Czech ombudswoman supports fundraising campaign for school whose first-graders were racially abused online
ROMEA, other organizations in the Czech Republic and many public figures have decided to respond to the current wave of hatred and racism that is spreading throughout the country. They are joining the Romani Scholarship Program campaign supporting 86 students from all over the Czech Republic this school year.
Some of the funds raised by this campaign will also now be used to support all children, irrespective of nationality, who attend the primary school in Teplice whose first-graders were recently racially abused online. Czech Public Defender of Rights Anna Šabatová has also decided to support the campaign, so we interviewed her.
Q: Why have you decided to support our appeal?
A: The challenge of the campaign called "THEY WANT TO GAS THEM, WE WANT TO SEND THEM TO SCHOOL" means we are saying "We want Romani children to attend school together with non-Romani children and to be successful there", and I decided to support it because I consider this one of the most important matters currently in the public arena, and among other reasons also because I was shaken, really shaken, by the hate campaign against the first-graders in Teplice.
Q: What is your message for the Teplice school?
A: I would like to tell the educators, the principal, and mainly all of the children that they are not alone. Even if, at first glance, it may seem that there is more hatred in the public arena, I believe most people in this country are not hateful and most people want to live together reasonably and in a non-conflictual way with Romani people.
Q: What must be done differently in today's society to prevent such attacks?
A: When one reflects about what is important, eventually one arrives at the conclusion that ultimately it is not so important who wins the elections, for example, or what is happening today and tomorrow in Parliament - what is the most important is the mental health of society, the ability to reciprocate within communities, a kind of belief in the future. I consider the biggest problem here today to be something that is apparently apolitical, or that some may consider apolitical, and that is a kind of insensitivity to how hatred is pouring into the public arena. I believe that what is happening today would not have been possible 10 years ago, and also, some of these horrible hateful displays are not something that anybody would ever dare to say to somebody face-to-face. This is a very dangerous trend, because children are growing up here who believe this is the norm. For that reason, I believe that actually one of our biggest tasks today is to attempt to once again draw the line about what it is still possible to say, what is part of free discussion, and what is unacceptable, what constitutes hatred or sedition and rises to the level of a crime.
Q: What message do you have for the students receiving scholarships in our program?
A: It is terribly important to study, not just because we are able to apply ourselves somewhere, or maybe also because we are able to then do that, but the most important reason to study is because we become able to better understand the world, we better orient ourselves in the world, and thanks to that we can make better choices from all of the possible opportunities, we can better protect our families - and mainly, to study, to learn new things, is an unbelievable adventure. I am very glad this program exists, I am glad that Romani people themselves are contributing to it, and I hope that together we will manage to get as many Romani people as we can into the schools.
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