Two-thirds of Czech Romanies feel discriminated against

Seven out of ten Romanies in the Usti nad Labem region, north Bohemia, felt discriminated against in the past two years, a project conducted by local field workers has shown.

Within the one-year project organised by the "Romodrom Association", 970 Romanies living in ghettoes were questioned.

Half of the cases of 691 Romanies who experienced discrimination concerned work. Other cases concerned access to education, restaurants and housing.None of the above cases has got to court, a spokesperson for the organization pointed out.

It was difficult, she said, for Romanies to defend themselves because the Czech Republic had no anti-discrimination law until now. Some of Romodromthe cases were just dealt with as misdemeanors, she added.

When Romany applicants asked for a job, they were told the given position was not vacant anymore, but when a "white" applicant inquired afterwards, he or she was often offered the job, the spokesperson said, and that many Romanies actually consider discrimination a part of their life.

The spokesperson also said even the ghetto in which they live is a "discriminatory address" that prevents them from getting a job and finding better housing, and that there still exists the problem of sending Romany children to special schools for pupils with learning difficulties.

Only a single one of some 20 Romany children continued to attend a normal elementary school after several months, while all the other Romany first-graders were moved to special schools, the spokesperson noted.

It must be said that this is not new, not in the former CzeRomodromchoslovakia, nor in other EU member states. In Germany even still to this day, as far as we are aware, Sinti and Roma children are, after entering the school system, more often that not, be sent within weeks of their school entry, their “Einschulung”, to the so-called “Hilfsschule”, to the “school for the educational subnormal” as it is also known.

The spokesperson for the “Romodrom Association” said the problem was that the parents agreed with the fact that their children would attend a special school, but she added that both the parents and the children often got under pressure if they did not agree with the step.
For children who attended a special elementary school it is very difficult to continue in their studies and consequently get a qualified job later in life.

In fact, let's face it, those that attend “Hilfsschule”, in Germany, for instance, have the same problems and face the same dilemmas. No one is going to employ someone who just has a leaving certificate from such a “special school”, and far less even so if that person is, obviously, of the Gypsy community.

Where are, however, the European Union human rights laws here? They are not even being implemented in the slightest way. The laws are no use if those charged with implementing them are still tainted, and nothing ever is going to change that, the racist mentality against the Romani People, be this in the Czech Republic, in Slovakia or in Germany.

In the UK we have not really seen much of a problem with this as far as Romani-Gypsy children are concerned. The Problem here is that, because of the cultural way that Gypsy children learn, they have problems fitting into the mainstream schooling often. There is an alternative in this country, in the same way as there is in the USA, to this, and that is homeschooling.

Schooling is important for Romani-Gypsy children but it also must be in the cultural setting, at least in the early, formative years. It is possible and can be done, but it must be done by the community, by the People, and the People must not suit there demanding it comes from the state. That way we will never get what our children need.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008