Judit Berki

* 1956

  • I was a high achiever at primary school and I was given a grant so I can attend a secondary school preparatory course. It wasn’t a huge amount of money but came in very handy for us back then. I completed a year long prep course and I was offered a seat at Madach Secondary School. And you know what, there were only two gipsies int he class of 42, István Kunsági and I? I believe that I was given all sorts of extra bonuses there, which proved very useful later on. I became part of a very good community. And whether you were a gipsy or not was completely irrelevant. […] I think that your schooling is rather formative for your life. The kind of classmates and teachers you have. What you are regarded as by them. […] And my classmates came to visit us. They loved my granny’s bread and butter as well as her apples. No one said that ’I just won’t come to your place’. And I also went to see the Jancsó’s. So I was an integral part of the community of classmates. I see that nowadays a part of kids get completely excluded from these opportunities. Wealthy families are so self-contained nowadays that they are inaccessible. As an advocate of integrated education I’m convinced that the most efficient way of learning is learning and picking up things from your peers. I got registered in Ervin Szabó Library and checked out lots of books regularly. I also made a list of what I’d like to get from the second hand bookstore, there was no way of affording brand new books. But I always made a list of what I’d like to get for my birthday of Christmas and I always did get them. I was an ardent reader. But it was maybe due to my peer group being ardent readers themselves. We came to that school to learn, to get knowledgeable and to be able to help each other. And this is the ability that I managed to maintain. And it has top priority in my life, too.

  • – I applied for a HomeLodging Manager post. That’s how I came to live in Kisterenye. I worked as a manager here for quite a while. And back then it was up to me to decide who I wanted to work with. It was great and I managed to set up a nice little team. And we assisted a lot of kids in flying the nest. – What exactly is HomeLodging? What’s the set up? – There were fifteen kids in this particular HomeLodging. I was the manager and I had staff working for me. It was a round the clock duty. – So these kids actually lived there, didn’t they? – Yes. Just like the kids who live in this house. This is where they go to school from, this is where meals are cooked for them, they do live here. The educational rationale was to teach them all the skills that they will need to be able to look after themselves when they move out from there. This is essential as in the large children’s home everything was provided for them. The point here was to teach them to live independently. You had to assist them with their studies, you check what they are doing and help them pick their clothes. Basically, you take care of them as a mother would. Back then we regarded it as a rather progressive thing. And that’s what it was! I remember people collecting signitures to prevent kids from state children’s homes from moving in, these children are not wanted there, they are gonna be up to all sorts of things. In actual fact, kids weren’t up to any mischief and they managed to get involved in all sorts of projects […] In the children’s home children were grouped according to age. Even if they were siblings. In homelogings brothers and sisters moved in together, which was of huge importance but emotionally straining, too. […] Then finally everyone calmed down, procedures got established and things were taking shape. Eventually, I was the manager of this house for seven years.

  • In 2000 there was a Roma Community Centre Grant. We applied for it. It included an opportunity for us to set up a weekend school kind of thing but only on Saturdays.We were expecting kids who, for some reason, would like to either excel in a subject or make up for the gaps in their knowledge. We were granted a moderate amount of money. We could open the school every Saturday. We rented a hall and got stuck in. It turned out that there was a huge demand for what we had on offer. Eventually, we gave lessons all over the place on Staturdays. We kept expanding. They said we won’t find any teachers who would do Saturdays. It turned out that they will come and work with the children as long as they get their wages. Moreover, they invest not only their fourty-five minutes into the effort but will go the extra mile as well. Then there was a sequence of EU grant proposals and we had won each and every of them.Then we undertook to establish a chain of open schools. That’s how Mátraverebély, a segregated township and Lucfalva, a dead end village got involved. And we also had an open school in Kisterenye, further up. So, we had four open schools. Later on, we had to close the one is Kisterenye due to lack of money. At present we operate three open schools with more than 110 people. We would have capacity for many more than that, but we cannot afford it as we are on a low budget. For the last couple of years we haven’t won any grants. We keep the schools running on private donations in additon to the four million Forints we were granted by the ministry for the three open schools.We have donors giving 2 000 Forints per year or 500 000 per year and there is an ltd supporting us with 2 million Forints per year. That’s how we manage. And with loads of voluntary work. I and Szilárd, we also work on a voluntary basis. […] If we don’t win a grant at the open school tender, we’ll have to think over how we want to proceed. Kids come at about half past one and stay till the evening.This is how it goes in each of the open schools. And you have to figure out on an ongoing basis how you go about supplying things that you need.

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    Bátonyterenye, Hungary, 27.03.2017

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Nothing can be as efficient as learning from each other

Berki Judit
Berki Judit
zdroj: Berki Judit

Nursery teacher, education orginiser, social worker, politician of social affairs She was born to gipsy parents in Kisvárda in 1956. Her parents gave her up for adoption within the family. She was a couple of years old when the family moved to Budapest in the hope of a better living. She lived in a poor but loving family as a child. She graduated from Imre Madach Secondary School, Budapest. She failed her entrance exam to college, therefore she took up flower arranging. A couple of years later she earned a degree as a nursery teacher, and then moved to Bátonyterenye with her family. Later on she earned degrees in education organisation, social work, social policy and rehabilitation business management. At the dawn of her career she was a primary school teacher and worked in community centres and she worked in several homa-care homes.She was the director of the first Homelodging in the country for seven years and then worked as the director of the old people‘s home there between 1997-2002. In 1996 she was involved in founding the county association of Roma minority MPs, which she was the president of till 2002.In 2000, with her expert guidance, the Open School of Bátorterenye, an institution designed to educate and animate socially disadvantaged, primarily Roma children and youth outside the school, had been established,. There are open schools in Lucfalva and Mátraverebély affiliated to the headquarters.Between 2002-2004 she was the head of the State Secretariat for Roma Affairs as deputy state secretary. After it she worked with Katalin Gönczöl fot the social crime prevention. From 2004 to 2010 she was the manager of the County House of Opportunities in Nógrád. From 2009 onwards she has been a fellow in the Programme against Child Poverty at the Academy of Sciences. At present, she is the consultant manager of the Open School in Bátorterenye. Her examplary achievements have been acclaimed by a variety of awards (Roma Public Life Award, 1999; Tolerance Award, 2003; Justitia Regnorum Fundamentum Award, 2012).She has three children and five grandchildren. She lives in Bátonyterenye with her third husban, Szilárd Szomora.