends to
employment, publishing of books and propagation of general knowledge. His local
success made Teleki so well known that he was elected deputy chair of the National
Roma Self-government in 1999.


Key topics in Roma self-organisation

        A database prepared for the World Bank in 2000, which of course does not cover
the events of the last two years, but gives a detailed picture of supports granted in the
90s, indicates that the majority of Roma projects supported in the 90s intended to
achieve employment and education objectives, while the proportion of housing and
health assistance was low. This is partly understandable because the means of living of
the Roma minority collapsed dramatically in the early 1990s. After the transition most
representatives of Roma affairs stated that most of the problems faced by Roma could
be remedied through equal opportunity programmes.


        The Public Foundation for Roma in Hungary distributed nearly one billion
(in actual fact 984,437,000) forints in support over four years from 1996. Of this,
307,027,000 forints went on subsistence programmes and 183,601,000 forints on
entrepreneurial programmes. The Public Foundation for Roma in Hungary – besides
civil sponsors such as the Autonomy Foundation rendering material assistance and
the Mediátor Foundation with its non-material assistance – supports community
houses too. The support programme originates from the perception that the majority
of Roma civil organisations and minority self-governments (especially in small
settlements) do not possess the appropriate infrastructural background for their
community development activities. Community houses offer training, computer
services and different cultural programmes, although most continue to operate with
relatively scarce resources. (Lukács, 2002)

         In recent years several civil legal aid organisations have been founded mainly
through Hungarian and foreign private foundations. Special regard should be paid to the
Legal Aid Office for National and Ethnic Minorities founded in 1994 (Nemzeti és
Etnikai Kisebbségi Jogvédő Iroda, hereinafter called: NEKI, led by Imre Furman) and
the Roma Civil Rights Foundation (Roma Polgárjogi Alapítvány, hereinafter called:
RPA). The former organisation publishes its activities annually in its White Papers, the
latter in Civil Rights Papers. Beyond the strictly legal activities of NEKI, RPA applies
other means of legal aid effectively. The organisation, led by Aladár Horváth, is
extremely active in media work and the shaping of a coalition for Roma affairs bringing
together groups of non-Roma intellectuals who have declared their solidarity. (In 2000,
for example, RPA organised a large demonstration of solidarity with poor people,
which was supported by all important Hungarian legal aid organisations. Several
thousand non-Roma were also present to show their solidarity for poor and
discriminated social groups. RPA has also organised commemorations of the Roma
holocaust in the capital for some years.)
         The parliamentary commissioner for minority rights has been active in Hungary
since the middle of 1995. Besides pursuing strict measures against cases of
discrimination he is also engaged in encouraging a solution to the question of minority
representation in Parliament.

 

