Czech President Zeman visits school with Romani pupils as 2021/2022 school year begins
Czech President Miloš Zeman decided to mark the beginning of the school year at Brno's Nursery and Primary School on Merhautova Street, where first-graders and their parents welcomed him in the school gym. The Czech News Agency reported school staffers saying roughly 550 pupils attend there.
About half of the students were said to have been recommended for enrolment there after being assessed by a center for special needs education. Approximately 30 assistants work at the school as part of programs for inclusion into mainstream education.
Some of the children there come from Romani families. In his remarks to the children and their parents, Zeman said he had heard that two children attending the school had previously collapsed there due to starvation.
The President mentioned another boy who was said to have eaten 15 dumplings at lunch there one Friday. "When they told him his tummy would hurt, he said he would not be eating again until Monday," he related.
"My question is: What kind of family doesn't feed their children?" the President asked those assembled. He also expressed his hope that collaboration between families and the school would be friendly.
"However, sometimes it's necessary to intervene to protect our children so they won't starve, so their parents will send them to school, and so the children will be comfortable in their families," Zeman said. He then reminded those assembled that he has signed a law limiting welfare benefits in cases where parents do not fulfill their obligations.
The President also mentioned the philosopher Comenius and the concept of educating through play. He said he hoped the children would make friends.
"I wish you joy in life, friends, a lot of food, and a feeling of success on the basis of competition here at school, contests that you will enjoy," the head of state said. The school had invited Zeman to attend because last year his wife, Ivana Zemanová, opened the school year there on his behalf.
Last year the President had to interrupt his visit to the region for medical reasons to undergo an operation on a broken arm. Zeman flew to Brno from Prague on Tuesday evening in a military CASA aircraft, like those that form the backbone of the Czech military air fleet.
Politicians before him have mostly used army helicopters. The President returned to Prague after his visit to the school.
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