In 2008 I was invited by a Fulbright Scholar Eric Lopez, and his then-girlfriend (now wife!) Jenny Pichardo, to come visit and spend time at an amazing new school in a small Roma/Gypsy village in Sajokaza, northeast Hungary, called Dr. Amedkar High School. Eric was researching the education of Gypsy youth in Hungary, and he came across The Jai Bhim Network, an educational project created by Janos Orsos and Tibor Derdak. In his research on Dr. Ambedkar Eric found the website for Jai Bhim International, our project in India which is also inspired by Dr. Ambedkar, and we started corresponding, and then spending the Summer, in Budapest and in Sajokaza, together with the Jai Bhim Network team.
There are so many overlaps between the experience of the Dalits/ex-untouchable communities in India and the Roma/Gypsy communities in Hungary, in terms of historic oppression and modern-day discrimination. Dr. Ambedkar believed in youth and believed in the importance of education. His vision has inspired all of us in this new circle of global friends, our students, their families and their communities.
Dr. Ambedkar High School has grown since I visited 9 years ago. They have designed a flourishing Arts-based curriculum, their team has evolved, they now have teachers from their own community, and they have graduated 100 students. This is quite an accomplishment for a community where 1% of students finish secondary school, compared to 80% in the the rest of Hungary. Our friends have made a 40-minute documentary about the Jai Bhim Network and the students at Dr. Ambedkar High School, including a student named Igor, who has returned to high school at age 30, and will soon be graduating! Angry Buddha is another good film to watch to learn more about this innovative educational community.
Click on the photo below to see a slideshow of memories, from Budapest and Sajokaza.