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Czech Green Party chair says Education Minister is perpetuating segregation

Prague, 7.6.2011 14:30, (Právo)
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Education Minister Dobeš's words are belied by his actions. Yesterday in this paper he responded to the increasing criticism of his inaction in the area of including disadvantaged children, Roma children in particular, into mainstream schools. He is trying to prove that it is he who is finally taking "clear, concrete steps" for the inclusion of these children. However, he has hoisted himself by his own petard by making claims that are demonstrably indefensible.

Dobeš claims he "stabilized the Special Education Department. [and]... prepared amendments to three decrees concerning disadvantaged pupils (work left over from Mr Liška's time in office)..." During my time in office, a Group for Social Programs was created at the ministry which guaranteed the Czech Republic would implement the judgment of the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg and eliminate the segregation of Roma children into the "special schools". Ministr Dobeš broke up that group and downgraded it to a department. The current staff of that department are not up to the task either in terms of capacity or intellect. Even his own appointees have left the leadership of that department. That's what Dobeš calls "stabilization".

That department is not alone. In 10 months the minister has gone through three Deputy Ministers for Higher Education and is on his fourth cabinet director, but the publicity department is bursting at the seams. It's no wonder. It takes hard work by a rather large group of people to camouflage the minister's scandals, created the impression of activity where there is none, and cover up the breakdown of the ministry's staff.

Dobeš prides himself on being the minister to have adopted decrees introducing some elements of inclusive education. Those decrees were prepared long before he took office and were designed by dozens of academics, educational-psychological counseling centers, pedagogues and NGO initiatives. For 10 months Dobeš not only postponed adoption of these already-prepared decrees, he managed to dilute them and restore several elements of segregation to them. What positive changes are left were promoted despite Dobeš, thanks to the work of other ministries.

Those minor positive changes are the result of 10 sad months of Dobeš at the head of the ministry. Four years after the European Court for Human Rights handed down its judgment, the Czech Republic is still not implementing it. On the contrary, in many respects the situation is deteriorating.

Before Dobeš took office, the ice was broken on this issue. An Early Education Plan was adopted concerning the preschool period for children from socially disadvantaged environments, the National Action Plan for Inclusive Education was adopted, and a support program was created for schools currently educating disadvantaged children without the funding they need because of badly written statutes.

Dobeš did not continue these randomly selected initiatives either. Most of them he has either destroyed, let go to sleep, or paralyzed - but what else can children who are disadvantaged - either medically or socially - expect from a minister who has chosen a man like Bátora, a candidate for the racist National Party, to be his first Deputy Minister and then his economic adviser? Minister Dobeš is preventing better education for disadvantaged children. The facts are against him.

Gwendolyn Albert, Ondřej Liška, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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