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Poor gypsy children in Hungary struggle with digital education

BODVAS ZILAS, Hungary (AP) – 12-year-old Mihali Horvat cannot wait for his school to reopen in a village in northeastern Hungary.

As the devastating COVID-19 wave swept across Hungary in the spring, classes were suspended and students were ordered to study online. But Michali’s family, who are part of Hungary’s vast gypsy minority, do not have a computer or internet connection in their home in Bodvasilas, he says, and as a result are falling behind in school.

“Some students have a phone, some have a computer. “But there are others like me who do not have it,” he said from the yard of a dilapidated house where he lives with nine other family members. “It is more difficult for gypsy children like us. Some do not even have writing instruments or anything. ”

He is one of thousands of Roma families in Hungary who have been particularly hard hit by the epidemic. Many marginalized Roma adults have already lost their jobs as the Hungarian economy has been blocked by coronavirus, leaving their families in poverty. Some have reported that they sell their possessions, such as cell phones, to make ends meet.

Carmen Bastiur, Mihali’s older aunt, says most of the Roma children in Bodvasilas do not have access to digital devices and do not complete the printed homework given by the school.

“There is no help for them. “(Mihali) can not use online education because we do not have a computer,” he said. “It would be easier because he could talk to his teacher, who could help with homework that he did not understand.”

According to the National Democratic Institute in 2020, a non-profit organization operating in the United States. According to an August poll, only 41% of Roma households in Hungary have both cable and mobile internet, with 13% saying they have no internet at all.

A January 20 report by the Hungarian Deputy Minister for National Minorities states that for Roma children in poor families, “the transition to digital education has multiplied their existing shortcomings.”

Mihali’s relatives, like many gypsies, rely on seasonal or informal day labor for income. But business closures and other epidemic restrictions have caused them to lose their jobs, leading to deeper impoverishment and food insecurity.

David Vig, director of the Hungarian human rights group Amnesty International, says the state has done little to help those workers who were not entitled to unemployment benefits or wage support when their jobs disappeared.

“There is zero protection for workers (daytime),” he said. “Any state support related to COVID, if you do not have a formal (employment) contract, is not there.”

According to some estimates, gypsies make up almost 10% of Hungary’s population, with many living in one of the country’s 1,300 isolated cottages.

Bodvasilas is located in one of the least developed regions of the 27-nation European Union. According to Eurostat, this GDP per capita was only 40% of the EU average.

The local council provides one hot meal per school year to school-age children in exchange for the usual free school meals. But Mihali’s family is still struggling to get enough food on the table.

“Sometimes my husband and I do not eat, but rather we leave the food for the children,” said Bastior, who lives with Michal in a three-room house with his children, grandchildren and cousins.

Two weeks ago, the family was told that the small, dilapidated house they had rented had been sold, and that they would have to leave in a month, otherwise the police would be called to evict them.

“He told us to clean the yard, clean the house, take out all our furniture and leave. “But we do not know where to go.”

“Our dream will be to have our own place where children can live in peace … so my two grandchildren and I will not have to live in this misery,” he said through tears.

On Monday, Hungary reopened kindergartens առաջին the first four grades of elementary schools. Mihali is looking forward to May 10, when her grade may return to personalized lessons. But until then, his family is not sure where he will come from.

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