        The generation which came of age at the time of the transition organised itself
around the Romaversitas, the Kurt Lewin Foundation and the Bronz Club in Budapest,
and around the Amrita Association playing an important role in founding the Gandhi
Grammar School and Collegium Martineum in Pécs. The new generation of Roma
intellectuals is trained within the framework of an education programme elaborated for
undergraduates in the Romaversitas and for grammar school students in the Amrita
Association. The Kurt Lewin Foundation assists young people interested in sociology
and social policy gain admission to university. The Bronz Club provides a venue for
Roma youth to come together and debate issues. The Khetanipe Association (similarly
seated in Pécs) provides legal aid, although its main activities are concerned with
closing the gap between primary school pupils, preparing secondary school pupils for
higher education and organising Roma youth studying at universities. The National
Association of Young Roma (Fiatal Romák Országos Szövetsége — FIROSZ) has been
operating from Tiszabura since 1991, primarily in the areas of education and culture,
arranging preparatory courses for university, vocational training, lifestyle camps and
annual national cultural events.
        Roma self-organisation has been the force behind the formation of several
exemplary Roma educational institutes described in the chapter on education. (The only
Roma grammar school in the world, the Gandhi Grammar School, is based in Pécs,
there are experimental Roma nurseries and kindergartens in Budapest and Pécs, the
Józsefvárosi Training School (Józsefvárosi Tanoda) organises afternoon classes, the
Kalyi Jag Association has founded a school in Budapest, and at last but not least it is
important to mention the Hegedűs T. András Secondary School at Szolnok, founded by
Lungo Drom and the National Roma Self-government.) Unfortunately, due to the
gradual narrowing of available resources these institutions too are not far from being
closed down. Research for pilot experiments (Orsós and colleagues, 2001) calls
attention – among other things – to the fact that work in these institutions may be
distorted or may even cease if foundations and churches currently supporting these
schools and providing in part financial aid from abroad withdraw from Hungary and
national resources do not replace them in time. While pedagogues teaching Roma
children may base their work, programmes and pedagogical methods mainly on their
own experiences, such a wealth of knowledge has accumulated in these institutions that
it would be justified to spread this across broader circles than at present.
        For a long time Roma culture only represented a performance style of Hungarian
composed music. However, at the end of the 60s, beginning of the 70s there was a
breakthrough parallel to the start of the Roma movement. This was partly connected to
the publication of works by Károly Bari and Menyhért Lakatos and to the activities of
Ágnes Daróczi and the Romano Glaszo orchestra. Through the appearance of the
Romano Glaszo on state-run television and radio people could finally meet a Roma
culture different from that they were used to, and its success gave impetus to others: in
the following years a number of orchestras performing Roma folk music were formed.
Folk music collected and published by Károly Bari (Roma Folklore. Hungary –
Romania, I-X., 1999) has assisted ensembles discover the original tonality. Most of the
popular Roma ensembles such as Kalyi Jag, Ando Drom, Kanizsa Csillagai (Stars of
Kanizsa), Szilvásy Roma Folk Band and Lindri have recorded discs and regularly
appear at cultural events in Hungary and abroad.
        The past few years have seen a breakthrough in pop music too. This is the area
best suited to addressing non-Roma youth and middle generations. For instance,
members of the Fekete Vonat (Black Train) playing hip-hop music sing in Hungarian
and Lovary languages, and their Roma identity is a constant topic of their songs. They
have successfully adapted black rap music to the Roma environment of the capital
(Józsefváros). Fekete Vonat won a Roma Civil Right Award and the group regularly
appears in programmes organised by the Roma Civil Right Foundation, which founded
this award. The band Romantic blending Roma music folklore with disco style is
regularly at the top of the sales charts, as is the band Fekete Szemek (Black Eyes) from
        The activities of Roma writers and the appearance of Roma artists contribute to
this flourishing cultural scene.

“The exhibition of self-taught/self-made Roma artists organised in 1979 was the first remarkable event
where Roma (and not only individual artists) represented themselves as an independent ethnic group in an
area of art which until that time was not considered by most people to be a part of Roma culture. Painting
has remained a significant element of the Roma cultural movement. (…) No nationality had until that time
staged an art exhibition of this type. I organised this Roma art exhibition intentionally. This first
exhibition undertook and declared that these were not only creative people but Roma too. Being Roma
represents a certain value and not solely because it is a value in itself. Another important event was the
first Roma folklore meeting in 1981, which brought social acknowledgement of the Roma folklore music
movement (there were no official institutions of Roma culture, and official acknowledgement of the
existence of Roma culture was also doubtful).”
(Selection from an interview with Ágnes Daróczi)

        The Roma Collection of the Ethnographic Museum (financed from the state
budget) is still the largest collection associated with Roma culture and history, and it is
a considerable workshop producing documentary films. The Hungarian Cultural
Institute (Magyar Művelődési Intézet — MAMI) and the Romano Kher have major
collections of paintings; they also act as the greatest sponsors for painters.
(Kerékgyártó, 2000)
        There are Roma cultural associations operating in a number of Hungarian towns,
and a few traditional music ensembles have succeeded in winning national or at least
regional fame. Roma musicians and artists are regularly invited to programmes of
Roma organisations or minority self-governments, which organise cultural events at
least once or twice a year.
        Each year sees a growing number of books published in the Romany and Bea
languages — supported mainly by the Public Foundation for National and Ethnic
Minorities in Hungary and by the Ministry of National Cultural Heritage. Today it is
possible to take an official language examination in the Lovary and Bea languages in
Hungary, but there is still a lag in the publication of language books, auxiliary materials,
and schoolbooks. In its recommendation published in October 2001, the Committee of
Ministers of the Council of Europe voiced criticism of the fact that protection ensured in
the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages did not cover Roma
languages spoken in Hungary – Romany and Bea; this protection devolves an important
task on governments, from official administration through education in the mother
tongue or bilingual education to promoting vernacular cultural products
        Standardisation and the usage of Romany as well as slowing down the rapid loss
of language in all Hungarian minorities are hampered by the lack of basic institutions.
Certain researchers have concluded that the use of the Roma mother tongue — mainly
in education — leads to disadvantages: in Hungary a part of the Roma population is “a
victim to educational language discrimination” which is closely related to the lack of
success and knowledge of pupils. (Kontra, 1997) This problem is also indicated in the
government’s discussion material on the long-term strategy: “Conditions for
vernacular Roma language education should be ensured in kindergartens and schools.
Though the legal conditions are already given for vernacular Roma education within
minority education, further efforts are necessary to standardise these languages and to
train kindergarten pedagogues and teachers speaking these languages.”
        Finally, it has to be remarked that Budapest is not only the centre of Hungarian
Roma public life but to a certain extent the centre of Central European Roma public life
as well. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Open Society Institute (OSI)
supporting Roma issues and the Pakhiv programme of the Autonomy Foundation
aiming at training Central European Roma leaders also operate from Budapest.

