Commentary: Czech tabloid quotes Romani man as opposing inclusive education, other Romani representatives respond
The online version of the Czech tabloid Blesk.cz has been engaged in a campaign to prevent the closure of the separate special needs schools and to prevent the abolition of the "Appendix to the Framework Education Program on Mild Mental Disability". As part of that campaign, the tabloid chose to contact Andrej Lučka, the regional chair of the Romani Democratic Party in Rokycany and the chair of the "Help Roma" organization (and apparently a special school graduate himself), who told the tabloid, among other things, that he will "Defend [his] practical and special school at any cost, even with pitchforks".
Lučka is also quoted as strictly rejecting inclusive education in the primary schools and the involvement of more Romani children in mainstream education, possibly because his own daughter attends a special needs school herself. Have Lučka's remarks been influenced by the lobbying of these schools and their teachers, or do they flow from his embarrassment over his own failure as a parent?
Current law allows non-disabled children to be enrolled into "special needs" schools
According to Section 16 of the Schools Act, a child, pupil or student with special educational needs is somebody who has either a medical disability, a medical disadvantage, or a social disadvantage. This makes it possible to assign even children without disabilities into "special needs" schools.
In order for such children to be enrolled into such schools, they need a written recommendation from an educational counseling facility, their parents' informed consent, and a school principal who decides to accept the pupil into a special needs school or for education according to an adapted curriculum. Essentially, however, there is currently pressure being placed by two different institutions on parents whose only "disability" in this society is that they live in lower-level social conditions as a result of their social disadvantage.
The best interest of the child must come first!
"In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration," reads Article 3 paragraph 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated that children must be placed at the center of education and that this principle must be respected.
The aim of education systems should be to strive to develop children's individual capabilities, bearing in mind that each child has his or her own particular educational needs. The raising of children is supposed to develop all aspects of their personalities - their gifts, their intellectual and physical capabilities - to the fullest possible extent.
This aim can only be achieved through inclusive education. That means making it possible for all pupils to be educated together in mainstream schools while taking their educational needs into account without any discrimination.
The education of Romani children in the Czech Republic is getting expensive
A survey performed in 2012 by the Public Defender of Rights into the ethnicity of the pupils now attending schools that had been called "special schools" (zvláštní školy) prior to the legislative changes of 2004 focused on 67 such schools. That survey found that almost 35 % of the 3 954 pupils attending those schools were Romani.
If there are between 150 000 - 300 000 Romani people living in the Czech Republic, and if the total number of inhabitants here is, according to the most recent census, 10 562 214 people, then that means Romani people represent approximately 1.4 - 2.8 % of the population. That means we should find a similar proportion of children - 1.4 - 2.8 % - who are Romani attending the schools that were visited by the Public Defender of Rights.
However, the percentage of Romani children enrolled in those schools was 35 %. Such disproportionate representation has only two possible explanations.
Either Romani people suffer from mental disability much more frequently than the majority population does, or there has been misconduct by some of the authorities involved in the process of deciding what kind of education to recommend for these pupils, according to the Public Defender of Rights. The motivation for that misconduct can be found in the fact that last year the expenditure per pupil aged 6-14 in the Czech mainstream schools was CZK 50 423 (EUR 1 860).
However, pupils who attend schools that are designed to meet other educational needs (e.g., special needs schools), receive additional funding. For example, in the Karlovy Vary Region in 2014, the amount of additional funding per pupil with "mild mental disability" attending a special needs class or school was 90 % of the per capita norm (in other words, such schools received a total of CZK 95 803.70 or EUR 3 540 per pupil) no matter the level of school being attended (nursery school, lower primary school, etc.).
Should a child suffer from profound physical disability in that region, the additional funding is twice the per capita norm when such a child is educated in a special needs class or school - but if the child is recommended for individual integration into a mainstream school, then the additional funding is just 1.5 times the per capita norm. In the Liberec Region last year, the additional funding for a visually-impaired pupil attending a special needs class or school was twice the per capita norm - but in the case of such a pupil being individually integrated into a mainstream school, the additional funding was just 1.5 times the per capita norm.
In 2014, the additional funding for a pupil living with a mental disability and attending a mainstream school was half as much in the Liberec Region (0.365) as it was for that same pupil to attend a separate special needs class or school (0.73). In the Moravian-Silesian Region, the additional funding for pupils with profound autism, hearing impairment, mental disability, or visual impairment was 2.5 times the per capita norm if the pupil was enrolled into a special needs class or school, but if the same child were to be individually integrated into mainstream education, the additional funding would be just 1.5 times the per capita norm.
It is evident from the above facts that it is a rather good business for schools to have as many "disabled" pupils as possible enrolled in them. In some regions, educating such children outside of the mainstream is the best-funded option.
Educating Romani children in mainstream schools would save our society billions
Romani person can anticipate earning 110 % more than an uneducated one.
Such a person will, therefore, contribute more to the state coffers. However, just 43 % of working-age Romani people are employed today.
The average net monthly income for an employed Romani person in the Czech Republic is 58 % lower than it is for a majority population member, and one of the reasons is the substandard education Romani people receive, which turns them into socially dependent individuals who must apply, for example, for housing subsidies even when they are employed. This lower social position also creates the conditions for criminality and reduces security in our society.
Romale, take responsibility for your children! (and not like Mr Lučka does)
No society could ever improve socially if its members were under-educated in "special schools" for generation after generation as members of the Romani minority have been educated here. It must be clear to each and every one of us that most graduates of such schools end up enrolled with the Labor Office as unemployed persons and find themselves in a social trap.
Education is very important, not just from an economic standpoint, but also from the standpoint of developing and maintaining the traditional Romani cultural values that even the majority society once used to admire about us. Romale, the proper education of your children is the best thing for our future.
The opinions published on Romea.cz do not necessarily reflect the opinions or standpoint of the editors of news server Romea.cz., Romano voďi magazine, or ROMEA, o.p.s.
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