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Roma to demonstrate in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Saturday for equal access to quality education

8.11.2017 10:22
Ostrava, Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  bau)
Ostrava, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: bau)

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the "D.H. case" against the Czech Republic for discriminating against Romani children in their access to education, a concert by popular Romani bands and performers will be part of a "happening" on Svatopluk Čech Square in Ostrava this Saturday, 11 November at 13:00. Many experts on education will speak at the event, both parents and professionals, and organizers say everybody planning to speak shares the same aim, that of altering the approach taken toward Romani children by the Czech education system.

"The only thing that has changed in the last 10 years is that the 'special schools' were renamed the 'practical primary schools' and then renamed as just 'primary schools'. The amendment to the Education Act facilitates the common education of all children in mainstream schools, but in practice what happens is different," reads a joint declaration by the organizations Awen Amenca and the Romani Parents' Association (Asociace Romských Rodičů).

"Romani children continue to be educated separately (in segregated schools or classrooms), from which they do not have a chance of being accepted to a secondary school with an exit examination, and no chance at all of being accepted to college or university," the declaration says. Those organizing Saturday's demonstration are calling on parents and the public to support them by signing on to their declaration or by attending the "happening".

"We, as parents, want all children educated together in quality schools and in a friendly environment. For that reason we are calling on Romani parents to put an emphasis on quality education for their children, and we are challenging school establishers and school administrations to create friendly, pleasant environments for these children, " organizers say.

"We don't want to wait another 10 years for the Czech Republic to fulfill its obligation to end discrimination against Romani children in the schools,"  the Romani parents' organizations say. The declaration has been signed online by more than 1 000 people so far from all over the Czech Republic and will serve as background material for negotiations with representatives of the public administration and the state that will take place his year.

"This is not the time to wait. Our future is being written in the schools, and it is being written right now," says organizer Magdalena Karvayová.

"We want to demonstrate to all people that Romani parents are interested in their children actually having equal access to quality education and learning together with other children," she said, adding that the responsibility for children's education is not borne just by their parents. "It is important that all of those who are the stakeholders collaborate and that a friendly, safe atmosphere predominates in the schools."

"We, as Romani parents, are prepared to do all we can for our children to be educated and get a bigger chance at a better life," Karvayová said. Her event is just one of many happening in other locations throughout the country and through social networking sites to mark the 10th anniversary of the D.H. judgment.

The event on 11 November in Ostrava is the biggest D.H. commemoration organized, with several hundred people expected to attend, including famous performers such as Jan Bendig, Kuky Band, Gypsy Aron and others who will sing. Awen Amenca z.s. is a nonprofit organization working since 2013 with Romani parents in the area of equal access to a quality education.

More than 300 Romani parents from four excluded localities in Ostrava have joined their campaign and registered their children into quality nursery schools and primary schools. In March 2017 the Romani Parents' Association (Asociace Romských Rodičů, z. s.) was created by the parents involved.

The D.H. judgment found on 13 November 2007 that the Czech state had violated the rights of 18 Romani children from the Ostrava area to education and violated the prohibition against discrimination by arranging for them to be enrolled into "special schools" on the basis of their ethnicity. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights overturned the initial ruling after the plaintiffs appealed.

The judgment was adopted by the justices by a vote of 13:4. It found that the Czech Republic violated the article of the European Convention on Human Rights that prohibits discrimination and the article of the Protocol to the Convention that concerns the right to education.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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