Media representation

        According to the only survey ever carried out on the media consumption of
Roma communities (Bernáth-Messing, 1998) there is a considerable, consciously
selective and large-scale Roma audience for the media despite its stereotypical
representations of Roma, near complete lack of Roma appearing in TV entertainment
programmes, the dearth of Roma journalists on editorial boards and the often
devastating opinion of people concerned. According to content analysis, majority media
have a strongly stereotyped view of Roma. However, the gradual improvement in the
situation is shown by the fact that, for example, 60% of the 1500 reports generated by
the Roma News Centre established in 1995 appeared in at least one national newspaper,
and within the framework of their regular media trainee programme organised with the
Independent Media Centre ever more Roma journalists are employed in the majority

In Hungary, two acts (the passage of which required a two-thirds majority) regulate relations between the
media and the minorities: Act LXXVII of 1993 on the rights of national and ethnic minorities (hereinafter
called: Minority Act) and Act I of 1996 on radio and television broadcasting (RTV Act, hereinafter called:
Media Act). One regulation provides for ensuring community rights for minorities giving them access to
mass media necessary to preserve their identity, language and culture (Minority Act), and the other
regulates the content of media addressed to minority groups (Media Act).
          In accordance with the Media Act, the national public service media guarantee regular
broadcasting of minority programmes, although the minorities constantly criticise this because these
programmes are broadcast at off-peak programme times. The National Radio and Television Council
(Országos Rádió és Televízió Tanács, hereinafter called: ORTT) controlling the media offers certain
benefits to programme service providers prepared to serve national and ethnic minority objectives
(annually controlled by ORTT). This was an important aspect taken into consideration when distributing
local frequencies: applicants making minority programmes were in a more advantageous situation, but the
majority of local radio and television channels including such programmes in their programme plans have
not even started making minority programmes despite their pledges.
          In addition to the above mentioned, the government also supports Roma media by providing
substantial subsidies and advantages in legal regulation.
        In 1998, eight Roma newspapers were published with relative regularity; in
addition, Roma media included one television and radio programme — broadcast
nation-wide — and one Internet website. Since then the situation has changed. Printed
media have appeared and disappeared, an independent local radio station started
broadcasting in Budapest and new Internet sites are available.
         Notwithstanding that a relatively broad newspaper market has been established
in Hungary in comparison to neighbouring countries — supposing that all readers were
Roma — less than one percent of the Roma community actually bought the three most
important Roma newspapers in 1998. These newspapers may play a significant role in
shaping public awareness within the Roma community. That is why it is disquieting that
the Public Foundation for Hungarian National and Ethnic Minorities (Magyarországi
Nemzeti és Etnikai Kisebbségekért Közalapítvány, hereinafter called: MNEKK) which
is primarily involved in supporting publication of minority newspapers severely
restricted this plurality by deciding that Lungo Drom and Világunk (Our World) — both
published by Flórián Farkas, president of the National Roma Self-government — would
receive 14.5 and 15.5 million forints respectively from the minority foundation while
Amaro Drom only received a subsidy of 5 million forints.
        The analysis referred to above revealed basic differences in views between
newspapers published by the three most important Roma organisations (Lungo Drom:
Lungo Drom, Roma Parliament: Amaro Drom, Phralipe: Phralipe) in connection with
political participation. For example, Lungo Drom (being loyal to the government in
power) described social problems and did not deal with Roma political disputes,
conflicts in general or discrimination against Roma. On the other hand, Amaro Drom
focused on cases of discrimination, while Phralipe was interested mainly in political

