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José Antonio Jiménez, national police: "We have to gypsyize the university, normalize things"

José Antonio Jiménez, a national police officer from Zaragoza, is one of the founders of the CampusRom initiative in Aragón, which he currently coordinates.

This national entity, which emerged in Barcelona, ​​aims to promote access to higher education among Roma students, with an information and support task for those over 16 years of age that guides this group in their middle-level academic aspirations or higher professional training, baccalaureate or a university degree. This week a pedagogical exhibition has been inaugurated that abounds in the history and culture of the gypsy people; it consists of a series of explanatory panels; It has been promoted by the Zaragoza Association for the Promotion of Roma and the Association of Teachers with Roma, and can be visited at the Faculty of Education of the University of Zaragoza until next Monday, April 4.

Jiménez, who has a university degree and continues to expand his training in this environment, is proud to lead kids of his own ethnic group down this path. “CampusRom began in Barcelona under the impulse of four Roma people, among whom was the Doctor of Education Fernando Macías. They evaluated the problem posed by the high rates of academic absenteeism in the Roma community, and thought about the possibility of a more empathetic and close method for others to travel that path of access to the classrooms. The germ was in the neighborhood of La Mina in Barcelona, ​​and from there came educators, sociologists, psychologists... many of them, moreover, were evangelical pastors”.

In Aragón, CampusRom was looked at with curiosity. “Here we start with another approach: four gypsies from here get together to train professionals in cultural elements of the gypsy community that are not so well known, because they exceed the clichés; if you fall into prejudice and stereotype, and educational methodologies are based on those prejudices, you go straight to failure”.

The CampusRom coordinator in Aragón cites a few positive references in the academic field for the Roma community. “We have Carmen Jiménez, a social worker and educator at the Zaragoza City Council; Luis Miguel, Law graduate; Enrique Fernández, computer engineer… I joined the National Police in 2008. When we contacted Fernando Macías and decided to create CampusRom Aragón in 2018, we redoubled our efforts with training and talks; Today we have 50 collaborators in the network, most of them Roma but not exclusively, who make informative contributions, offer pedagogical actions, share research... in addition to that support network, there are 15 people as members of the network”.

Tangible results

CampusRom has signed Expertia and Universia agreements with the Private Cultural Foundation Company-University of Zaragoza (FEUZ), by virtue of which there is a transfer of university students of Primary and Early Childhood Education to teach reinforcement classes to gypsy boys and girls in compulsory studies who have problems when doing their homework. To these students we signed the 20 hours of work that they must do in terms of learning and service in exchange for this educational reinforcement. The first semester of this project, called EducaRom and which takes place in the Pedro de Luna classrooms, has a spectacular balance; 100% of the students who receive this reinforcement have passed everything, and 70% have done so with an average of notable and outstanding”.

There are many cases of students who have gone from ones and twos to sevens and eights, who regularly miss class but do not miss any afternoon reinforcement. “We have already had to hear the easy and racist argument about the reality of gypsy school absenteeism a thousand times: that we do not like to get up early. I see the success of EducaRom as the transfer to academic success of a close and dedicated teaching environment, in which parents also have participation”.

"The easy and racist argument for gypsy school absenteeism is that we don't like to get up early"

Another CampusRom and Unizar project has to do with informative talks offered by Roma professionals to students. “We take care of disseminating successful educational actions through the faculties, with the presentation of practical cases, and abounding in the field of human rights. We explain the values ​​of the Roma community, the erroneous clichés and half-truths about us, the heterogeneity of the group... we also have a group of 17 people who prepare the course for access to intermediate level and who are the fathers and mothers of the children cared for in EducaRom. They study three afternoons a week with our program, and take the exam in May; some of them also focus on access to university for people over 25 and 45 years of age”.

Jiménez has a very clear goal. “We want to gypsyize the university, so I tell you. That our children, cousins ​​and nephews come to the classrooms and see gypsies in their row, and can speak with the codes of our culture without having to build a gentrified personality, an image 'tolerated' by the environment that fits. The point is to go to the cafeteria and have a coffee with another gypsy, a payo or share a table where there is everything, without more. Things have to be normalized, and that can only be achieved with training. And that there is no feeling of losing cultural identity by entering a university environment; if you are not an isolated case, if you stop being news, which I understand we have not yet reached that point, it will not be necessary to even consider giving up that essence through a process of group adaptation”.

On Monday 4, university act

Next Monday morning, with the presence of the most important authorities of the University of Zaragoza and the regional councilor for universities Maru Díaz, the Faculty of Education will host a commemorative day of the International Day of the Gypsy town. "The anniversary is Friday, April 8 -explains Jiménez- but on this day we will focus on a pedagogical effort with a main conference with three voices, including Ramón Flecha, Tania García-Espinel and Fernando Macías, and the moderation of the Professor of the Faculty of Education of the University of Zaragoza Ana Díez-Barturen Llombart, who has been a magnificent ally for the organization of this conference and the excellent communication that we maintain with the University”.


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