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Amnesty International petition against discrimination of Roma in Czech schools signed by 38 000

2.9.2015 16:40
Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International. (Photo:  Wikipedia)
Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International. (Photo: Wikipedia)

A petition against the discrimination of Romani children in the Czech schools was signed by 38 334 people from 94 countries between April and August of this year. Amnesty International closed its online campaign yesterday by organizing a "happening" outside the Czech Education Ministry.

Activists delivered the petition to Deputy Education Minister Jaroslav Fidrmuc. The campaign was launched in April with the publishing of research referring to cases of discrimination against Romani people in the Czech education system.

In addition to the disproportionately high number of Romani pupils in the "practical primary schools", the report said Romani children grapple with discrimination in mainstream education as well. Segregated Romani schools are being created and Romani children who attend higher-quality mainstream schools are bullied.  

The then-Education Minister Marcel Chládek (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) sharply criticized the international human rights organization's report at the time. His claim was that it was not based on truthful data.  

The organizers of today's "happening" erected panels in the public spaces near the ministry featuring stories about the discriminatory approach taken toward Romani schoolchildren. They also displayed a symbolic "report card" for the current Czech Government, led by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, evaluating its approach as "unsatisfactory", for example, on protecting Romani children from discrimination, acknowledging the extent of ethnic discrimination in the schools, and developing a reliable plan to combat such discrimination.

"The Government should state that this discrimination exists and begin addressing it as a priority," Mark Martin, director of the Czech branch of Amnesty International, said today. The petition, which was signed by thousands of Czech citizens, was supplemented by letters sent to the ministry.

Martin delivered those documents and the "report card" for Sobotka's Government to Deputy Minister Fidrmuc. Current Czech Education Minister Kateřina Valachová (for the ČSSD) was unable to attend the event because the cabinet was in session.  

Fidrmuc assured those participating in the "happening" that the ministry shares their aims. "In recent years the Education Ministry has done an enormous amount of work. The work with pupils who need exceptional support, whether they are non-Romani or Romani, has overwhelmingly improved. Today 25 % of pupils diagnosed with mild mental disability are being educated in the mainstream," he told the Czech News Agency.

The situation of the Romani minority in the Czech schools has long been followed by the European Commission, which has launched infringement proceedings against the country over the issue. The Commission is pressuring the Czech Republic in particular for Romani children not to be recommended for enrollment into the "practical primary schools", which are designed to serve children with mild mental disability, without proper cause. 

ČTK, agw, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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