Gypsies want skills training to escape deprivation;Briefing;International

11th June 1999 at 01:00

Young Portuguese gypsies want more vocational training and see this as the key to social mobility for their sons, whom they want to be doctors and lawyers, says a European Union-backed study.

Young Gypsies and Training, a survey of 200 young people aged 16-25 in Lisbon, found aspirations at odds with their educational attainment. Of the sample, 24 per cent described themselves as illiterate and 36 per cent could barely read and write.

"For cultural reasons, gypsies tend to leave school early. Their parents go out to work as street traders and they go with them," said Susana Alves, a co-ordinator of the study, carried out by the National Organisation for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies. She also blames school curricula for lacking relevance to gypsy people.

Portugal has the second-largest EU gypsy population after Spain. Most have abandoned nomadic lifestyles and traditional rural jobs for housing estates and shanty towns on the outskirts of big cities.

Only 26 per cent of the sample had a job and 96 per cent of these worked as street traders.

A massive 77 per cent were interested in vocational training, though few had experience of it. They preferred training for manual jobs as dress-makers, cooks, mechanics and electricians.

"This means we should provide more places on training courses rather than changing the courses themselves," said Ms Alves.

But the gypsies wanted better for their children, though hopes were divided by gender. For boys, 30 per cent wanted them to become lawyers, 15 per cent doctors. For girls, the main choices were dressmakers, housewives and street traders.

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