University researcher offers an insight into Sheffield’s Roma community

You can’t generalise about Sheffield’s Roma community – that’s the view of a lecturer who has spent years studying their arrival in the city.

By Gita Juniku
Monday, 1st July 2019, 2:26 pm
Dr Mark Payne, professor at the University of Sheffield
Dr Mark Payne, professor at the University of Sheffield

Mark Payne, a lecturer at The University of Sheffield has worked on the educational and social integration of newly-arrived migrant and Slovak Roma pupils.

He has carried out research into the lives of many Roma in the UK as well as spending time living and working in Slovakia, which is where most Sheffield Roma are from originally.

The lecturer admits to being fascinated by a community that has so little yet remains ‘so positive’.

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He said: “When I look at the conditions in Slovakia and how they continue living, sometimes, without running water or without education, it is incredible how they still remain upbeat.”

Roma endure racism when trying to find jobs, housing and education - making it difficult for them to find work in Slovakia, according to the European Roma Rights Centre. That is one of the main reasons behind the fact many Roma migrate throughout Europe and further into the western world, according to Mr Payne.

“They know there are no jobs in Eastern Slovakia," he said.

“They see that people are going abroad to Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Sheffield, Manchester and London - making money and saving it so they can make their houses in Slovakia better and better.”

Mr Payne received funding for a five-year longitudinal research project called Nurturing Slovak Roma Children at Secondary School.

"My experience of the Roma is that you can’t generalise,” he said. “Roma people are made up of many kinds of people of many nationalities, cultures and practices.

“It’s not a homogeneous community but what we’ve got in Sheffield is a particular community from eastern Slovakia so there are a lot of similarities. They speak the same type of Roma language, with Slovak.

"What I find fascinating is that they will go back because they have their homes and their hearts in Slovakia and in their communities that they come from."