Ferenc Orsos

Citation

This profile was prepared when Ferenc Orsos was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Taking advantage of new legislation in Hungary that requires schools to implement a minority education program, Ferenc Orsos has launched a program to train teachers in special techniques that he has developed, over a seven year period, to teach Roma children. His work represents one of the first serious efforts within the Hungarian educational system to address the needs of the most underserved minority group in Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe. However, Ferenc's work goes beyond simply wanting to improve the test scores of Roma children. He is fighting to preserve his people's cultural heritage, which is disappearing in this era of cultural homogenization.

Ferenc's work is similar to Slovak and Romanian intellectual leaders of the nineteenth century who, during a time when they represented relatively small and insignificant minorities with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, used cultural mythology and their indigenous languages, to instill a sense of ethnic pride in their people. Ferenc's work is more complicated than those activists of the nineteenth century, because, unlike Slovak and Romanian culture, Roma culture has always been held in the lowest regard by all other ethnic groups in the region. Therefore, he must, through his program, combat a sense of self-loathing that many children have about their culture. By teaching Roma students about their cultural heritage, music, dance, and mythology, Ferenc and the "patrons" whom he recruits to work with children after school, are building up awareness, self-confidence, and pride. Ferenc has found that these qualities directly increase the children's success in academic undertakings. The goal is for them to be able to comfortably take their place in the Hungarian educational system and the society-at-large without sacrificing their own cultural identity.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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