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Open letter of resignation from NAPIV team to Czech PM Nečas and Education Minister Dobeš

Prague, 31.5.2011 19:59, (ROMEA)

More than 50 experts have resigned from a Czech Education Ministry Working Group tasked with designing a plan for improving the education of disadvantaged children. The primary reason for their resignation is their view that Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs) is not devoting sufficient attention to this topic and has taken no concrete steps to support either disabled or Roma pupils. The experts resigning are from various organizations, such as the Czech branch of Amnesty International, People in Need, IQ Roma servis and other NGOs, as well as representatives of the Pedagogical Faculty of Charles University in Prague.

The experts informed the Prime Minister and Education Minister of their decision in an open letter. The letter states that since they were appointed to the Working Group, personnel changes and procedural changes have been enacted at the ministry which mean the National Action Plan for Inclusive Education (Národní akční plán inkluzivního vzdělávání - NAPIV) will not be fulfilled according to its original depth, extent or purpose.

The open letter includes a detailed explanation of the reasons that led the experts to decide to resign. News server Romea.cz publishes the letter in full below.

OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER PETR NEČAS AND EDUCATION MINISTER JOSEF DOBEŠ

Resignation of members of the Working Group on the implementation of the National Action Plan for Inclusive Education

Esteemed Prime Minister, Esteemed Education Minister,

We are writing to you as members of the Working Group appointed by the Czech Education Ministry (Ministerstvo školství, mládeže a tělovýchovy - hereinafter MŠMT) in the spring of 2010 for the purpose of fulfilling the National Action Plan for Inclusive Education (Národní akční plán inkluzívní vzdělávání - hereinafter, NAPIV). The Government of the Czech Republic approved the document establishing this Working Group on 15 March 2010 by resolution No. 206. Since the experts were appointed, many personnel and procedural changes have taken place at the Education Ministry which have led to NAPIV not being fulfilled according to its original depth, extent or purpose. This means the Czech Republic is violating its obligations flowing from international treaties and from the European Court for Human Rights judgment. Under the current conditions, we cannot expect that current educational policy will really lead to each individual achieving maximum educational success by fulfilling his or her individual educational needs in mainstream schools. Under the existing leadership of MŠMT, "inclusive education" is more and more obviously becoming mere rhetoric intended to calm the international community. Actual pro-inclusion reforms in Czech education are not being achieved. Given this situation, we have no other choice but to resign from the NAPIV Working Group.

The reasons for our resignation are elaborated in more detail in the appendix to this letter. However, we would also like to assure that that the true inclusion of all children into the Czech educational system is still our aim. We would be glad to collaborate on the fulfillment of NAPIV through different, more effectively-managed platforms.

Sincerely,

the resigning members of NAPIV:

Mgr. Pavla Baxová, Rytmus, o.s.

Mgr. David Beňák, member, Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, head of the Prague 14 Department of Health and Social Affairs

PaedDr. Ivana Brtnová Čepičková, Ph.D., Pedagogical Faculty, University J. E. Purkyně

Mgr. Michal Čermák

Jan Černý, People in Need (Člověk v tísni, o.p.s.), Social Integration Programs

Mgr. Zuzana Durajová, Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, League of Human Rights (Liga lidských práv)

Bc. Tomáš Habart, People in Need (Člověk v tísni, o.p.s.), "Varianty" educational program

Mgr. Patricie Hanzlová, Drom, Roma Center

Mgr. Petra Hlavničková, META o. s. - Association for Opportunities for Young Migrants

Drs. Dáša van der Horst, Amnesty International Česká republika, o. s.

Martina Horváthová, Slovo 21, o.s.

