Ismail Gunduz (Season 02 - Episode 18)
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This Week's Changemaker; Ismail Gunduz Adapts Education to the Roma Children's Culture

 

On 24 February 2011, Sabanci Foundation's "Turkey's Changemakers" program hosts Ismail Gunduz, the Buyukcekmece District Governor in Istanbul, who attracted Roma children to schools with an important aspect of their culture: music.

 

Roma people are among the most colorful nomadic communities in the world. However, their colorfulness and nomadic nature create major issues in Turkey as in the Continental Europe. Available data highlights that there are approximately 800.000 Roma citizens currently living in Turkey. Although there have been efforts at different levels of governance for their adaptation to social life, Roma people in Turkey represent a marginalized group that are often denied their basic rights to education, health, shelter, sanitation, work and social security.

 

Within this context, Ismail Gunduz's project intends to ensure Roma children's basic right to education. Having worked at different levels of government, Ismail Gunduz was appointed to the Administrative District of Buyukcekmece in 2007. One of his first observations as a Governor was the high number of Roma citizens living in the district. When a local study revealed the low enrollment and high drop-out rates among Roma children Ismail Gunduz began his quest for a solution to this pressing educational problem.

 

First, thorough the support of local philanthropists, musical instruments were bought and a children's orchestra was established at the local school. The goal was to empower children through music, which is a vital element of Roma culture, and thereby encourage them to pursue further education.

 

The children's orchestra attracted around 100 Roma children within the last 3 years. Roma children that once despised school have now become enthusiastic music students at Fine Arts Schools. The fame of The Roma children's orchestra has spread across the country and led them to perform at various activities and ceremonies. Their recent event took place in the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Youth Arts Show.

 

Ismail Gunduz aimed to make education inclusive for Roma children that eat, sleep and breathe music. This project fueled brighter future hopes in the lives of Roma children. It changed their perception on education and motivated them to pursue their aspirations to become talented and educated musicians. "I think we succeeded in achieving our goal. Even if we manage to prevent one child to commit a crime through our project, we consider ourselves successful." says Ismail Gunduz.

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