Czech research finds that majority must change its approach to Romani people in order to improve the situation in the schools
The recent introduction of measures to promote the education of disadvantaged children together with all other children in the Czech Republic has not improved the situations of schools in socially excluded localities. What would improve their situations would be a change in the overall approach taken by the majority society toward Romani people.
What would also aid the situation would be, for example, introducing stable jobs for school assistants and the introduction of social services assistants in the schools. Those are the findings of a qualitative survey done by the OSF Foundation, the results of which were presented by Dana Moree of Charles University's Faculty of Social Sciences on Monday.
Moree asked the members of an extended family living in a socially excluded locality about their educational careers and also interviewed 10 principals or representatives of schools as well as a nonprofit staffer. All respondents, according to her, provided information that led to the conclusion that excluded localities are in and of themselves a problem with no solution.
According to the principals, many children have problems that the schools are unable to influence. The reason for such a big number of such pupils at some schools is mainly the way catchment areas are drawn and the unwillingness of schools to enroll children from excluded localities, Moree said.
After the recent introduction of measures to support the education of disadvantaged children along with other children, according to the research, the situation in schools that are considered segregated deteriorated further, because currently they are unable to access the advantages and projects that previously were available to them. The current system also requires, for example, better communication with parents, who are meant to take their children to educational-psychological counseling centers in order to be assessed, but collaboration with the parents is frequently difficult, Moree pointed out.
Despite the fact that assistants to educators are perceived to be a big aid in the classroom, the instability of those part-time jobs is, according to the research, a burden on the schools. Principals would welcome the introduction of fixed positions for assistants in relation to a certain number of children so that these part-time jobs can become more stable.
Another significant aid to schools that are adjacent to excluded localities would be, according to the principals, positions for social services assistants to work with entire families. Moree said the Romani respondents in the research all testified to the fact that a Romani child's educational chances are mainly a question of whether parents manage to enroll that child into a school that is not considered segregated and to keep the child there.
According to the Romani respondents, awareness is generally growing among the Romani population about the fact that education is important, but given the majority society's attitudes toward Romani people, enrollment of Romani children into schools is not always easy to achieve. Romani pupils attending mainstream schools that are not located in excluded localities are sometimes the victims of bullying, Moree described.
Some principals also deter Romani families from enrolling children into their schools and prefer to send them elsewhere, the research found. Principals of schools in excluded localities, according to the research, are mainly addressing a lack of children from better-off families and from the majority population.
These principals are doing their best to attract pupils from such families by, for example, offering English beginning in first grade, as well as other advantages, but most of the time this is in vain. According to research conducted last year by the Office of the Public Defender of Rights, Romani children comprise 3.7 % of the pupils in the Czech Republic's primary schools.
Of a total of about 4 000 primary schools, 147 are one-third Romani or more. There are 13 schools in the country where more than 90 % of the pupils enrolled are Romani.
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