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November 29, 2020



Roma Realia protests children’s textbook using the term “Gypsy” (“cikánský")

Prague, 17.12.2009 7:23, (ROMEA)

The Roma Realia civic association and representatives of the Roma Resistance Movement (Hnutí romského odporu) are protesting a workbook for children over its use of the term “Gypsy” ("cikánský"). The workbook, issued by the Brno-based publisher Nová škola (New School), describes the languages spoken in the Czech Republic as Czech, Hungarian, Slovak and “Gypsy” (“cikánský”). Roma Realia says the term is offensive.

Václav Miko, chair of the association, told ČTK the association will complain to the Czech Education Ministry, which has approved the workbook for school use. ČTK is now seeking an official statement from the publisher.

"Roma Realia has received a copy of Tvrdé a měkké slabiky (Hard and Soft Syllables). On page 9, the languages spoken here are listed as Czech, Hungarian, Slovak and ‘Gypsy’. Today the general public is already very well aware that the term accepted by the Roma is ‘Roma’ (romské), not ‘Gypsy’ (cikánské)," the civic association says in its declaration.

According to Miko, the expression “Gypsy” (noun – “cikán”, adjective – “cikánský”), is pejorative and promotes an anti-Roma attitude among children. "The fact that this material for children applies a fundamentally anti-Roma attitude shows the depth of racist sentiment, for which the publisher should be liable. We consider it tragic that the Czech school system supports this constant ill-feeling, that it subjects Roma children to significant humiliations and pressures,” Miko said. He is considering suing the Czech Education Ministry over its having approved the publication for use in schools.

Publishing house staff did not want to officially comment on the case, saying that only the editor responsible could make a statement. Roma Realia claims that in a telephone conversation with Mr Miko, Nová škola staff member Mr Kupka acknowledged the inappropriateness of the term but said it was considered literary.

"We will follow up on this. The use of the term ‘Gypsy language’ (‘cikánský jazyk’) is definitely not appropriate,” Ondřej Gabriel of the Education Ministry’s press department said. It is apparently not clear whether the ministry’s approval relates to the edition of the workbook using the expression “Gypsy”.

The ministry issues approval for those textbooks for which it will reimburse schools. Textbooks must undergo independent review by experts before being awarded approval. However, schools may teach according to any textbooks they like. Without approval, however, the ministry will not contribute to their acquisition.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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