Covid affects Roma communities disproportionately. Families often live in multi-generational households, often in crowded poor quality rented accommodation. The culture is extremely hospitable and it is very difficult for us to maintain social distance without giving offence. Roma in Eastern Europe often live in excluded communities and attend low quality segregated schools; one of the reasons we came to the Western Europe was to benefit from inclusive education and to be treated equally. Many of the older generation suffer the illnesses associated with poverty and lack of access to good quality health care and information, and are therefore particularly vulnerable to Covid.
Parents are very protective of their children and when Covid hit, they were the first to keep their children at home. Unfortunately, when the lockdown was lifted, they were some of the last to send their children back to school. Most schools have tried to stay in touch with their pupils and support their home learning by digital means, but most Roma homes don’t have computers or tablets, and if they do they are likely to be shared between a large group of people. Children whose families have moved home and need to enrol at a new school, especially when phase transfer is involved, are in serious danger of dropping out of education.
Before Covid struck, Roma were feeling extremely threatened by Brexit and the hostile climate for immigrants. Most are unsure where their future lies and in this climate of uncertainty education takes a lower priority. For most families feeding, clothing and keeping them safe is most important.