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Students in survey perceive Roma to be biggest ‘problem’
05-06-2012 - Jan Velinger
A study conducted by the non-governmental organisation People in Need, together with Millward Brown, gauging how Czech secondary school students view Czech society and the world around them, has produced some worrying results. Along with the ‘usual’ dissatisfaction over issues such as poor governance (highlighted in a previous study in 2009) the majority of 1,100 students queried now perceived the number one issue as problems with the Roma minority – citing an alleged unwillingness on their part to work, improve in their studies and so on.

I spoke to Jana Havličková from People in Need about the idea behind the project as well as the result:

“The research was conducted under a project called ‘Who Else?’ and this project is a part of an educational programme called One World in Schools. The purpose of the project is to support young peoples’ involvement in civil society, to be more engaged, to be active citizens. The aim of the study was to learn about the attitudes and opinions of students at secondary school and how they perceive the current situation in society.”

Where do students perceive the greatest problem in society to be?

Photo: European Commission “The biggest perceived problem by those who took part are problems with the Roma minority, which differs from 2009 when the biggest problem was political representation. The result is really alarming; however, I can’t say it was altogether surprising. In a way, it only reflects opinions within broader society. If the poll had been conducted among adults and not students I am afraid the result might have been even worse. Among students it was 55 percent.”

What do you think serves as the basis for how many of the Czech students perceive Romany citizens? Do many even have any kind of personal experience, or is this more an irrational and emotional response?

“I think it is an emotional response. I can’t say all but I would say some who took part don’t have any direct experience with the Roma, yet held the same view. So I think that a lot has to do with how the minority is depcited in the media and I think this is also true for Czech society as a whole.”

From the point of an organization such as People in Need, which tries to fight racism and discrimination, what do you think has to be done?

“We all have a stake in this and I think that steps have to be taken but not only by NGOs but also, for example, by the Education Ministry. Teachers are in part in a good position to try and do something about this. Some comprehensive projects in Education are needed to try and solve the problem.”

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