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ERRC criticizes Czech Republic for ongoing segregation of Roma pupils

Prague, 9.3.2011 14:52, (ROMEA)

Yesterday representatives of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) criticized the Czech Republic for its ongoing segregationist approach to the education of Roma children. Even though the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg recognized this fact and condemned the Czech Republic for it three years ago, young Roma are still ending up in "special schools" for no reason.

In November 2007, the Czech Republic lost a lawsuit brought by 18 young Roma from Ostrava to the European Court for Human Rights. According to the judgment, the Czech Republic violated the right to education of those Roma children by assigning them to special schools. ERRC says the Council of Europe is now occupied with what sort of changes the Czech Republic has undertaken to correct the situation.

According to ERRC representatives, the Czech Republic has fulfilled only one part of the judgment. Even though the country is paying damages to the Roma who won, systemic changes to the school system are not being made. ERRC says the Czech education system is rigid, unalterable, and not very open. "The presumption is that children of this or that type will have this or that kind of habits when they start school. If a child varies from those expectations, he or she is diagnosed and ends up in a 'practical' school," says Stanislav Daniel of the ERRC. In his view this approach is taken not only toward Roma children, but also toward the children of foreigners.

The "practical schools" are designed for children with mental limitations. In its report to the Council of Europe, the ERRC says that even Roma children without intellectual disabilities end up in these schools much more often than other boys and girls do. The ERRC says the Czech Republic has not adopted legislative changes to prevent segregation and has not created a plan for addressing the issue that includes deadlines.

However, the Czech Education Ministry has prepared a National Action Plan for Inclusive Education which responds to the Strasbourg judgment and should gradually provide better conditions for disadvantaged children. The document does include specific measures with deadlines for their fulfillment. The Government approved the preparatory phase of this plan last March. The cabinet should receive a report on the fulfillment of that phase by the end of this year, according to the previous resolution.

The ERRC says the Czech plan is insufficient and will not introduce anything concrete. "The Czech Republic says it doesn't have money. At the very least, the special education system costs the same as positive measures would. The difference is in the outcome," Daniel says. The ERRC says that if investments were made into including Roma children into mainstream schools, they would have a chance at higher educations and better work. However, if they continue to be frequently assigned into the "practical" schools, their further education and their careers will continue to be restricted and they could end up dependent on welfare.

Last week Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg criticized the Czech Republic for its approach toward the Roma minority. He referred to the anti-Roma attitude of Czech society and called on Prague to intensify its efforts to integrate Roma. He also referred to the segregation of Roma schoolchildren.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, vot, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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