I can't say for certain that that is why he was grinding peppers on this summer afternoon. Those are just my educated guesses. This boy lives in a complicated linguistic situation. Romany around him speak their own version of the Romani language (Gabor) at home. The other villagers around him speak Hungarian. The national language is Romanian.
There are schools in this area in Hungarian. There are also schools in Romanian. There are no schools, not even preschools, in Romani.
It would be easy to start a school-readiness program for Romani-speaking children, though. There's a series of Parent-Child Club materials which could be used by any willing leader in any location with very few materials. The leader does not even have to know Romani, as long as parents are willing to come with their children and speak their own language with them. Here's an example in English. Let me know if you would like to know more!
PARENT-CHILD CLUB: Rough/Smooth
Activities (choose one or more)
1. Put something smooth and something rough in a box or bag. Let people feel these things without looking at them. Ask what the difference is in what they feel—one is _____ and the other is ______.
2. Group discussion: name something that is smooth and something that is rough. (Note: this will differ per culture and language.) Maybe take turns calling out something that feels smooth and something that feels rough.
3. Talk about a little baby that the whole group knows. Discuss how soft the baby’s cheeks are. Then name someone who doesn’t shave very often. Their chin and cheeks feel rough.
4. Gather 10 pieces of cloth that are about the same size but have different textures: from very soft to very rough. Have the group put them in order, from softest to roughest. If the group is very large, divide into several groups, each with their own set of pieces of cloth.
Story time or Bible story/singing/prayer
5. Everyone draws an activity that makes hands or faces rough. This will differ depending on the people’s circumstances (doing laundry; working in the fields; selling things in the outdoor market; hand work . . .).
6. Treasure hunt. Divide the group into smaller groups of three, four, or five. Each group searches in the classroom for at least three things that feel smooth and three things that feel rough. Then each group shares what they found with the larger group. (Note: you might hide things around the classroom ahead of time. Or the groups might find things that they cannot pick up—the wall might be rough, for instance.)
8. Make sand paper with sand and glue. Use stiff paper; spread glue over it; spread sand over the glue; let dry. Have everyone sand a little piece of wood. The sand paper is rough, and the wood becomes smooth.
9. Use the sanded pieces of wood to make a little table, birdhouse, or some other thing that fits the local culture and situation.
10. Walking barefoot makes the soles of your feet tough. If it is culturally appropriate, have everyone look at the soles of their feet. Discuss: how many toes do you have? On one foot five and on the other foot five. Which toes are similar? Do these toes have specific names (example in English: big toe, little toe, middle toe). How do you take care of your feet? Talk about trimming toe nails and washing the feet. Discuss what happens when you walk through something dirty.
11. Closing. Have the group sort themselves out in the following order: littlest feet first; biggest feet last. Leave, single file, in this order.