Photo Journal: Leaving Fakulteta

Yesterday at the crack of dawn I got on a bus with a bunch of kids from Fakulteta and went to school.

If you’re from Bulgaria, there’s a lot of meaning packed into that sentence. Fakulteta is where the largest group of Roma in Sofia — otherwise known as Gypsies — live. It’s a place of desperate poverty and more than a little controversy. During recent demonstrations sparked by the death of a non-Roma boy, some nationalists proposed razing this neighborhood right to the ground.I’ll leave it for another day to tell the story of what happened once I arrived at the school, and how Roma education might just turn out to be a decisive question for all of Europe. Suffice to say that these kids were all Roma, and this particular school was located outside the confines of Fakulteta.

But really, they’re just kids. And on this particular day they had a visitor with a camera on the bus. Big excitement.

“Are you coming to our school?” Bayjil asked me.

Just like kids anywhere, most of the girls sat in the front except for a few bold ones. The boys wanted to talk about soccer. And all were happy to talk about school and the future.

Yoni likes math and wants to be a “police guy.” Dani prefers reading and imagines himself as a firefighter. Others want to be actors, photographers, karate experts.

And when they get off that bus every morning and walk into the schoolhouse — just like kids from Belfast or Boston — they deserve the best education money can buy. They’re our best chance to make the future better than the past. Right?

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