Support for Roma newspapers through the Public Foundation for National and Ethnic Minorities
in Hungary (MNEKK) (HUF)
               1996            1997             1998            1999             2000          2001
Amaro Drom     2,500,000       9,240,000        9,646,000       6,550,000        7,038,816     5,000,000
Lungo Drom      10,000,000      10,380,000       10,836000       12,457,000      11,972,442    14,500,000
Phralipe*       2,500,000       5,300,000        5,533,000       4,000,000       1,000,000     0
Kethano Drom    5,500,000       0                0               0               1,995,442     4,200,000
Cigány Hírlap   9,000,000       0                0               0               0             0
Világunk (Our   0               0                0               10,378,000      13,967,842    15,500,000
Rom Som*        3,000,000       0                0               0               0             0
* Ceased publication

        The year 2001 was a turning point in the history of Roma media: following
several years of failed attempts a Roma radio station finally started broadcasting (for the
time being reception is restricted to the capital only). Mainly staffed by young Roma
journalists, RadioC addresses the entire Roma community in Budapest 24 hours a day
and as it broadcasts mainly in Hungarian it may well serve to channel the Roma view
towards majority society as well. Programmes aim to hold the audience for as long as
possible using the light format adopted from commercial radio stations.
        The Internet presence of the Roma media has also expanded, though there are
considerable shortcomings: the National Roma Self-government and Lungo Drom do
not have sites, and indeed not even a serious introduction anywhere on the web. The
website of MCKA contains very little information. The official website of the National
Roma Information and Cultural Centre ( covers music, sport and
history (at the time this report was prepared it was not functional). From time to time the
website etnonet ( and the website of the Office for National and
Ethnic Minorities ( offer new information; the latter is a separate website
operated with Phare support and it has prepared an own project based on the
co-operation of local Roma community houses and the information flow between them.
The longest established of these sites, RomaPage (, offers plentiful
news in daily updates, recommends cultural events and studies, plus it contains
considerable information in English. The Kurt Lewin Foundation which supports this
portal undertook a pioneering role by publishing a CD-ROM titled Introduction to the
culture of Hungarian Roma (1996). The homepage of the Bronz Club Association
( should also be mentioned. It mainly concentrates on publishing
cultural and political news. The latest initiative in this field is the creation, by the
Romacentrum and the Mediátor Foundation, of a well-organised homepage
( designed to become an institution-developing intellectual
centre hosting homepages of Roma community houses, offering information on legal
aid and business advice; it aims at intensifying communication between Roma
organisations. The publication Amaro Drom operates a high-quality website

Roma pages in the world

From Australia through Norway and Spain to the United States there are a number of high-standard sites
that are user-friendly in their operation, content and design. These include the websites of the Association
of Andalusian Roma (, of the "Romani Union
Australia" ( and of the "Balval" (meaning ‘wind’ in
the Roma language) ( The highest quality is represented by the website
Patrin ( which contains a very rich and up-to-date collection of materials concerning
minority rights, the European history of Roma and the Roma holocaust.
Roma on the Internet. (Internet Kalauz, 2001. 10.)

Representation of political interests

        Since the early 90s Roma self-organisation has aimed at gaining a say in the
political decision-making process and political representation. Minority representation
in parliament, as applied in several countries, would be one solution, but the Hungarian
Parliament has not yet legislated for this – despite its constitutional obligation.
        The composition of local minority self-governments and that of the National
Roma Self-government elected by their representatives is a key issue of participation of
Roma self-organisation in decision-making.

In the mid-80s Roma policy was launched in Hungary within the National Roma Council (Országos
Cigány Tanács, hereinafter called: OCT) founded by and consisting of delegates of the Patriotic People’s
Front and the Cultural Roma Association. This body had its own cultural agenda and was organised from
above. Members of these organisations later continued their careers in the National Roma
Self-government. The majority of the current Roma leadership appeared at that time either as OCT
members or its opposition. Personal continuity of the two directions has remained unchanged, but hidden
ideological and strategic considerations have also emerged: those engaged in politics in OCT (among
others Flórián Farkas, Gyula Náday, József Raduly) undertook participation in public life adapted to the
prevailing government while others, called “Roma radicals” by the party-state (Aladár Horváth, Jenő
Zsigó, Ágnes Daróczi and Béla Osztojkán who is presently engaged in OCÖ), took up an opposition
stance at the cost of political marginalisation.

