Czech human rights groups say no action taken to end schools discrimination
against Roma three years after landmark ruling|
The Czech Republic has been accused by a number of non-governmental human
rights watchdogs and education groups of taking no steps to stop
discrimination against Romany children in schools, in spite of a landmark
European decision that discrimination was built into the country’s
education system. They say promises to take action have gone unfulfilled
and they are now threatening to bring the country to book again.
It’s almost three years to the day since the European Court of Human
Rights in Strasbourg gave a landmark ruling on November 13, 2007. The
ruling upheld a complaint from 18 families that Roma children were
systematically discriminated against in the Czech schools system when they
were overwhelmingly sent to so-called special school for the mentally
handicapped although there was nothing fundamentally wrong with them. The
judgement from Europe’s highest human rights court followed an eight year
legal fight by the families.
On Tuesday, 15 Czech non-government groups, loosely united in the
‘Together to School’ organisation, delivered their own damning
indictment of Czech government action since the Strasbourg court decision.
Stanislav Daniel is a representative of the Budapest-based European Roma
Rights Centre which helped bring the original court case.
“We see no evidence that the situation for Romany children in the Czech
education system has changed. And the only development we are seeing quite
clearly is that currently it is not only non-governmental organisations
that are criticising the government but also the Czech school inspectorate,
for example, and defender of public rights, the ombudsman, who are
confirming that there is discrimination against Romany children in the
Czech education system.”
Mr. Daniel says the old special schools have been re-named basic practical
schools but the results are still the same. They are still earmarked for
mentally handicapped children with Roma children disproportionately
represented. Whereas 2.0 percent of mainstream Czech children are likely to
end up in such schools the proportion rises to 30 percent for the Czech
Republic’s Roma minority.
Over the last three years, he says politicians have been keen to make
promises about meeting the non-segregation demands of the court and
programmes to pave the way for all inclusive education have been drawn up.
The problem is that the promises are quickly forgotten and programme
“In June 2010, the then prime minister in waiting said he definitely did
not want Romany children to automatically end up in special schools or to
be segregated and that this definitely would become part of the programme
declaration of the government. But this did not happen. There are many such
statements that we welcome but unfortunately most often what we see in the
end is that there is no progress, no openness. The proposals are just taken
out off the agenda without any justification and without any reasoning.”
With the current centre-right government embarking on public spending
cuts, the human rights groups say there is a risk that even the basic steps
taken in schools to help the most disadvantaged children, such as extra
assistants, will be discontinued. The angry NGOs also say the Ministry of
Education wants to freeze any practical programme aimed at addressing Roma
discrimination until 2013 or 2014.
In the face of such inaction, the Czech groups are lobbying other European
governments to highlight the Czech failure to act following the Strasbourg
court decision three years ago. And they say they are weighing up whether
to get the gloves off and launch new legal complaints of discrimination to
put the European spotlight firmly on the country once again.