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Analysis: Czech SocDems also responsible for oppression of Romani children

Prague, 3.12.2014 23:48, (ROMEA)
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (PHOTO: ČSSD)
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (PHOTO: ČSSD)

The Czech Government's response to the European Commission's opinion that the country is oppressing Romani children in the schools is a surprisingly harsh one. Not only does the Government object to the opinion that something of the sort has been going on, it all but openly reproaches Brussels for getting involved in such matters at all.

Why the heroics and hysteria? Brussels was correct to remind us that not much has changed with respect to the situation in the past seven years, when the European Court of Human Rights first confirmed this discrimination had happened in the case of 18 Romani children from Ostrava.

Czech Prime Minister Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party) and his ministers have objected to the Commission getting involved at all because education does not fall within the EU's purview.  However, when a state sends healthy Romani children, without cause, to schools intended exclusively for the mentally disabled, that is a human rights violation which every decent person from Europe and our own country has every right to discuss.

The cabinet claims Brussels doesn't have the correct data. However, the numbers published by the Czech School Inspectorate are revealing:  One-third of the pupils in special education are Romani children who are healthy.

In a country where only 14 000 people declared their Romani community membership to census-takers, that is an alarming finding. Moreover, the Government is evidently aware of this, provided it is not writing to Brussels.

One week after the response was sent to Brussels, the Government's agenda included an active-sounding item, the "Action Plan on Measures for the Education of Roman Children, Pupils and Students." However, in those measures Czech Education Minister Chládek (Czech Social Democratic Party) is about as active as Goncharov's character Oblomov dreaming that he is a butterfly on the couch.

Chládek is proposing the cancellation of a plan for curtailed curriculum that is now in use at the schools for the mentally disabled. However, by so doing he will not solve the main problem, which is that Romani children in general are being shut away into special education.

The minister believes that educational psychological commissions should decide which children go to special educational facilities and which do not. Is he actually proposing some sort of blanket diagnosis of Romani children to see who among them can handle a classical education and who cannot?

That really does smack of pseudo-scientific segregation. What, therefore, would be a genuinely active solution?

Stop sending most children from Romani families into special education and invest into teaching assistants in the classical schools. Give everyone a chance at education and at escaping the hell of our social ghettoes through it.

Who else should have less hesitation to do this than the Social Democrats, who are proclaiming their solidarity with those who end up on the outskirts of society through no fault of their own? Instead, now even they bear the blame for this discrimination.

First published in Czech by www.ihned.cz. 

Jiří Leschtina, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Romské děti , školství, Vzdělávání, zrovnoprávnění



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