     In 1993 three large civil organisations espousing different ideologies competed for
limited government support: Lungo Drom, the Roma Parliament and Phralipe. Contrary
to the latter two, Lungo Drom promoted a policy of loyalty to the prevailing government,
and by so doing it hoped that it would be able to obtain more resources for Roma issues
while maintaining good relations both with the socialists and the conservatives. In 1994
Lungo Drom won the minority self-government elections, in 1999 it established the
National Roma Self-government in association with Phralipe for the second time
(critics say that this was in large part because in the preceding year during minority
self-government elections Lungo Drom itself had obtained more support than the other
rival national organisations put together). Both the present and former governments
have made it clear that they deem OCÖ the only legitimate negotiating partner.
         Both sides were represented by their own organisations during the first free
parliamentary elections: Phralipe founded by the opposition and led by Osztojkán
formed an alliance with the Association of Free Democrats (Szabad Demokraták
Szövetsége, hereinafter called: SZDSZ), while the Democratic Association of Roma in
Hungary established with party-state support and with Náday and Farkas – at that time
fighting even with each other – as its members agreed with the Hungarian Democratic
Forum (Magyar Demokrata Fórum, hereinafter called: MDF) which won the elections.
At the elections Aladár Horváth and Antónia Hága from Phralipe, standing on the
SZDSZ party list, and two years later Tamás Péli, a painter representing the Hungarian
Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt, hereinafter called: MSZP), had a seat in
Parliament. In the 1994 parliamentary elections Antónia Hága won a seat under the
colours of SZDSZ and Tamás Péli under that of MSZP. At present there is not one MP
in the 386-member Parliament who would declare himself/herself to be Roma.
         Before the elections of 2002 the Roma community made its first appearance as a
serious political factor (due to the fact that, contrary to the almost universal opinion of
the political elite, research carried out in late 2001 showed significant electoral
motivation among the Roma population). A survey of a sample of 19,000 persons in the
period between May 1999 and June 2000 showed that the ratio of persons definitely
intending to participate in the elections was 60% among non-Roma and only 6% lower
in the Roma population. According to the analysis, a significant portion of the Roma
population was willing to support the Right. (Ladányi, 2001)
         As a consequence, the Fidesz-MPP (Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party) – MDF
coalition concluded a pre-electoral co-operation agreement with Lungo Drom; within
the framework of this pact it nominated Roma politicians (three on the national list and
seven on county and capital lists) as candidates at the elections. Fidesz-MPP – MDF
supports the largest number of Roma candidates – a total of ten – among parties in
Parliament: Flórián Farkas standing in 13th position on the national list (as president of
Lungo Drom), József Varga on 21st place (as president of MCKA) and Mihály Lukács
on 27th place (vice president of OCÖ) have real chances of winning seats in the new
legislative assembly. There are six Roma politicians on the MSZP’s national list; László
Teleki standing on 34th place is likely to become a member of the socialist faction.
Blanka Kozma (president of the Association of Roma Women in Public Life) is placed
29th on the SZDSZ national list.
        In 2002, similar to previous practice, several Roma organisations are trying to
reach the 5% parliamentary threshold either on their own or as a grouping of small
parties. The Roma Unity Party co-operates with three other Roma organisations and
with the New Left (Új Baloldal); Béla Szajkó, leader of the Hungarian Roma Unity
Party (Magyarországi Roma Összefogás Párt – MRÖP), is in third place on its list.
Another Roma party, the Democratic Roma Party, has a candidate in Sárbogárd, while
the Hungarian Roma Party is fielding its own candidates in Mátészalka and Kisvárda.
Nobody knows whether Roma organisations have a realistic chance: in earlier
parliamentary cycles no party organised on an ethnic base could ever get close to the
parliamentary threshold (5%).
        It is more likely that party programmes and bargaining on their implementation
conditions are going to overshadow personal issues.



