A Seat in the Back Row

By • on June 28, 2013

A Seat in the Back Row” (the original Italian title being “C’è posto all’ultimo banco”) is a story about twenty years of providing education to Roma children.

We are in Rome, in the early 1990s. A group of volunteers approached local Roma communities and started to walk with them on the path of social integration, which began with the affirmation of a right to education.

We worked closely with the Roma community, opening a dialogue with public institutions, with teachers, with other parents, in an attempt to affirm the right of every child to attend school.

In the early years, the schooling project and the integration policies developed in parallel. However, today these two paths have separated. While Roma children attend school in all grades, often with excellent results, Italy did not pursue a process allowing Roma families to progressively leave camps and test other types of housing.

This lack of synergy between the commitment to support the needs of children and their full emancipation from a life in the camps, and government policies, which actually promote the camps as a solution for the housing needs of Roma families, risks compromising the achievements obtained in the field of education.

It is commonly believed that the schooling project has played an important role in providing children with the same tools needed to build their future that their peers had. Education prepares them for working life, and makes them more independent and responsible.

The stories that Arci Solidarietà Onlus has collected in this book are based on the experiences of its activists and educators, officials from the institutions we have collaborated with, and children who were direct beneficiaries of the project.

With the help of trained anthropologists, sociologists and cultural mediators, the book analyses the impact of the schooling project on the areas where Roma communities live and on the country at large. The book is a result of a sustained commitment, carried out in difficult conditions, of lives lived together with Roma people, of a territorial network built bit by bit.

A Seat in the Back Row” is a collective accomplishment that, through a choral narration, brings to life many years of work. It’s a true story, one of girls and boys who are usually placed in the back row in most of our classrooms, within the ranks of the invisible, of those who don’t deserve to be seen. It is a long story made of achievements and failures, tragedy and comedy, and constant struggle. It is a story in need of a happy ending.