Czech Green Party chair: Roma school segregation deeply engrained
Last week marked six years since the groundbreaking judgment from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of D.H. and Others vs. the Czech Republic. That judgment confirmed that the Czech Republic discriminates against Romani children by disproportionately sending them to what were once called the "special schools" and today are called "practical schools."
The judgment of 13 November 2007 ruled that the Czech Government violated the ban on discrimination and the right to education of 18 Romani children from the Ostrava area by assigning them to the "special schools". The Grand Chamber of the ECtHR handed down the ruling on appeal.
The judgment was adopted by a vote of 13:4. The Czech Republic, according to its findings, violated the article of the European Convention on Human Rights banning discrimination and an article of a protocol to that convention concerning the right to education.
Despite international criticism of the Czech Republic, the problem persists. News server Romea.cz has asked three figures involved in human rights and the schools whether the D.H. judgment has transformed Czech education, and if so, how?
We contacted Ondřej Liška, the Green Party chair and former Education Minister who advocated inclusive education during his time in office; Michaela Marksová Tominová, the Czech Social Democratic shadow minister for human rights and the family; and Jolana Šmarhovyčová of the Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) association. Thanks to that NGO, the case of D.H. and Others was filed and pursued all the way to Strasbourg.
The following is Mr Liška's contribution.
Segregation is deeply engrained
The Czech schools have yet to be transformed. The segregation of Romani children - to be more precise, children who are medically and socially disadvantaged - away from mainstream schools is deeply engrained in the Czech system.
One-third of the pupils attending the former "special schools" are still Romani, and it is not possible to believe the Education Ministry's claim that year-on-year that number has fallen from 35 % Romani children to 26 % Romani children in those schools. Until several systemic matters change, primarily the financing of schools administered by Regional Authorities (the "practical primary schools" receive twice the amount of funding per pupil that a regular primary school does), and until the educational-psychological counseling centers begin looking for ways to provide all children with the best support measures for developing their individual potentials and talents to the greatest possible extent, mainstream primary schools will not have the support they need to educate disadvantaged children.
In other words, until there are enough preschool places for all children in the Czech Republic, practically nothing will change. This is not a change that can be made from one day to the next, but a transformation that the ministry must see through over the long term.
This matter is still waiting for a courageous, diligent minister of education to see it through. On the other hand, it is necessary to recognize that the judgment of the Strasbourg court has "uncorked" the issue in this country.
Before the D.H. judgment, the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MŠMT) continually and quietly supported the practice of segregation, but since the judgment, inclusion is now being discussed, it has become a topic in society, and it is slowly becoming a priority for MŠMT. An amendment has been drafted to the School Act, as well as implementing regulations that can contribute greatly to inclusion in the long run.
We are still at the very beginning of this process, however. Six years after the judgment, everything remains at the level of anticipated changes and promises.
The only concrete plan on this issue the National Action Plan for Inclusive Education, was designed by us at the ministry in 2009. It was subsequently thrown out by forme Education Minister Dobeš.
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