Information from the Council of Europe (CoE): Recommendation CM/Rec(2020)2 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the inclusion of the history of Roma and/or Travellers in school curricula and teaching materials

On 1 July 2020 the Committee of Ministers at the 1380th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies adopted for the first time a recommendation that calls on its 47 member states [1]) to include the history of Roma and /or Travellers in school curricula and teaching materials. This recommendation and its commentaries outline several ways in which the 47 national governments can improve understanding of the Roma and Travellers’ culture and history and provide a positive narrative of Roma and Travellers’ contributions to local, national and European cultural heritage with the aim to combat hate speech, discrimination and prejudice in the new generations.

The Recommendation calls for offering a balanced and contextualised teaching of Roma and/or Travellers’ history as people present in Europe for centuries. Teaching should include also information on the contribution that Roma and Travellers make to national economies, such as trade, metalwork and other handicrafts, as well as animal husbandry. It should reference the various aspects of Roma and/or Travellers’ history and culture, such as storytelling, literature, religion, music and traditions, while also raising awareness of the “asymmetric social progress and unequal access to social rights” that they have experienced throughout history.

Considering that the purpose of the CoE Recommendation is:

– to promote the inclusion of Roma and/or Travellers’ history, including both remembrance of the Roma Holocaust and positive narratives, into school curricula and teaching materials, with the aim of building a culture of tolerance and respect at school;

– to develop the historical awareness and the consciousness of all pupils; contributing to the assertion of Roma and/or Travellers’ identity; and enhancing the understanding that Roma and/or Travellers are an integral part of both national and European societies;

The Council of Europe recommends also that teaching of Roma and/or Travellers’ history could be incorporated into various school subjects, such as history, civic or social education, literature, religion or ethics, arts, music or languages and that this approach would contribute to further developing a number of competencies (democratic citizenship, human rights, gender equality, social skills, intercultural understanding, etc.).

The development of relevant teaching materials could build on existing web-based materials of the Council of Europe and other international stakeholders and should be contextualised to the national situation, in close consultation with representatives of Roma and/or Traveller communities.

 

Within this context the Art4Rom https://www.art4rom.eu/ and Music4Rom https://music4rom.com/, the two European funded projects designed and coordinated by the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation are perfectly in line with Recommendation 2020/2 of the Council of Europe. The specificity of Art4Rom project is in fact of being a project primarily aimed at creating knowledge and space in European educational settings of the Roma culture for Roma and non Roma children into primary schools. The project embraces the concepts of art integration and proposes modalities of teaching based on the important values and unique joy of the arts while addressing issues related to Roma culture. The partners of the Art4Rom project have developed and made available to teachers, educators, parents, local authorities and national education policy makers different resources from a repository to a methodology and video and communication libraries that allow to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the Roma culture and create awareness about the culture and the traditions that the Roma populations have developed in music, storytelling, poetry, art, design and dance to fight stereotypes and enhance social skills and respect at school.

The Music4Rom Project was conceived from the idea that, today, no one realises (or remembers) that classical music was often inspired by Roma music. The guiding principle of the project is based on the principle that the world has no idea nowadays (or has stopped remembering) that classical music has often been inspired by Roma music. Classical composers such as Liszt, Brahms, Dvorak, Sarasate, Kreisler, Kodaly, Bartok, Bizet and many other have been inspired by the music and life of gipsy musicians.

The project partners, from Spain, Bulgaria, Italy and the United Kingdom to Belgium, France and Romania, are a group of Roma and non Roma various music-oriented organizations that have worked together on carrying out this project and reflected on the deep, age-old, intense connection between Romani music and classical European music as well as flamenco, jazz and folk music. The project results have promoted the heritage of Roma music through a range of activities (workshops, master classes, concerts, publications, etc.). While hoping to attract the interest of the public at large, far from stereotypes, prejudices and preconceived ideas the consortium’s ambition was also to enable today’s Roma to have pride in their heritage and culture.

 

After the end of the two projects the partners have continued to enhance awareness and promote a positive narrative of the Roma culture and tradition in their artistic and teaching activities. In Spain for example after participating in both projects Roma music has been introduced as the story line of history sessions because it makes the history sessons more attractive and more fun. At the moment In Spain the musical dramatization of a letter written by a Roma woman while she was in Auschwitz is ongoing and that will be release on July 30.

In France the Roma music will be represented in the Agora of Traditions and Musical Cultures “Yehudi Menuhin” and will be at the heart of the Zyriab project carried by the  Centre Européen de Musique (CEM). The Zyriab project will link the eastern tradition to the western tradition notably in the creation in Andalusia of the musical form “nouba” receptacle of an extraordinary hybridity which also leads to the Indian ragas.

 

The Recommendation seems a good starting point to let the Council of Europe know the work carried out by the International Yehudi Menhuin Foundation and its partners[2] following the inspiring   vision of Lord Menuhin who has been a prominent supporter and admirer of the cause of the Roma and of their cultural richness.

 

Mrs. Cinzia Laurelli

Coordinator on behalf of the IYMF of

Art4Rom and Music4Rom projects

 

 

[1] https://www.coe.int/en/web/about-us/our-member-states

Last retrieved 15.07.2020

[2] A complete list of projects carried out by the IYMF in support of the Roma people : http://www.menuhin-foundation.com/in-recognition-of-the-cultural-wealth-of-the-roma-people-through-the-years/#:~:text=Yehudi%20Menuhin%20was%20a%20prominent,without%20ever%20altering%20their%20identity.&text=The%20IYMF’s%20concerts%20often%20include,musicians%20from%20different%20cultural%20backgrounds. Last retrieved 17.07.2020