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Facebook group against Romanes language in Czech schools: 40 000 strong

Prague, 24.3.2010 22:53, (ROMEA)

A group that disagrees with the decision to introduce Romanes language instruction in the Czech schools has started up on the social networking site Facebook. By Monday afternoon it had more than 40 000 fans, Lidové noviny (LN) reported yesterday.

Last week the paper reported on the Czech Education Ministry’s intention to introduce Romanes as an elective subject at schools. Shortly thereafter, a group entitled “Petition against teaching Romanes at Czech schools” was created on the internet.

The instruction in Romanes would be an elective subject. Strong racist and xenophobic comments on the idea are cropping up on the internet. LN reports that police may investigate the Facebook group. Detectives normally follow all such groups and their web pages. "If the content published is illegal, people who contribute to the pages could face prosecution,” police spokesperson Pavla Kopecká said.

LN reports the group includes mostly high school students and youth. According to Gabriela Hrabaňová, director of the Czech Government Council for Roma Community Affairs, it is evident that there is a need to perform Roma outreach in the schools. "This group corresponds to the society-wide anti-Roma mood. The general awareness about the Roma could be changed if teachers were to speak about Roma culture and history with children in schools,” Hrabaňová said.

The Czech Education Ministry has long planned to get more Romani children into elementary schools. Currently, these children often end up in former “special schools”, which are intended for children with light mental disability. Moreover, the ministry wants teachers themselves to focus on Roma culture and history, for example, during civics or history lessons. In many cases, school would be the first place children could learn information about the Roma that would be neither racist nor xenophobic. The Czech Government agrees with the ministry’s intentions and has recently approved a National Action Plan which counts on regular schools including more disabled children, as well as more Romani children, into mainstream education.

Romanes language instruction would only be attended by children who have a genuine interest in it. LN reports that under no circumstances would it be introduced across the board as an obligatory subject, as most of the Facebook group members believe.

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