Mgr. Gabriela Hrabaňová, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic

Daniel Hůle, People in Need (Člověk v tísni, o.p.s.), Social Integration Programs

Mgr. Eva Janebová, Ph.D., Pedagogical Department, Philosophical Faculty of Charles University

Katarína Klamková, director, IQ Roma Servis

Mgr. Petra Klingerová, People in Need (Člověk v tísni, o.p.s.), Social Integration Programs

Mgr. Richard Kořínek, People in Need (Člověk v tísni, o.p.s.), Social Integration Programs

Mgr. Pavel Košák, People in Need (Člověk v tísni, o.p.s.), "Varianty" educational program

Mgr. Eva Košatková, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic

PhDr. Renata Köttnerová, (member, Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, Regional Coordinator for Roma Affairs, Olomouc Region)

Mgr. Lenka Kurová, member, Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, Director, o. s. Začít spolu ("Start Together")

Mgr. Adéla Lábusová, People in Need (Člověk v tísni, o.p.s.), "Varianty" educational program

Ilona Labuťová, National Institute for Children and the Family (Národní institut pro děti a rodinu)

Mgr. Klára Laurenčíková, Czech Expert Society for Inclusive Education (Česká odborná společnost pro inkluzivní vzdělávání)

Bc. Jindra Marešová, Amnesty International Česká republika, o. s.

Dr. Dana Moree, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague

Mgr. Petra Morvayová, Ph.D., Pedagogical Faculty, University J. E. Purkyně

Mgr. Tomáš Nikolai, Department of Neurology, 1st Faculty of Medicine and General Teaching Hospital, Charles University in Prague

Mgr. Bc. Lucie Obrovská

Mgr. Iva Pikalová, League of Human Rights (Liga lidských práv)

Mgr. Viktor Piorecký, Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities

Doc. PhDr. Věra Pokorná, Director Cogito - Center for Cognitive Education

RNDr. Pavla Polechová, CSc.

Mgr. Lukáš Radostný, META o. s. - Association for Opportunities for Young Migrants

Mgr. Filip Rameš, Open Society Fund Prague

prof. PhDr. Karel Rýdl, CSc., Vice-Rector for Education and Student Affairs, University of Pardubice

PhDr. Arnošt Smolík, PhD. Pedagogical Faculty, University J. E. Purkyně

PhDr. Jana Stará, PhD., Doc., Pedagogical Department, Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in Prague

Mgr. et Bc. Roman Stružinský, Special Elementary School and Special Nursery School, Děčín

Mgr. Zdeněk Svoboda, Ph.D., Pedagogical Faculty, University J. E. Purkyně

Bc. Martin Šimáček, Director, Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities

Mgr. Monika Tannenbergerová, Dis., League of Human Rights (Liga lidských práv), Child Protection Educational Institute, o.p.s.

PhDr. Kristýna Titěrová, META o. s. - Association for Opportunities for Young Migrants

Mgr. et Bc. Jiří Trunda, Center of School Management, Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in Prague

Mgr. Iva Uzlová, Rytmus, o.s.

Veronika Vaňková, IQ Roma servis, head of teaching program

Mgr. Zuzana Vodňanská, META o. s. - Association for Opportunities for Young Migrants

Mgr. Simona Wachsbergerová, Drom, Roma Center

Appendix

The reasons members are resigning from the NAPIV structure:

THE STATE IS UNABLE TO MEET ITS OBLIGATION TO ENSURE AN INCLUSIVE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

The Czech Republic is currently bound by international obligations to implement pro-inclusive changes so that the selectivity of its education system will be reduced and the opportunities for and position of children with special educational needs, among others, will be improved. Specifically, this concerns requirements flowing from the European Court for Human Rights verdict in the matter of D.H. and others v. Czech Republic, the fulfillment of which is monitored by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Czech Republic is also bound by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In both of these instances, the Czech Republic faces the threat of international embarrassment and sanctions should it not fulfill these obligations and fail to introduce pro-inclusive changes in Czech education. However, the sole activity that MŠMT can document that fulfills the purpose of these required changes is the purely formal establishment of NAPIV, which to this day has produced no concrete, measurable outputs.

EDUCATION MINISTRY LEADERSHIP HAS FAILED MANAGERIALLY

The NAPIV plenary, numbering more than 100 external experts and MŠMT staff entrusted with coordinating work on NAPIV was first convened at a meeting on 28 June 2010. At this constituting meeting, the structure of the various NAPIV Working Groups was presented and the experts signed up to them. A system of communication between the Working Groups, the external experts, and the internal coordination of the overall NAPIV Working Group was established. Implementation of NAPIV could have begun then, but when the government changed and MŠMT came under new leadership, it stopped communicating on this issue.

