Gypsy children segregated in schools Czech Republic

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Czech Republic is continuing to segregate Roma children into sub-standard schools for the mentally disabled, charged a report released recently by Amnesty International.

The 80-page report prepared by the London-based human rights group found that discrimination in the school system persists despite a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which found that the Czech Republic was sending Gypsy children to special remedial schools.

“What is needed is a very strong approach to discrimination,” said Fotis Filippou, the report’s author, adding that Amnesty was calling for a freeze in placements to schools for mental disabilities for the current school year while the system is reviewed.

According to the report, which studied four schools in the area around Ostrava, in the east of the country, Gypsy children are often sent to special schools, or sent to mainstream schools where they form the overwhelming bulk of the population, and the standards of education tend to be much lower than for Czech children. Many parents, often with little education themselves, are not equipped to keep their children in the mainstream system.

”There is no real choice – they can send their children to a mainstream school where the children will be bullied and ostracized, the other option is to send them to a practical school where they will receive more support, be with their Romani peers, but receive a lower quality education,” said Mr Filippou.

The Czech education ministry has officially eliminated the remedial special schools, renaming them “practical elementary schools”, but they continue to function in much the same way as before under a new label. This week, the ministry indicated that parents will be better informed before their children are recommended for the remedial schools.

There are thought to be as many as 300,000 Gypsies in the Czech Republic, making up about 3 per cent of the country’s population. Historically the Roma have faced discrimination at work and at school – their unemployment numbers are much higher than for the general population, and 80 per cent of working-age gypsies have only a primary school education.

The position of Gypsy children in Czech schools is similar to the situation they face across much of central Europe.

“Romani children are pushed into an inferior system in Slovakia , and similar problems exist in Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania – wherever there are large Romani minorities,” said Robert Kushen, managing director of the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre.

While, yet again, Amnesty, so nicely concentrates on one of the European Union member states in the East, in this case the Czech Republic, the “leading lights” in the EU with the very same practices.

In Germany, bar a few exception, it is common practices for Gypsy children to be, after the Einschulung (the induction into school), where they will be inducted initially into a “normal” elementary school, often afetr only being there for a few days, to be passed on, without the parents being allowed an appeal, to a Sonderschule, a Special School. The very same schools that once had the title of “schools for the educationally subnormal”.

This practice is common all over Germany, as well as other EU member states, some in the West and some in the East.

In Britain it used to be, and probably still is, that Gypsy children were placed at the back of the schoolroom and told to draw or play with toys, or such, often with the comments that they are too stupid to be taught anything worthwhile.

Again, Amnesty says nothing about those occurrences. Why not?

© 2010