Czech Human Rights Council member says segregation of Romani children in the schools is a disgrace to the politicians involved
On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, which has been celebrated worldwide on 10 December since 1950 to honor the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Jiří Dientsbier met with representatives of the Government advisory bodies on human rights issues, most of which he chairs as minister. The central theme of the informal meeting was legislative measures that are forthcoming.
Most of the discussion centered on the topic of the education of Romani children, specifically, a controversial section of an amendment to the Schools Act now under consideration (Section 16) and other measures. Experts have warned that the amendment as currently worded embodies an ongoing effort to preserve vague language on how the forms of support for vulnerable children are to be assessed.
The vague formulation makes it possible for any recommended measures to be adjusted to fit an assessor's opinion, even when an assessor works for a counseling facility managed by a "practical primary school" and is therefore inherently in a position of conflict of interest with respect to such recommendations. The necessity of an unambiguous approach toward providing support to children with special educational needs is now being increased by pressure from the European Commission, which at the end of September called on the Czech Republic to submit evidence within two months regarding the steps it is taking to suppress the extensive discrimination of Romani children in education.
The Commission initiated infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic at the end of September regarding the education of Romani children, and the matter could end up before the European Court of Justice. In 2007 the Czech Republic lost a case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg brought by 18 young Romani people from the Ostrava area.
According to that judgment, the enrollment of the Romani children into what were then called "special schools" violated their right to education and was discriminatory. Today many Romani children still continue to end up in the "practical schools", which are intended for pupils with mild mental disability.
Czeslaw Walek of the Czech Government Human Rights Council said he considers the EU infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic to be Brussels "pointing the finger", a disgrace to the politicians who have not yet solved the problem and whose plans to include Romani children in mainstream education have not yet managed to be fulfilled. Minister Dienstbier said he will propose that the current appendix describing how to curtail curriculum for the education of children with mild mental disability should be revoked so that as of the 2015 school year, schoolchildren will no longer be taught according to the appendix but according to the standard curriculum.
"It is in our interest not to carry these problems with us into the future. It is simply an absurd procedure to discard children who have enough intelligence to undergo an ordinary education just because they live in a socially excluded environment - that just guarantees future generations of socially excluded people," the minister said.
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