The next - and for now, the final - meeting was not convened until 28 January 2011. This corresponded, time-wise, to rising media interest in the issue and pressure from international institutions requiring the introduction of pro-inclusive reforms to Czech education with a view to the Czech Republic's international obligations. At the January meeting, MŠMT surprisingly gave a brief overview of a completely new structure for NAPIV, including new personnel. These changes were the subject of criticism by many members of NAPIV directly at that meeting and in subsequent communication with the MŠMT representative. The ministry's distant, if not outright negative approach to this agenda corresponds to its personnel policy. The concept of inclusive changes was first elaborated by a team working at the Department of Equal Opportunities in Education, but this expert team, the bearer of the idea of inclusive education, was partially dissolved by management, while other members resigned because they disagreed with the steps we have mentioned.

MŠMT during this time indicated that the NAPIV team was being "reconstructed". Despite growing concerns, several Working Groups continued to work on their original tasks while repeatedly asking the ministry to clarify its aims, to provide a time-frame, and to task them further. Instead of receiving answers, however, information gradually came to light that the ministry completely misunderstands the NAPIV idea. The aim of NAPIV is primarily to satisfy the educational needs of every individual child, not to preserve institutions or a segregating system.

One confirmation of this reconstruction of the NAPIV team and the creation of parallel structures, for example, is the MŠMT press release dated 28 March 2011: "The transformation of the expert external Working Groups established by the previous administration of MŠMT in mid-2010 by Group VI for the purpose of fulfilling NAPIV is underway. The members of these groups will be contacted as needed by the MŠMT departments as related to the topics those departments address with respect to fulfilling the NAPIV aims. The general and professional public will be informed of the course of the steps taking as part of that fulfillment through the MŠMT website." Another clear piece of information about the creation of a parallel NAPIV structure is the reply of the Education Minister on 30 March 2011 to a letter from members of the NAPIV Law and Legislation Working Group, in which the minister states: "… steps are being implemented with the newly-established, small inter-ministerial group of experts and an analogous intra-ministerial Working Group". However, members of the official NAPIV platform appointed by MŠMT were never informed of the creation of this "parallel NAPIV team".

FAILURE TO DIRECT THE CONTENT OF NAPIV

The current leadership of the ministry is now incorrectly stating that NAPIV was originally exclusively focused on children with social disadvantage and forgot about other target groups, such as children living with medical disabilities or medical disadvantage. The ministry is explaining its prepared and realized changes to the NAPIV concept as necessary by making this incorrect argument.

NAPIV was conceived as a systemic change affecting every participant in education, not just selected individuals. On the contrary, it is the change to the structure of the expert groups proposed in January 2011 that corresponds to the old concept of inclusion, which was medically oriented (defined by various types of disability). The current NAPIV model, established along these lines, shifts the original structure beyond the framework of any concept of inclusive education. Inclusive education is supposed to aim for every child receiving the support he or she needs with respect to his or her individual needs.

CONCLUSION

In four months, the deadline will expire by which the Czech Republic must file its first report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The state will have to describe the steps it has taken toward implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The approach the Czech Republic has chosen to take toward inclusive education must be reflected in this report. It will also be reflected in the alternative shadow reports that other entities (either non-state or state) may file. The steps which have been taken by the Education Ministry in recent months contravene the international obligations the Czech Republic undertook when it ratified the Convention. Moreover, the state's lack of will to continue to fulfill its obligation to ensure an inclusive educational system may lead to international bodies ruling against the Czech Republic once again because of its actions, just as the European Court for Human Rights ruled in the case of D. H. and others v. Czech Republic.

The existing NAPIV is merely a formality, and we do not want to legitimize the ministry's handling of the issue any further. We prefer to indicate our dissatisfaction with the current situation by resigning from this structure. At the same time, we declare our readiness to collaborate with the Education Ministry at such a time as the state administration will want to seek a real solution to the transformation of the existing selective education system into an inclusive one.

Gwendolyn Albert, Jitka Votavová, voj, resigning NAPIV members, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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