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May 30, 2020
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Czech primary schools begin first-grade enrollment, children not present due to COVID-19 restrictions

2.4.2020 8:36
PHOTO:  Wokandapix, Pixabay.com
PHOTO: Wokandapix, Pixabay.com

First-grade enrollments began yesterday in the primary schools of the Czech Republic. This year, according to estimates from the Education Ministry, about 137 800 preschoolers should make the transition to first grade.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the enrollments will be implemented without the children being present. All schools in the country have been closed as part of the state of emergency.

Not even parents should be visiting the schools right now. They can enroll their children by using the school's online data box, sending an e-mail with an electronic signature, or sending the application through the regular post.

Enrollments will be open until 30 April. More specific deadlines and methods for applying are determined by the principals of each school.

Romani parents can be aided in some cities with choosing a school by local NGO initiatives. In Ostrava, for example, the Awen Amenca association helps parents choose schools that do not segregate Romani children away from non-Romani children and that provide quality education to all.

"These parents are poorly informed, frequently they have no idea which school is a quality school, or how poor-quality or segregated education can damage their children. For that reason, we are doing a campaign about enrollments into quality schools and giving parents the necessary information," Jolana Šmarhovyčová of Awen Amenca told news server romeatv.cz.

In the city of Ústí nad Labem, the community center of the House of Saint Materna is aiding parents and pupils. "By working with children we are basically also working with the adults in their lives. The children bring what they have learned here home with them. The older children attend different hobby groups, the younger ones go to the drop-in center to do their homework, and they also do what amuses them in hobby groups there," says the head of the center, Karel Karika.

"We want our center to be given the status of an after-school facility from the Education Ministry. We want to be able to aid the children who are not continuing their studies after completing compulsory education and who end up enrolling with the Labor Office [for welfare benefits]. In practice I know that children from socially vulnerable environments don't know what to do after completing their compulsory schooling. They don't go to study further, they won't be hired anywhere, there is nothing else for them to do but go to the Labor Office, and we all know where that leads," Karika said.

In the town of Chodov, near Sokolov, the Khamoro o.p.s. organization is aiding Romani children, while in the city of Brno the IQ Roma servis organization plays that role. This year all children born between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014 (inclusive) must enroll.

As in previous years, probably about about one-fifth of these children will ask to postpone their compulsory school attendance. A similar amount of children will be re-enrolled by their parents because their enrollment last year was postponed.

In exceptional cases, parents are able to enroll a child to begin compulsory schooling at the age of five. According to ministry estimates, about 111 500 six-year-olds, 25 500 seven-year-olds and 800 five-year-olds should be enrolling now.

If parents want to request postponement of their child's compulsory school attendance, they will have to document that request, just as they previously were required to do, with an assessment from an educational counseling center and confirmation from a doctor. Parents should provide originals or notarized copies of those documents to the school.

If parents request postponement without recommendations from an educational counseling center and a doctor, then the principal should cancel the child's enrollment altogether and call on the parents to provide the missing documentation. Schools must give preference to the enrollment of children living in their catchment area.

If the capacity of a particular facility cannot meet the demand from those in the catchment area, then enrollment should be decided by lottery. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, schools have been closed since 11 March in the Czech Republic.

Czech Education Minister Robert Plaga (ANO) said last week that he assumes the schools will re-open during the second half of May. That will depend on the Health Ministry's assessment of the situation.

ČTK, fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Romani people, školství, Vzdělávání, zápis



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