From a Rom settlement to university, against all odds

A young Romani woman in Greece will be the first woman in the history of her settlement to attend university.

Dialekti Angeli
Dialekti Angeli NewsMavens, Greece
From a Rom settlement to university, against all odds - NewsMavens
Woman writing. Pexels

Why this story matters:

Visdan Ali Oglu, from the small village of Drossero in northern Greece, will study in the Department of Philosophy in the University of Rethymno, following her childhood dream of becoming a professor.

Visdan’s father, Junker, was able to attend the University and become a nursery teacher. He is the first person from Drossero to ever manage to study in the history of the 5,000-people settlement. 19 years have passed since then, and now his daughter is next.

It is unusual for a Romani girl to follow a different path other than that of marriage at a very young age. But Visdan’s parents insisted, and constantly advised her not to listen to what people were saying. They told her to focus on studying and follow her dream.

Visdan’s success is a source of joy for her grandparents, who never managed to attend school. They saw their son become a nursery teacher and now their oldest granddaughter is getting ready for university. They say that “she escaped her fate and a different future is dawning for her”.

It may seem odd to celebrate a young woman's admission to university in 2018, but stereotypes and the exclusion of those in the impoverished settlement continue to hold sway.

Especially given the fact that the Roma people are often excluded from decent housing, and do not always have access to educational facilities -- which leads to high unemployment levels. They also tend to have worse access to healthcare than non-Roma. These problems derive in part from Roma culture, but also from the fact that Greek society has a distorted perception of them.

Miserable living conditions and surrounding racism often compound the Roma's lack of trust for mainstream society. Especially since many official policies have resulted in cruel violations their rights over the last decades.

The result is a vicious circle, a spiral of isolation, which needs to be broken as soon as possible if we desire a harmonious coexistence.

Details from the story:

  • The Rom settlement of Drossero in Xanthi is known as an impoverished and isolated ghetto. Children have been able to finish elementary school in the last few years, but attendance at secondary school is not widespread. Only in the past few years have the first girls been able to attend high school.
  • Visdan’s father, Junker, has tried to pass on  his thirst for learning. Apart from lessons in elementary school, he volunteers, organize lessons for the elderly, and encourages young people to study, contrarily to most people would assume of the Roma attitude towards education.
  • There have recently been educational reforms for the Muslim and Roma minority population in Thrace, towards the lifting of educational isolation, but Drossero’s settlement still has a long way to go.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at