Michal Miko: Czech Deputy Ombud's remarks on Roma in the schools reflect his incompetence
According to a statement by Deputy Ombud Stanislav Křeček broadcast on the TV Prima news on 8 November, the level of the entire Czech school system would be lowered if what he called the "special" schools are abolished. What's more, the Deputy Ombud said that this society is "traumatized" by being labeled racist because of this issue.
"Naturally it's not a problem to close the special schools. Those children will then be in the normal schools, but naturally the level of the normal schools will then be essentially lower as a result. If such a school is created, well, the parents will remove their children from it and enroll them elsewhere. Parents don't want their children to be at the level of children who are very difficult to educate. Society will continue to be traumatized by the fact that it will be labeled racist, even though it is nothing of the sort. We just want the best for our children. That can't be called racism, it can't be called hostility, it's just reality," Křeček said.
As a Romani man, I am personally offended by these remarks and by the fact that their author is not ashamed to publicly speak of Romani children as individuals whom it is "very difficult" to educate. He has a priori, automatically turned those children into a pathological phenomenon, which has nothing to do with the truth.
Of course, Křeček has forgotten, for example, the fact that Romani children (and not only they) often do not attend nursery school, which makes their transition to primary school difficult to a significant degree, among other reasons because there are not enough public preschool facilities in the country and their families cannot afford to pay for private preschools. This is related to the fact that in 2013 the European Commission, in one of its seven recommendations to the Czech Republic, mentioned the need to increase precisely the capacity of such public childcare facilities for children aged three and older, as well as to include Romani children into the system.
In my opinion, this has not happened. Moreover, the Office of the Public Defender of Rights (the ombud) has previously confirmed more than once in its reports and research that discrimination against Romani children in their access to education is actually occurring here.
For this reason, I view these statements by the Deputy Ombud as a questioning of those facts and also as a questioning of the work undertaken by the ombud's staff. It is sad that, seven years after the European Court of Human Rights found Romani pupils were being discriminated against in their access to education, a Deputy Ombud is publicly, in the media, presenting himself as an advocate of segregation in the schools.
In my view, Mr Křeček is incompetent solely for the reason that he has used the term "special school" (zvláštní škola) in his remarks, a term that has not been used since those schools were renamed either "practical" as or "special needs" schools. I am of the opinion that the reportage broadcast on the TV Prima news program has merely incited parents from the majority society to remove their children from schools that are also attended by Romani children.
We have witnessed such a trend here already in recent years. It is evident that the Czech schools have been in need of reform for some time, and an amendment to the Schools Act has now been drafted to push that forward.
The Czech schools still do not know how to work on developing children's personalities, especially not with children from different sociocultural environments. Since the previous changes to the Schools Act never resulted in any significant transformations, what can we expect now?
Depite the skepticism I am expressing here, I and other individuals and organizations are expecting a brighter tomorrow thanks to the infringement proceedings launched by the European Commission against the Czech Republic for violating its obligations flowing from EU legislation, specifically the ban on discrimination in education. I hope the Government of Prime Minister Sobotka will now take steps in the right direction, at least as far as the education of Romani children - and not only them - is concerned.
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