How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic and Digital Divide Impact Ciganos/Roma School Pathways?
2. Contextual Background
2.1. Educational Situation before the Pandemic
2.2. Determinant Factors in Educational Achievement and/or Continuity
3. Materials and Methods
3.1. Qualitative Data Collection with Different-Level Participants
3.1.1. Interviews with Professionals from Community Projects and Evangelical Priors
3.1.2. Focus Groups with Ciganos/Roma Students, Their Families, Evangelical Priors, Activists/Associative Members, and Intercultural Mediators
3.1.3. Ethnographic Observation from Roma/Ciganos Young Students’ Daily Life
3.2. Data Analysis, Ethics, and Quality Criteria
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Beyond the Visible Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Roma/Ciganos School Pathways
4.1.1. Digital Divide and the Non-Access to Online Classes
“(...) in the Ciganos/Roma communities, not everyone had and has access to the same conditions to enable the sufficient number with access to computers, for example, in my case, in the early days there were only two computers, and I have four students (...) two at university (...) and the other two in secondary education. And it was very complicated, very complicated.”(Focus Group 2, Family member of Young Students)
“(...) if the majority community was frightened, let’s say, was affected, shall we say, by the pandemic, it is even more disturbing in the Ciganos/Roma community. So, there are people attending school online, but there are people who don’t have a computer (...)”(Focus Group 3, Teacher)
Lucas’ access to the internet could be problem for the resumption of online classes, via the Zoom platform. In his area, there is simply no internet by optical fiber, and the internet he receives at home is costly and slower, and all his neighbors complain.(Field Diary, Ethnographies with Young Students, April 2021)
“Now, at this stage of the pandemic, we are adapting and it’s being more difficult, because there are many who don’t have access to the online workshops, a great number in fact.”(Interview, Technician of the Escolhas Project, AMP)
“(...) many Ciganos/Roma families do not have access to electricity, to water, etc. and many students lost out (...) during those months, due to the fact that they don’t literally have the means to learn anything.”(Focus Group 1, Young Student)
Due to the pandemic, João started to have classes through the Microsoft Teams online platform, but only the theoretical modules, which did not require any type of specialized software. All the modules of the technical area were suspended, with the teachers having said it was necessary to wait until the pandemic situation was over and that, until then, they should “do what they could”. The youngster was worried about the possibility of all the practical assessments being postponed to the end of September, and that there would be an overload of work at that time. In contrast to João, Lucas’ school decided to bring the summer holidays forward; therefore, since then, this student has not had any school task to perform. He received news from the school and knows that he will have online classes as soon as the holidays finish (he doesn’t yet know when he will resume classes) through the Zoom platform, with the camera switched on, but the microphone switched off, so that only the teacher can talk. He will be submitted to an assessment system in which the teacher asks the students questions individually and they will have to switch the microphone on and answer. They will also have “worksheets” to complete, which they will receive by e-mail. However, the youngster was skeptical about this system, as the only contact his year group had attained with the school, in virtual format, up to that date, had been to receive work by e-mail and send back to the teachers. Lucas was also clearly apprehensive about the possibility of the national exams being postponed to September.(Field Diary, Ethnographies with Young Students, April 2020)
4.1.2. Discontinuities in Daily Routines and Significant Relationships
“(...) I am in my first year [at university], I have just finished, but I was having the best time ever, because the people there didn’t judge me because of what I was, my past experiences, what I did… (...) nobody judged me, I was me and that was it. And I’ll tell you, it was really tough for me to go home and have, for example, classes like this, because it was just at a time when they weren’t judging me and were getting closer to me, shall we say, it was at that moment this happened. And at that moment when we feel that we can do something (...) And (...) in which everyone is getting closer to you (...) this happens and at that moment you feel that it’s the right time, it’s now that I am going to manage to change the mentality, probably not 100%, but manage (…) to make them think about it seriously (...)”(Focus Group 1, Young Student)
“I think that there has been a decline in my children, why? Because of their habits, because they don’t have schedules, basically. They are at home, they are protecting themselves, right, they are not completely in the streets, basically they are living at home, and what happens? At home, they don’t have almost anything to do, they don’t feel like doing school tasks, they sleep, (stay up) until 1 or 2 in the morning (...) And at school, they had to go to school, socialize with other children, you might not think so but they had other activities, another motivation to do their work, to do better, and like this there just isn’t, there isn’t and this situation is more difficult.”(Focus Group 2, Mother of Young Students)
“(...) if it were not this situation, as a rule, what they do is go to school, then they come and study and do their homework with us, and we try to motivate them as much as possible (...). At the moment it’s going to be very difficult to motivate them to go to school.”(Interview, Escolhas Project Technician, AML)
“But now there’s been (...) this outbreak, again, this new peak and we decided, for safety reasons, that it was best to close the churches again for a fortnight. Just so as to help in (...) not spreading the virus through us. (...) it has been the church, we have done (...) this mediation. Ultimately, the work of a pastor, nowadays, in the midst of society, has been mediation and it has been a very successful mediation in that regard. Of course, not all are successful, there are also some who get tired half way along the path (...) and leave, but in 90% of the cases, we are successful with this.”(Interview, Evangelical Pastor, AML)
“(...) there’s a lot of informal work which also doesn’t help these families at all because in a situation like this they are completely unprotected and then there’s no form of applying for parental leave, there’s no sick leave, and even if there is, it’s limited. I was just with a family that had a new born baby, the baby had heart problems and the mother went to hospital with the baby where she was hospitalized, because of pseudo-Covid screening the mother had to stay. And then the situation immediately started getting more complicated because the father actually works and has a contract, but the issue was that if the father stayed at home, he would automatically lose 40% of his wage (...) and this is complicated (...) in these households.”(Focus Group 3, Escolhas Project Technician, AMP)
“Then we also had to support the families here, try to understand their needs in terms of foodstuffs, because it’s like this, many households didn’t experience a change in economic circumstances because those that are social insertion income beneficiaries stayed the same, but they had their children at home throughout the entire day, meaning more meals (...) and when they are engaged in summer or easter activities they are in the project and we provide a meal here (...)”(Interview, Escolhas Project Technician, AMP)
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
We maintain the Portuguese emic term, as recognized and used by the Portuguese Ciganos themselves. In international contexts, the term can be understood as Portuguese Roma or Romani persons.
