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Report paints grim picture on Czech social exclusion, education reform seen as main hope
12-02-2015  Chris Johnstone

A report is heading towards the government which presents a gloomy picture of the country’s success over the last five years in trying to lift its worst off and most isolated members of society out of the plight they are in. These are often a mixture of inadequate education, bleak job prospects, and poor living conditions and housing. For the Roma minority, who are often among what is termed the socially excluded, there is also the added element of discrimination.

Martin Šimáček, photo: Šárka Ševčíková, Czech Radio Martin Šimáček is director of the government’s Agency for Social Inclusion, the main body for dealing with the problem. I asked him far the social inclusion policy over the last five years had failed to meet its goals.

“In the strategy, there are more than 70 different measures to support social inclusion in all the immediate areas beginning with education, employment, and housing conditions. And I have to say that less than half the measures were really fulfilled. So the state policies to support social inclusion are not as efficient as we need.”

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek, Czech Radio Given that, what conclusions have been drawn and what needs to be changed?

“First of all I have to say that social inclusion really needs political support. So, that is the first key thing. We can see with this government it is better than before. So for the next period, 2015-2020, we can expect a bit of a different approach from the government to the questions of social inclusion, especially from the side of the Ministry of Social Affairs where the minister [Michaela] Marksová is very prepared to support us.”

Illustrative photo: Gabriela Hauptvogelová, Czech Radio Can you be a bit more specific in what areas you might expect more support, presumably education, training, and housing conditions where some of the housing is basically sub-standard?

“These two areas are crucial. First of all, education, we have had a huge discussion about inclusive education during the last five years. After this discussion we are now expecting a new schools act, which after government discussion, is now in parliament. And we are awaiting the results from parliament. And this could the first key point for the future. And now a key point is whether support for children for children with special needs will be individualised. That is if every single child will get individual support for its education. We really need to change the approach and not have segregation in Czech schools but have individual integration in the mainstream schools. And the first step for that is the new school act. And as well as that what is important is changes in pre-school preparation and more capacity for pre-school s to support children with special needs in pre-school education.

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek, Czech Radio So how optimistic are you? The previous report, in a nutshell, says that the policies have not worked…

“I am not sure that I can say I am really optimistic because I have to be realistic. I know that policies to support social inclusion are not that popular. We have to see that the mainstream is not really supporting the inclusion of Roma people in society. And, also, this is not just a question for government but also one for regional and local authorities which have to be prepared to make some changes.”

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