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Major organisations referred to in the report


Amaro Drom
Editor-in-chief: Kerényi, György
H-1084 Budapest, Tavaszmező u. 6.
Phone / fax: (06-1)313-1887

Etnonet Editorial Office
Publisher: Várfalvi, Attila
H-1055 Budapest, Deák Ferenc u. 17.
Phone: (06-1) 266-2628

Lungo Drom (editorial office)
Editor-in-chief: Paksi, Éva
H-5000 Szolnok, Aranka út 3.
Phone / fax: (56)420-110, fax: (54)372-269

Hungarian Radio Roma Half Hour Editorial Office
Editor: Varga, Ilona
H-1800 Budapest, Bródy S. u. 5-7.
Phone: (1)328-8388, fax: (1)328-7550

Hungarian Television Roma Magazine Editorial Office
Editor: Joka Daróczi, János
H-1054 Budapest, Szabadság tér 17.
Phone: (1)353-3200, (1)373-4046, fax: (1)373-4008

Editor-in-chief: Kerényi, György
H-1086 Budapest, Teleki tér 7.
Phone: (06-1)459-0101, 459-0095
Fax: (36-1)455-0094

Roma Centre
Director: Hegyesiné née Orsós, Éva
H-1072 Budapest, Nyár u. 12.
Phone: (06-1) 413-66-27, fax: (06-1) 413-66-28

Roma Press Centre
Director: Bernáth, Gábor
H-1078 Budapest, Nefelejcs u. 39.
Phone: (06-1) 321-1801
Phone and fax: (361) 321-1810

Editor: Ligeti, György
H-1094 Budapest, Liliom u.8.
Phone: (06-1) 216-2640

Our World (editorial office)
Editor-in-chief: Osztojkán Farkas, Béla
H-1069 Budapest, Szív u. 69.
Phone / fax: (06-1)302-8865

                               Legal protection

European Roma Rights Center
President: Dimitrina, Petrova
H-1072 Budapest, Nyár u. 12.
Phone: 413-2200, 413-2201

Legal Protection Office for National and Ethnic Minorities
Director: Dr. Furmann, Imre
H-1537 Budapest, 114. Pf.: 453/269.
Phone / fax: (06-1)303-89-73, (06-1)314-49-98

Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights
Ombudsman: Kaltenbach, Jenő
H-1051 Budapest, Nádor u. 22.
Phone: (06-1) 269-35-00
Fax: (06-1) 269-35-29

Roma Civil Rights Foundation
Chairman: Horváth, Aladár
H-1078 Budapest, Nefelejcs u. 39.
Phone: (06-1) 352-4502, 352-4504

                            Youth organisations

Amrita Association
Chairwoman: Varga, Aranka

Bronz Club Association
Chairman: Kadét, Ernő
H-1076 Budapest, Nyár u. 12.
Phone: (06-1)413-2250 Fax: (06-1)413-2201

National Organisation for Roma Youth
President: Farkas, László Jnr.
Office: H-5235 Tiszabura
Ady E. u. 4.
Phone / fax: 59/ 355 259

Khetanipe Association
President: Labodáné née Lakatos, Szilvia
H-7621 Pécs, Béri Balogh Á. u. 3.
Phone: (06-72) 510-274
Fax: (06-72)510-273

Romaversitas Invisible College
Directors: Daróczi, Ágnes; Havas, Gábor
H-1078 Budapest, Nefelejcs u. 39.
Phone: (06-1)352-4500

                    National political organisations

Hungarian Roma Parliament
President: Zsigó, Jenő
H-1084 Budapest, Tavaszmező u. 6.
Phone: (1)313-1887

National Roma Self-government
President: Farkas, Flórián
Office manager: Dobóvári, Ildikó
H-1145 Budapest, Gyarmat u. 85/B.
Phone: (1)222-5285, (1)222-5287, fax: (1)222-4792

Phralipe Independent Roma Organisation
President: Osztojkán, Béla
H-1084 Budapest, Tavaszmező u. 6.
Phone: (1)334-0560
                    Organisations involved in education

Collegium Martineum
Director: Heindl, Péter
H-7304 Mánfa, Fábián Béla u. 87.
Phone: (07-72) 489-027

Dr. András T. Hegedűs (Roma Chance)
Foundation Secondary School, Vocational School and Halls of Residence
Director: Csillei, Béla
H-5000 Szolnok, Bajcsy-Zsilinszky u. 2.
Phone: 56/514-097

Don Bosco Primary and Vocational School
Director: Lukács, Barna
H-3700 Kazincbarcika, Illyés Gy. u. 1.
Phone: (06-48)512-729

