European Commission will respond to Czech Gov't plans for Romani schoolchildren within the week
The European Commission should express its view of the situation of Romani schoolchildren in the Czech Republic within the coming week. Czech Education Minister Marcel Chládek (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) communicated the expected timing of the response to journalists after meeting with EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová.
Brussels began to follow the situation of Romani people in the Czech schools closely after the European Court of Human Rights ruled eight years ago in the D.H. case that Romani children are being improperly assigned to what were then called the "special" (zvláštní) and today are called the "practical" schools. "Madame Commissioner said it will take about a week for the Commission to evaluate all the reports and provide its opinion," the minister said.
Last September the European Commission formally requested information from the Czech Republic about allegations that Romani children are discriminated against in the Czech education system. At stake is the launch of an infringement proceedings that could end in sanctions against the country.
Nonprofit organizations and a recent report by Amnesty International (AI) warn that Romani pupils are overrepresented in the "practical" schools. They comprise around 30 % of the population of those schools, even though the Romani minority constitutes at most 3 % of the population of the Czech Republic.
Chládek, on the other hand, recalled recent findings by the Czech School Inspectorate that more and more Romani children are being educated per the regular program for the primary schools. The reduced curriculum for pupils with "mild mental disability" is being less frequently used, a curriculum is that often used at "practical primary schools" and can also be used in the mainstream schools.
"I have assured the European Commissioner that we are not taking the situation around inclusion lightly and we have prepared many essential measures that are supposed to produce the desired outcomes in the future. Moreover, the setting up of pro-inclusive steps will also continue, and not just in the context of the D.H. judgment," the minister said after the meeting.
"I personally believe we have completed many such steps and their outcomes are positive. For example, during the previous school year, more than 11 % of ethnic Romani children in special education were transferred into mainstream education," Chládek said. He reminded the press that this is a long-term problem and that the European Commission's notion is that a solution will be rapidly rolled out for ethnic Romani children to enter mainstream education.
The minister's judgment is that this problem will be resolved after the introduction of a mandatory final year of preschool education. Many children from socially disadvantaged groups, in his view, are not in mainstream education primarily because they do not have a supportive environment at home.
"Through this mandatory year of preschool, that difference would be overcome and it would no longer be possible for someone to be separated from the mainstream prematurely or unfairly," the minister said. According to a recent AI report based on a survey conducted last year, Romani people are also discriminated against in mainstream schools in the Czech Republic.
AI found that all-Romani mainstream segregated schools are being created and that Romani children are bullied in those mainstream schools that are considered superior. Chládek has objected to those findings, saying that the Czech education is decidedly not set up in a discriminatory way, that he considers any oppression experienced by Romani children to be the result of individual failings, and that those involved in such situations should report them to the Czech School Inspectorate.
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