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February 19, 2020
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Czech mayor who failed to tackle "white flight" publicly curses nonprofits and Romani people, Agency for Social Inclusion calls for dialogue

18.12.2019 8:55
The mayor of the Czech town of Rotava, Michal Červenka. (2019). (PHOTO:  Xtv.cz)
The mayor of the Czech town of Rotava, Michal Červenka. (2019). (PHOTO: Xtv.cz)

The Mayor of Rotava, Michal Červenka, says the problems with housing in his town began thanks to the previous leadership's decision to privatize their housing stock. According to him, the "traffickers in poverty" who bought the properties then leased them to Romani tenants, which is why more Romani pupils are now attending the local primary school, and non-Romani parents are enrolling their children in other schools to avoid them.

The media has now broadcast the mayor's description of the situation. The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion and the ROMEA organization have responded to his remarks.

Moderator: Nonprofits are to blame

"Twenty years ago, when the housing stock privatization began, the town cashed in on the proceeds. Nobody back then counted on the apartment units that were sold becoming involved in real estate speculation and profiteering, above all from the rents paid by tenants on welfare. Recently, also, the number of new inhabitants, the inadaptables, has exceeded a bearable level. We have reached the phase where for the indigenous population of Rotava, the situation in some of the prefabricated apartment buildings has become intolerable. It is intermixing with the schools, the services, and longstanding residents are relocating elsewhere. Their number has fallen by 500," the mayor said in an interview on news server Xtv.cz.

"The capacity of our school, a beautiful building, is 550 pupils. Currently we have 190 pupils and the first grade is completely Romani. The problems are bullying, theft, lice and bedbugs. The indigenous population is therefore enrolling their children into the school in a neighboring town. I'd do it too," the mayor said, adding that his town hall cares more about children from socially vulnerable families than it does about their parents.

The mayor said half of the families whom he is describing are on welfare. The town, according to him, runs different after-school projects for the children and is collaborating with crime prevention assistants and with the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion.

"The local assembly members, however, frequently have to combat a situation in which those parents refuse to pay for their social apartments because they imagine the word 'social' means the units are rent-free. Instead of these people spending their money on basic needs for themselves and their children, they spend it on other things," the mayor alleged.

Luboš Xaver Veselý, the "moderator" of the online broadcast, followed that statement by saying that nonprofit organizations like ROMEA and its "famous" television station, or like Romodrom, are funded by the state, the European Union, etc. "Tell me where those nonprofits are when a problem like this is burning in Rotava? ... Has ROMEA ever been in your town to give aid?" the moderator asked.

Červenka responded that he also does not have good experiences with nonprofit organizations and that he would prefer it if the money spent on them would be given to his town instead, because his managers know better how to address local problems. The director of ROMEA, Zdeněk Ryšavý, has responded to these allegations as follows:  "That moderator has an absolutely distorted idea of what ROMEA does, so I recommend that he take a look at our website or at our profile on Facebook. He doesn't like our online television channel and speaks contemptuously of it? It's probably a big surprise to him that there are capable Romani people here who are able to run an Internet television channel, create programs for it, and produce documentary films. Apparently that does not conform to his stereotypical notions of grubby, unemployed 'gypsies' who just wait around for their welfare to be paid."

Agency: The leadership of Rotava should begin constructive dialogue with all partners

The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion is praising the mayor for the fact that the town, under his leadership, is buying up apartment units from private owners and allocating them to local people in need. As for his remarks on Xtv.cz, the Agency has issued an official statement.

"The leadership of the town of Rotava was informed by us from the beginning of its collaboration with our department (in 2017) about the problematic situation at the local primary school. The initial analysis performed by our department found that parents perceive the management of the local primary school to be closed to communications with them and to communicate poorly," the Agency statement says.

"On that basis, we proposed creating a detailed plan to aid with reversing the adverse trend of local parents enrolling their children in different primary schools and stopping the process of the growth in ethnic homogeneity at the local school and the negative phenomena associated with it. The situation, unfortunately, has not been addressed and as a consequence, the trend in pupil numbers falling is more and more apparent," the Agency writes.

According to the Agency, it will be difficult to change the situation at the primary school, but despite that, the Agency is prepared to provide the maximum possible aid to the town leadership. "Our task is to assist with the creation of environments in the schools so that each child accesses a high-quality education irrespective of his or her skin color, nationality, sex, ethnicity, health status or socioeconomic disadvantage," the statement says.

"We are well aware of the kinds of challenges - socioeconomic, cultural and demographic - the town leadership has to face and we are prepared to fully support them to develop inclusive activities that will lead to reducing social barriers and improving relationships among neighbors," the Agency says. In conclusion, the Agency adds that from its perspective, it is important both to the future of the town and especially to good coexistence among all residents that "the leadership of the town of Rotava should begin a constructive dialogue with us or with the other partners engaged in this area (e.g., the nonprofit organizations) that could aid them with kick-starting crucial changes, and that it strengthen its activities in the area of inclusive education and social inclusion overall."

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Views: 785x

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Housing, Media, Rotava, školství



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