Józsefváros School
Director: Szőke, Judit
H-1085 Budapest, József krt. 50.
Phone: (06-1) 333-0153

Kalyi Jag Roma National Minority Vocational School
Principal: Varga, Gusztáv; Director: Bogdán, Béla
H-1068 Budapest, Felső erdősor u. 6.
Phone / fax: (06-1) 351-6522

Kovács Zoltán National Minority Nursery School
Director: Debre, Istvánné
H-1212 Budapest- Csepel, Ady E. u.
Phone: (06-1) 278-2612

Department of Romology
Pécs University of Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Head of Department: Forray R., Katalin
H-2624 Pécs, Ifjúság útja 6.
Phone: (06-72) 327-622/4941
Fax: (06-72) 327-622/373

                            Other organisations

Autonomy Foundation
Director: Csongor, Anna
H-1137 Budapest, Pozsonyi út 14. II/9.
Phone: (06-1) 237-6023
Fax: (06-1) 237-6023

Public Foundation for Roma in Hungary
President: Varga, József
Address: H-1091 Budapest, Üllői út 47-49.
Phone / fax: (06-1) 455-9030

Public Foundation for National and Ethnic Minorities in Hungary
President of Board of Trustees: Báthory, János
Director: Molnár, Márton
H-1065 Budapest, Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út 31.
Phone / fax: (06-1) 332-7334 (06-1) 302-6713

Hungarian Soros Foundation
President of Board of Trustees: Halmai, Gábor
Director: Belia, Anna
H-1023 Budapest, Bólyai u. 14.
H-1525 Budapest, Pf.: 34.
Phone: (06-1)315-0303

Office for National and Ethnic Minorities
President: Báthory, János
H-1133 Budapest, Pozsonyi út 58.
Phone: (06-1)237-4400
Open Society Institute
Director: Koncz, Katalin
H-1051 Budapest, Október 6. u. 12.
Phone: (06-1) 327-3027

National Employment Foundation
H-1037 Budapest, Bokor u. 9-11.
Phone:(06-1) 388-12-70
The authors

Bernáth, Gábor
journalist, media researcher, director of Roma Press Centre
Address: 1074 Budapest, Nefelejcs u. 39.
Phone: (06-1) 321-18-10, 321-1801

Forray R., Katalin
educational sociologist, university professor, Head of Department of Romology at Pécs
University of Sciences
Address: Pécs University of Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of
Romology, H-7624 Pécs, Ifjúság út 6.
Phone / fax: + 72 503 600 / 4373
E-mail:; /tanszekek/romologia

Ligeti, György
sociologist (candidate PhD), IT expert, part-time teacher at ELTE Department of Social
Address: H-1136 Budapest, Balzac u. 17–19.
Phone / fax: + 36 30 /212 5426

Mohácsi, Erzsébet
social instructor, student majoring in Romology, employed at Mediator Foundation
Address: H-1072 Budapest, Nyár u. 12.
Phone: (06-1) 413-66-28

Wizner, Balázs
sociologist, research fellow at HAS Institute for Sociology, scholarship holder of Civic
Education Project Hungary
Address: HAS Institute for Sociology, H-1014 Budapest Úri u. 49.
Phone: + 1 224 07 87


Who are they? (Ligeti,
György) ……………………………………………………………..5
      Names …………………………………………………………………………

Results and problems in schooling (Forray R.,
Katalin) ……….………………………...14
        Schooling and changes in
education ……...……………………………………………...14
        Week spots in
schooling ....…………………………………………………………..18
        Systems of
support .....………………………………………………………………..28
        Tertiary education and teacher
training ..……………………………………………..32

Opportunities and inequality of opportunities (Bernáth, Gábor – Wizner,
characteristics …………………………………………………………………35
strategies ………………………………………………………………...45
opportunities …...…………………………………………………………...50
        The language of public

Roma public life and civil organisations (Wizner, Balázs – Bernáth,
Gábor) ..………...54
       Introduction ...…………………………………………………………………
       Roma civil
organisations ……………………………………………………………..55
self-governments ….………………………………………………………..56
        Key topics in Roma
self-organisation ……….……………………………………...59
representation …..………………………………………………………………..62
        Representation of political

Appendix (Compiled by: Mohácsi,
       Sources …………………………………………………………………………
       Major organisations referred to in the
report ….……………………………………..73
authors .…………………………………………………………………………..79

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