Almost 2 000 Roma assemble in Czech town to ask for equal access to quality education
According to organizers' estimates, almost 2 000 Romani people assembled in Ostrava on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the judgment against the Czech Republic for discriminating against Romani children in their access to education which was handed down by the European Court of Human Rights. The Romani people gathered to ask for equal access to quality education for their children.
A concert of popular Romani bands and performers was part of the happening held on Svatopluka Čecha Square. Magdalena Karvayová of the Awen Amenca organization assessed the event as successful.
"We are as satisfied as it is possible to be. There were approximately 2 000 people there, the square was packed. We were very pleased that the people who came there told us they had actually come not just to listen to the music, but primarily to support the subject of equal access to a quality education and to show the public that they are not indifferent about their children's education," she told Romea.cz.
Several different speakers addressed the crowd. The director of the Association of Romani Parents, Žaneta Mirgová, spoke about how she had begun as a volunteer and organizer of Awen Amenca's gatherings.
"She is one of the ordinary mothers involved and for me and the Awen Amenca team it was quite fine to observe how beautifully and self-confidently, above all, she gave her speech. Volunteering is like a powerful spell of its own," Karvayová said.
Almost no media reported on the event, which was not just big, but positive, and the organizer said she is disappointed by that. "I sincerely believe the media have no interest in positive affairs involving the Roma. If a Romani person had murdered somebody, then I believe they would have taken more interest. In any event, we have achieved our aims and approximately 2 000 Romani people came there," she told Romea.cz.
Awen Amenca has been dedicated to the subject of education for four years. "We work with Romani parents in Ostrava and we are leading a campaign to enrol them into quality preschools and schools," Karvayvová said.
"The only thing that has changed in 10 years is that the 'special schools' have been renamed to the 'practical primary schools', and now all schools are just being called 'primary schools'. The amendment to the Education Act facilitates the education of all children together in mainstream schools, but in practice something else goes on. Romani children remain educated separately (in segregated classes or schools) from which they do not have a chance of passing the entrance examinations into secondary schools with exit examinations and therefore no chance of passing the entrance examinations to enrol in college," reads a joint declaration by the Association of Romani Parents and Awen Amenca.
The statement, which currently has almost 1 500 signatures from Romani parents, will be presented by organizers at a conference this week being convened in Prague by the Open Society Foundation Prague. "I will present there, as will Žaneta Mirgová, and other parents from Ostrava will also attend," Karvayová said.
According to the activist, Romani people from Mělník, Prague, Kralupy, Kolína, Kutná Hora, Ústí nad Labem, Český Krumlov, České Budějovice, Volary, Ostrava and other towns have signed the call for equal access. The Czech Government, according to the D.H. judgment of 13 November 2007, violated the rights of 18 Romani children from the Ostrava area to education and violated the ban on discrimination by recommending their enrolment into "special schools".
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights overturned a judgment by its first instance after the plaintiffs appealed, adopting the final judgment by a vote of 13:4. According to the judgment, the Czech Republic violated the article of the European Convention on Human Rights banning discrimination and an article of the Protocol about the right to education.
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