NGOs call for action in the face of persisting discrimination of Romany children in schools|
Two years after a breakthrough verdict by the European Court for Human
Rights which denounced racial segregation in Czech schools, Romany children
still face widespread discrimination. That’s the conclusion of a group of
Czech NGOs that say the Czech Education Ministry has shown good will but
has introduced few practical measures to improve the situation.
A group of Czech NGOs called Together to School has accused the country’s
Education Ministry of inaction in the face of persisting discrimination of
Romany children in Czech schools. Two years after the European Court for
Human Rights ruled that placing Romany children in “special” schools or
schools with special education programmes constitutes unlawful
discrimination, the Together to School initiative points out that according
to a survey carried out by the Education Ministry, the practice has not
changed. Kateřina Hrubá is a lawyer for the Brno-based NGO Z§vůle práva.
“The situation in schools remains the same according to our experience
directly in the field. In the first half of 2009, the Institute for
Information on Education carried out a very important survey in Czech
standard and practical schools, and the result shows that almost 27 percent
of all Romany children attend practical elementary schools, while only two
percent of non-Roma pupils attend these schools. We find these results very
Although “special schools” as such were abolished in 2005, Romany
children are often being placed in “practical schools” that follow
syllabi designed for children with light mental disabilities. The NGOs
blame standard elementary schools for failing to provide assistance to
Romany children with special education needs, and instead transfer them to
the “practical schools”. While the ministry has shown goodwill in
dealing with the situation, non-governmental experts say little has been
done in practical terms to stop discrimination. They would therefore like
to address the issues with a series of measures.
“We would like to propose that the ministry launch an information
campaign focused on the general public to draw attention to the importance
of the issue of discrimination of Romany children. We would also like the
current minister, Ms Kopicová, to state publicly that it is illegal to
discriminate against Romany children and enrol them into practical schools,
and to put a moratorium on the transfers of Romany children into practical
Apart from a moratorium on the transfer of Romany children to practical
schools, a national information campaign and other measures, NGOs suggest
the ministry outline an ethical code for psychologists who often choose to
transfer Romany children to special programmes because it seems the
simplest solution. The ministry acknowledges the seriousness of the
situation but strongly denies accusations of inaction. Tomáš Bouška is
the spokesman for the Czech Education Ministry.
“We have a section for social programmes here at the Education Ministry
which has been functioning for no longer than one year. And in this one
year, we have carried out an overwhelming list of attempts to change the
situation which is painful, and we admit that it is painful.”
The list includes a national action plan to support inclusive education, a
project of support centres, and a plan to improve counselling at schools.
Mr Bouška says that these and other steps will be carried out, regardless
of who takes over the ministry after the next elections.
“These measures will be compulsory for the Czech Republic and will be
implemented regardless of the political situation and of who will be in
charge of the ministry. The Education Ministry will distribute to all
counselling organisations and schools its recommendation with ethical
principles for working with socially and culturally disadvantaged children.
This will take place this month, in September 2009.”
The Education Ministry will take time to study the proposals and says it
is ready to work with the Together to School initiative to eradicate
discrimination of Romany children in schools. For their part, NGOs say that
the problem is now so serious it requires a concerted effort on the part of
all involved and top priority treatment.