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Exhibition shows Czech hypocrisy on education of Romani people

Prague, 29.10.2012 18:24, (ROMEA)
The Open Society Foundations is holding an exhibition of photographs of Romani children and their parents, accompanied by their stories.
The Open Society Foundations is holding an exhibition of photographs of Romani children and their parents, accompanied by their stories.

The Open Society Justice Initiative has supported the creation of an exhibition of photographs of Romani parents, accompanied by their stories, entitled "Failing Another Generation" (in Czech, "Jak vztratit další generaci"). The exhibition will open on 13 November 2012 at 19:30 in the arcade of the Lucerna Palace in Prague. The exhibition features interviews and photographs taken on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the judgment in the case of "DH and others versus the Czech Republic". That European Court of Human Rights judgment from 2007 found the Czech Republic responsible for discriminating against Roman children in their access to education.

Romani children have been and continue to be disproportionately and unjustifiably enrolled into what once were called "special schools", established to serve children with disabilities, in the Czech Republic. In accordance with longstanding practice, Romani children are currently being enrolled into what are now called the "practical primary schools", institutions from which there is no return. The education they receive there is restricted and second-rate. Graduates of these schools have no qualifications and are only able to work in professions that require rudimentary skills; entire generations of Romani people have therefore never managed to escape the vicious circle of despair and poverty in which they live.

In 1999, this system was challenged by 18 Romani children from the Czech town of Ostrava, who eventually took their case to the European Court of Human Rights. According to the lawsuit, now known as "DH and others vs. the Czech Republic", the Romani children were discriminated against and one of their basic rights was denied, namely, the right to quality education. In 2007 the European Court of Human Rights found in their favor. In its landmark judgment, the court called on the Czech Government to end this segregation and ameliorate its repercussions.

Of course, a court victory and real change are not the same thing. Romani children continue to encounter discrimination as part of the Czech school system: Most of them are still ending up today in classes that correspond to the regime used by the former "special schools", even when they don't belong there. This past June, the Czech Public Defender of Rights (the ombudsman) warned of these practices, publishing research his office conducted into the proportion of Romani children attending such schools. Even though the proportion of the Romani population in the Czech Republic ranges between 1.4 – 2.8 %, Romani children comprise 32 % of the pupils in the "practical primary schools".

The research was conducted in 67 randomly selected "practical primary schools" located in every region of the Czech Republic. Teachers in the schools researched even estimated that as many as 35 % of their pupils are Romani. It is therefore quite evident that Romani children are enrolling into the former "special schools" to a degree that significantly exceeds their representation in the population. According to the Anti-Discrimination Act, this means indirect discrimination on the grounds of their ethnic affiliation is occurring against these children during their access to education, discrimination committed by the bodies involved in deciding which pupils should be enrolled into "special education". (NB: Indirect discrimination means different treatment caused by the indirect impact of a measure or policy which is worded neutrally but has a discriminatory effect on a certain group of people).

The exhibition of the photographs and stories of these Romani children and their parents, entitled "Jak ztratit další generaci" ("Failing Another Generation") marks the fifth anniversary of the D.H. judgment. The children who brought this lawsuit are adults and parents themselves today, and this exhibition will tell their stories. A publication of the same name has also been released with the support of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

jab, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Antidiskriminace, Děti, Diskriminace, Kalendář akcí, Knihy, Lidská práva, Ombudsman, Open Society Fund Praha, Předsudky, Soud, Výročí



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