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Case Study No.5

The Roma Boy


College of pedagogy- Pleven, Veliko Tarnovo University


Key words

Ethnicity, education, institutionalization, stereotypes, prejudices, social exclusion

School involved

School education

Detailed description of the situation

Mitko is 18 years old and is of Roma origin. His parents are uneducated and unemployed. The family lives in very poor living conditions and does not take care of their 6 children. None of them are covered in the education system. When he was 6 years old, Mitko was taken out of the family and placed in a specialized institution in order to provide a suitable environment for his development and upbringing. The initial assessment of the team of specialists found a visible lag in his cognitive and mental development, which they attributed to the influence of Mitko's family and origin. 

From first to third grade, Mitko attends mainstream education school, but has serious learning difficulties. He does not speak the Bulgarian language well; he fails to master the relevant curriculum - he has difficulty writing and reading. There is also a lag in social development. Teachers are guided by the prejudice that there can be no serious progress with him due to the fact that he is of Roma origin.

When Mitko is in the end of the third grade, he is examined by a medical commission, which diagnoses a "mild degree of mental retardation" (IQ from 50-55 to 70-75). This gives grounds for the specialists caring for him in the institution to move him to a helping school. This type of schools offers specific programs to provide conditions for children with intellectual disabilities and other developmental disorders and deficits to acquire basic knowledge and skills necessary for a relatively independent life as adults.

From fourth to seventh grade Mitko attends a helping school. The specialists at school, as well as those at the institution, take care of the boy, but without additional efforts to develop his potential. In the period when Mitko is in grades 5-7, for three consecutive years a project for educational support of the children from the institution is being implemented, which is a joint activity of her team, a non-governmental organization and young volunteers. 

Different forms of extracurricular learning and activities are conducted with the children in order to overcome the learning difficulties. At the insistence and with the assistance of the NGO, the team of the specialized institution takes action to return the student to a general education school after passing the necessary procedures for equating the educational degree. 

Mitko is currently completing his secondary education at a mainstream school. From the very beginning, he was very well received by the school community. Teachers are familiar with his history and show understanding and support. The students accept him as one of them. He continues to be supported by NGOs and young volunteers, who provide him with additional forms of pedagogical work to fill the educational deficits. At the same time, this helps him increase the motivation for personal growth and development.

What was wrong in the initial reaction? What would you do?

Share your ideas and suggestions on TEACHmi online Forum!

Here are few questions for self-reflection:

  • What would you say to people who are prejudiced against the boy and influence his development?

  • Would you criticize or advise them? How?

  • What do you think would be the appropriate forms of working with adults to overcome ethnic stereotypes and prejudices?

  • Which of the proposed activities in the toolbox do you think may help you address similar situations?

Initial reaction

Due to the stereotypes and prejudices against the marginalized Roma community, the specialists from the institution and the primary school teachers underestimated the boy's potential and did not fully assist in overcoming the learning difficulties at school, caused not by intellectual deficits but by social deprivation.

Suggested solution

  • Training of teachers and pedagogical specialists for overcoming stereotypes and prejudices towards the ethnically different;

  • Forms of additional qualification for work with students from ethnic minorities in order to more effectively support the learning process; 

  • Providing more hours in a school for intercultural education to increase the cultural sensitivity and intercultural competence of students;

  • Individual work with students from vulnerable ethnic groups for psycho-social and pedagogical support in the process of their education and development; 

  • Providing conditions for inclusion of external participants (NGOs, voluntary organizations) in various forms of social pedagogical support of students from vulnerable groups at school and in specialized institutions for children deprived of parental care.

  • Topic 4 of this toolbox offers some ideas and practical activities to help teachers manage diversity.

Why is this case-study relevant?

Basic human rights, such as the right to education and personal development, can be taken away or restricted because of prejudices and stereotypes of people from ethnic minorities and vulnerable groups. 


When people overcome these prejudices and have the appropriate cultural, they show understanding and empathy and are able to provide a supportive and inclusive environment for educational and social integration of children of different ethnic origins. It is necessary to carry out targeted activities for students and professionals working in a multicultural environment, to overcome prejudices and form positive attitudes in a cultural context. 

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