EduCig Project: School performance among the Roma: research and co-design project (PTDC/CED-EDG/30175/2017), funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).
https://www.seg-social.pt/covid-19 accessed on 4 July 2022.
In Portugal, in 2020, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Access and Usage by Households and Individuals was 84.5% of the national population (Information and Communication Technology (ICT))—Access to the Internet—OECD Data (oecd.org).
Integrated Education and Training Program (PIEF): which seeks to foster fulfillment of mandatory schooling and social inclusion.
Educational Territories of Priority Intervention (TEIP): a government initiative, currently implemented at 136 school groupings/non-grouped schools that are located in economically and socially deprived territories.
Recognition, Validation, and Certification of Skills (RVCC) processes seek to identify knowledge and skills acquired over a lifetime, assessing them according to structured rules and procedures, and validating them through the awarding of school and/or vocational/professional certification.
Escolhas (Choices) is a governmental program created in 2001, with its current generation (7th) involving a total of 112 funded projects (30 in Northern Portugal). Its main objectives are the boosting of educational achievement and vocational training, the development of social and personal skills, and the monitoring of life projects of socially excluded youngsters, by fostering their individual abilities. Various project activities are carried out in the youngsters’ own contexts, such as at schools and neighborhoods, with Education and Training being one of the program’s five priority areas.
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|E1||Female||39||Bachelor in Social Service||Coordinator|
|E2||Male||45||Bachelor in History of Art and Master in Artistic Studies||Coordinator|
|E3||Male||49||Bachelor in Communication Sciences||Coordinator|
|E4||Female||29||Bachelor in Social Service||Coordinator|
|E5||Female||32||Bachelor and Master in Education Sciences||Coordinator|
|E6||Female||31||Master in Education||Coordinator|
|E7||Female||21||Bachelor in Social Education||Technician|
|E8||Male||38||Master in Education||Technician|
|Participant||Sex||Profession or Status||Area of Residence|
|P1||Male||Evangelical Pastor and Intercultural Mediator||Lisbon Metropolitan Area|
|P2||Female||Student and Activist||Lisbon Metropolitan Area|
|P3||Male||Fair Vendor, Activist||Porto Metropolitan Area|
|P4||Female||Vice-chair of a Cigano Association, Activist, and Intercultural Mediator||Central Portugal|
|P5||Male||Activist||Lisbon Metropolitan Area|
|P6||Female||Vice-chair of a Cigano Association||Lisbon Metropolitan Area|
|P7||Female||Activist||Porto Metropolitan Area|
|P8||Female||Intercultural Mediator||Lisbon Metropolitan Area|
|P10||Male||Evangelical Pastor||Porto Metropolitan Area|
|P11||Female||Intercultural Mediator and Trainer||Lisbon Metropolitan Area|
|Participant||Sex||Schooling Level||Profession||Institution Represented|
|P1||Female||Higher Education||Psychologist||School Grouping|
|P2||Male||9th Year||Intercultural Mediator||Association Supporting Social and Community Integration|
|P3||Female||Higher Education||Service Technician||School Grouping|
|P4||Female||Higher Education||Community Educator and Escolhas Project Coordinator||Sports Association for Social Change and Inclusion|
|P5||Female||Higher Education||Social Educator||School directed at Prevention of Early School Leaving|
|P6||Female||Higher Education||Higher Education Technician||NGO|
|P7||Male||Higher Education||Participant in socioeducational project||NGO|
|P8||Male||Higher Education||Teacher||Secondary School|
|P9||Female||Higher Education||----------||School Grouping|
|P10||Female||Higher Education||Teacher||School Grouping|
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Mourão, S.; Pinheiro, S.; Mendes, M.M.; Caetano, P.; Magano, O. How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic and Digital Divide Impact Ciganos/Roma School Pathways? Soc. Sci. 2023, 12, 86. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12020086
Mourão S, Pinheiro S, Mendes MM, Caetano P, Magano O. How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic and Digital Divide Impact Ciganos/Roma School Pathways? Social Sciences. 2023; 12(2):86. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12020086Chicago/Turabian Style
Mourão, Susana, Sara Pinheiro, Maria Manuela Mendes, Pedro Caetano, and Olga Magano. 2023. "How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic and Digital Divide Impact Ciganos/Roma School Pathways?" Social Sciences 12, no. 2: 86. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12020086