On 1 September 1998, a new school opened up in the city of Kolín in Bohemia. In marked contrast to other educational institutions in the Czech Republic, this one aimed to be Roma-friendly. In fact, the Romani High School for Social Affairs was the first secondary school in the country established by and for Roma. Local Czechs looked on suspiciously, while others asked if this new school heralded the development of a Roma elite in the Czech Republic or provided a means of self-segregation that simply confirmed the inability of the two groups to live together. This piece first appeared in The New Presence, a Czech/English monthly where I was editor, in October 1998, and then it was republished in a number of places throughout Central Europe.
"This is a completely normal school," says Doctor Tluchorova.
As the educational director of the new Romani High School for Social Affairs in the Central Bohemian town of Kolín, Tluchorova is trying hard to present the school's best image. We sit in the staff room of the new school, as her office is still a jumble of paint cans and building tools. Everything in the building smells of drying paint and carpet adhesive.