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Poor education used to protect traditional ways of life for Travellers

Updated on August 16, 2012

Education is what defines us. It will usually, but not always define the sort of job we get, and how we fit into, and contribute to society. Even if we take the hospitality industry as an example, counting stock levels, understanding rules and regulations for staff, applying discounts, reading items off on the till. Without English and maths, we would cease to be able to function as a productive part of society. In morocco, young girls without an education are brought into homes as cleaners. The majority of them face years of sexual abuse at the hands of the 'man' of the house. The girls are often poorly educated, which allows this outdated system to continue. Surprisingly though, it does not just happen abroad, but also in the UK. The traveller community; whose ancestors came across from India, in around 250BC, employ similar techniques to ensure their young people don’t depart from the traveller way of life. The majority of traveller children will only be in school till aged twelve. At that age, they stop going to school, and so despite having just as much promise as other young children can never get main stream jobs, due primarily to lack of education, and a lack of a fixed address. The girls especially are denied secondary education. The systems that are meant to stop young people truanting are ineffective when dealing with traveller children. As they move about so much, it is hard to keep tabs on them. With no job prospects, most end up working on the black market, selling drugs, and stolen goods. Others never have or want jobs. The statistics are horrifying; around eighty percent of secondary-age Traveller children are estimated to be out of the education system. The department for children, schools and families recognises that the educational achievement of the Traveller youth is the worst in the country.

The major fear amongst the Traveller community is that by giving their children an education, they will reject the Traveller way of life, which will lead to a weakening of traditional values in the community. The motto for the Traveller way of life is “we keep ourselves to ourselves. What’s your business is your business, and what’s mine is mine.” The problem is that achieving complete isolation from the rest of society is nigh on impossible in a world as connected as ours. I can try a live a separate life, but I what if I need milk? I have to go down the shop. Even if, I rear my own chickens, then I will need to trade the meat for others items to get something resembling a balanced diet. If I need alcohol, I will need to go and get it from somewhere. Furthermore, the lack of education also has detrimental impact on life expectancy. Traveller children's life expectancy and health is the worst in the country. A lack of education means that young people aren't informed regarding nutrition, and illnesses which can have a devastating impact on their health. Very few have doctors and so are forced to just wait out illnesses rather than get antibiotics to help their body fight infections. It’s sad, that in a country where education is freely available (something some countries could only dream of) there are about 80,000 young people that are denied the right to that education.

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