For four years, director and human rights defender Mona Nicoara followed a group of Roma children in their attempt to integrate the Rumanian education system, which is divided along ethnic lines. Our School is a moving portrait of poverty, discrimination and segregation, but also of freedom, humour, innocence and the worry-free country life of children in the Roma community.
Alin, Beni, Dana and Elisabeta are children from a Roma community. Together with their family, they live in ramshackle homes in the rural area outside the Rumanian town of Targu Lapus. The children can make a new start when back in 2006 European policy makers decide that the severely underprivileged Roma in Rumania are entitled to decent education in the same way as the rest of the population. They move from their dilapidated makeshift school to a real school in the city centre, where they meet with Rumanian children. Full of hope and expectations about better education and the opportunity to become friends with their Rumanian peers, the children go to their new school. There, however, they face discrimination, isolation and a lack of confidence in their capacities. The Rumanian teachers are at a loss what to do with the newcomers, as they struggle with preconceived ideas, fear and ignorance. ‘My colleagues take pity on me,’ says a woman teacher whose task is to educate the Roma children. According to her, not only do Roma lag behind in terms of education, they have a different disposition than the ‘ordinary’ Rumanian children: ‘Violence is simply in their blood.’