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Romani children want free transportation to preschool, experts not in favor

Jesenik, 12.5.2009 13:18, (ROMEA)

An original idea for how to get Romani children to preschool has been born in Jeseník district. In Vlčice, they want to buy a bus and transport Romani children from Vlčice and nearby villages to preparatory classes. Under the supervision of a special education teacher, the children would spend two to three hours a day in the classroom, regional editions of Deník report.

The bus would be purchased in Vlčice from state subsidies and the children would be transported free of charge. "Children who do not attend preschool don't know their colors or shapes, for example. That is why we want to give Romani children a better start at life," Mayor of Vlčice Josef Fojtek told the Deník publication.

The project is being criticised by experts on extremism. According to political scientist Zdeňek Zbořil, similar solutions are dangerous and could cause problems in future. "We are dividing children into those who are allowed on the bus and those who are not, and that is dangerous. The children who will not be allowed to ride on the bus will realize they are different. Latent hatred and animosity is already here, and the bus will just set it off," Zbořil warns.

Similar projects are not exactly new. Three years ago there was an effort to attract children into a special education class in Bruntál by offering free transport. However, the project ended unsuccessfully. "At the beginning there was rather high interest, but it trailed off over the course of half a year until it completely evaporated," Bruntál town councillor Jiří Ondrášek says.

On the other hand, in Jihlava, they have succeeded in resolving low attendance at the special education school there in a similar way. "We never made any distinctions as to what sort of children we would transport," warns Tomáš Koukal from the Jihlava town hall, adding that the project was not exclusively for Roma.

Other towns with numerous Roma communities, such as Litvínov or Ústí nad Labem, do not want to go the Jeseník route. In Ústí they have solved the problem of Roma school attendance by arranging for a school to open in the Předlice quarter, which has the highest concentration of Roma. "School and preschool attendance, in my opinion, will not be resolved by busing children to be educated. If the legislation would simply be changed, and if school absence would become a criminal offense, that would have a much more effective impact," spokesperson for the Ústí town hall Milan Knotek says.

Gwendolyn Albert, Denik, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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