COMMUNITY

Greek pupils scoop top EU prize on Roma inclusion drawings

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Community, Education

Four seven-year-old Greek pupils with hearing problems have won their Thessaloniki school the top prize in the European Commission’s School Drawing Competition aimed at teaching children about the inclusion of Roma people in their communities.

The pupils of the Special Primary School for the Hearing Impaired, at Panorama in Thessaloniki, collected the top award in the “Give Me 5!” competition for primary schools across the European Union, in a special event held at the European Parliament’s Office in central Athens on Friday.

Their winning drawing was inspired by the theme of a bridge between cultures, based on five pillars: Culture, Sports, Education, Playing games and Emotions, according to their teacher, Vasso Stavropoulou, who also spoke to Kathimerini English Edition of the children’s devotion to the project.

Their team of Natalia Mavriki, Michaela Pamoutzaki, Vyron Tziolas and Alexis Zace included a Roma child, and showed remarkable understanding and creativity in the context of the project, with headmistress Paraskevi Naoumi stressing that the idea of the bridge came from the pupils themselves.

The award came with a cheque of 1,000 euros from the Commission, that will be used by the school for buying books and drawing materials, said Stavropoulou, who appeared eager for the school to enter the competition again next year.

The Give Me 5! competition forms part of the Commission’s “For Roma, With Roma” project by the Directorate General for Justice and Consumers, led by Lina Papamichalopoulou, the Cypriot official who is the Head of the Non-Discrimination Policies and Roma Coordination Unit in Brussels.

Participating in Friday’s event were also the Zakladni skola a materska skola Milotice school from the Czech Republic, that finished second in the competition, and the Vasarheyi Laszlo Alapfoku Muveszeti Iskola school from Nyiregyhaza in Hungary, that finished third.

Twenty-one countries participated in the "Give Me 5!" competition in its first year, with 589 drawings under the theme: “Give Me Five Reasons We Are the Same” – eventually involving 2,500 children across the EU. Nineteen of those drawings were exhibited during the special event in Athens having won their national finals.

The selection of the three winners, Papamichalopoulou stressed, was not made by a committee or by the European Commission, but by the European citizens themselves: “We did not intervene, we kept the public vote. Thousands of people entered the competition’s website and registered their votes, expanding further the reach of the whole project,” the Cypriot official underlined.

“This school competition has been the most successful part of our campaign against discrimination. We have therefore ‘spoken’ to a few thousand children and their families,” added a satisfied Papamichalopoulou.

Representatives of all three schools spoke of the children’s excitement with the project, and noted their own gratification from watching the pupils work together and interact transcending any race boundaries.

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