S. Hammar

Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
Roma people have lived in Finland for 500 years. They are an old ethnic minority, with their own language, customs and culture. Today Finnish Roma population (about 10 000 – 12 000) has spread over the whole country. The most large group lives though in southern Finland and in metropolitan area. The Finnish Roma have Finnish citizenship and are on average in a better position than Roma in many other European countries. They have the same rights and obligations as the others citizens. In 1995, the rights of the Roma as a minority were incorporated for the first time in the Constitution and, later on, by means of many laws and treaties.

Besides of their legal status of today the fact is that the members of the Finnish Roma community have had many difficulties over the past centuries and are still often facing prejudices. The educational level among the community is lower than in Finland in general and their unemployment rate is quite high. Former wandering lifestyle, brief history of going to school on regular basis and tenuous tradition of encouraging the young members of the community to get an education are some factors that have kept the Finnish Roma at least partly excluded from society.

The educational level of the Finnish Roma is raising slowly. It is obvious that the community is having more positive attitude towards schooling. Parents who have been to school are in a better position to support their children. Today, going to school is taken for granted in most Roma families and the grades of the pupils have improved. Also more children of the community have some pre-school education. The number of Roma taking vocational study courses has also more than doubled in 10 years.

There still are however some challenges that are slowing down Roma´s ways to get a good education and occupation – and finding their places in the labour market. One factor to take into account is the fact that Roma young people often start a family early on and that is why they are easily dropped out from higher education. If schooling is interrupted, it may be difficult to start again and find a job in the future.

Among the Finnish Roma there are some good experiences already that education is powerful key to inclusion into the society. Today the community is more and more interested using their widely reaching networks to promote the educational level of the whole community and finding new ways to enter into the labour market. Working closely with policy makers, authorities and other actors have made the Finnish Roma more visible and heard. Within two large national projects Tšetanes naal – educational pathways and Nevo tiija (European Social Fund 2016-2018) there is development work going on to build a holistic educational model that we wish to introduce and would also be very happy to get some feedback of it. The target of the model is to find new ways to strengthen and engage young Roma adults to get proper education and occupation - and by the aid of that promote social inclusion of the whole community.