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May 26, 2022



Jan Kudry: Let's not punish Romani children for their parents' errors

29.2.2016 23:18
Jan Kudry (Personal archive)
Jan Kudry (Personal archive)

Jan Kudry is from Postoloprty, Czech Republic. Last year he defended his dissertation at Charles University's Faculty of Pedagogy. He works as an investigator for the Criminal Police and Detective Services in the town of Beroun and is an external instructor at Svatojanská College in the town of Svatý Jan pod Skalou. He is also a member of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs.

Recently I learned from the media that the Czech School Inspection (ČŠI) did not find discriminatory the behavior of the principal of the Primary School in Krásná Lípa, RNDr. Ivana Preyová, who artificially created a practical Romani first-grade class there. Anyone who reads the ČŠI report carefully, however, must arrive at a different opinion than the one some journalists are backing.

Whether we like it or not, Romani people have always been here, are here, and from the sociocultural perspective of us Roma, the greatest likelihood is that more of us will be here in the future. We would like to believe that RNDr. Preyová is neither an anti-Gypsyist, nor a racist or whatever else we might call her.

Let's picture this smaller town with its sole primary school and a rather large percentage of Romani people living there. In this town, somewhat more frequently than on average, there are clashes from time to time between the majority population and the Romani minority, and parents from the majority population want their children to be educated separately from the Romani children, because they believe that if non-Romani children are educated together with Romani children, it will have a negative influence on the education of the non-Roma.

Overall this is a logical train of thought if we take into consideration the fact that some Romani children actually do live in family environments that are not very stimulating and are therefore not prepared for their educational careers as they should be. It is, therefore, probable that the principal in this case succumbed to the pressure from non-Romani parents when setting up this first-grade class 1C, where pupils would be educated in an alternative way, and agreed with the legal representatives of these children that they, the parents, would contribute CZK 700 a month to such a class, which the ČŠI has harshly criticized, stating that such a procedure is not possible in the mainstream (state-funded) primary schools and does not conform to the Czech Education Ministry's White Paper and other documents.

This class was separated by the principal from the officially registered site of the school and located at an entirely different address. Furthermore, according to the principal, she also set up the first-grade class 1A into which children were assigned who had never attended preschool and who therefore needed more care with support measures.

The principal also set up a first-grade class called 1B. Coincidentally, most of the children assigned to the first-grade class 1A were Romani.

In the school's documents, the principal declares that her school is pro-inclusion and that it participates in a Czech Education Ministry program that supports that type of education. By creating this "Romani" class, however, she has not displayed too much inclusivity - on the contrary.

She has separated pupils about whom she presumed their education would be more problematic and created a separate class for them. She also preferred to separate the majority-society pupils whose parents were willing to pay for an education that should have been free of charge.

The principal probably did this so the children of the "cream of the crop" would never have to encounter Romani children at all. The building of the school, however, was only 64 % full, so it was not necessary, according to the ČŠI findings, to establish a separate small first-grade class like this.

If I were to exercise a great amount of self-restraint, I might understand the principal proceeding in this way if the children in class 1A had received the kind of care that would have compensated for any disabilities arising from their families having insufficiently prepared them for attending school, but the ČŠI found the exact opposite to be the case. In that class an unqualified educator was teaching, and the teaching assistant was not focused on aiding the education of children from the socially excluded localities.

The school was, overall, assessed very negatively. The pedagogical management of the school and its personnel conditions were said to be unsatisfactory.

The course of the education in class 1A was unsatisfactory, in class 1B needed improvement, and in class 1C was of the level expected. The results of the education in class 1A were unsatisfactory, in class 1B needed improvement, and in class 1C were at the level expected.

In other words, in the class where the school's intervention was supposed to be of the best quality, the results were actually unsatisfactory. In the conclusion to its report, the ČŠI lists proposals for improving the state of affairs at the school, one of which is the recommendation (a rather tragicomic one, in my opinion) that with respect to the education of Romani pupils the principal should take advantage of examples of good practice.

How original! It also grieves me that while the ČŠI discovered this integral failure, consisting of the creation of a Romani class, at the scene of its investigation, its proposals for improving did not include the option, for example, of dissolving these classes and reconstituting them so that all children can receive a quality education irrespective of skin color (or to be correct, irrespective of their school readiness).

That is what makes me saddest of all. If, for example, my own primary school had approached education like this, I personally might never have gone on to hold a doctorate in special education.

There were always enough Roma at our school, but the principal logically included those children whom she presumed were not sufficiently prepared together with everyone else in the various classes. She didn't need any instructions or recommendations from the Education Ministry to do that, either - all she needed was common sense and a bit of knowledge of history, both general history and the history of pedagogy.

It's clear to me that all parents want their children to receive the best possible, highest-quality education. We Roma want the same thing.

Let's not punish Romani children for their parents' errors. Let's do our best, educators and everyone else, to approach Romani children without bias.

Believe that investing into the education of children is the only investment that pays off. It is an investment into our own future. 

Jan Kudry, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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