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Equal Opportunities Party writes to new Czech Education Minister about assignment of Romani children to the "practical" schools

Prague, 11.5.2012 19:31, (ROMEA)
The logo of the Equal Opportunities Party in the Czech Republic.

The leadership of the Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí - SRP) has written to incoming Czech Education Minister Petr Fiala about the assignment of Romani children into "practical" and "special needs" classes and schools. The party would like to know, for example, how many children have been reassigned from the "special needs" schools to mainstream schools since 2007. Romea.cz is publishing the SRP's open letter below in full translation.

Open Letter from the SRP to Czech Education Minister Petr Fiala

Dear Minister,

Please permit us to reach out to you through this open letter on the question of Romani children, even though you have only been in office briefly. Generations of healthy Romani children have been discriminated against in the Czech Republic through receiving their primary instruction in classes intended for children with intellectual disabilities. This has been the primary determinant of their later lack of success in their adult lives.

This was confirmed in 2007 by a final judgment in the matter of "D. H. and others" handed down by the European Court for Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. That judgment also called on the Czech Republic to accelerate its abandonment of discriminatory practices.

Members of the Central Council of the Equal Opportunities Party (hereinafter ÚR SRP) follow government policy in this matter with attention, as well as the corrective measures said to have been adopted by the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (Ministerstvo školství, mládeže a tělovýchovy - hereinafter MŠMT) and their implementation in practice. Due to our familiarity with this matter, we must inform you that healthy Romani children in this country continue to be disproportionately, illegally educated in classes that are not mainstream.

A strong teachers' lobby in this country does not want to reduce the numbers of children enrolled in the "practical schools" because of their own possible job losses as a result. The Czech Republic, therefore, is not reflecting in practice the judgment of the ECtHR as if it had any weight, but is continuing with these practices. MŠMT is not sufficiently facilitating research into which children currently enrolled in classes for the intellectually disabled actually belong there.

MŠMT has no interest in determining the numbers of children who have successfully been reassigned into mainstream schools. Officials at the ministry must be aware that such numbers, if calculated and published, would be convincing evidence of the results of the ministry's declared corrective measures.

After considering the influence of discriminatory and segregating practices during the assignment of Romani children into a substandard education system for more than 50 years, we are asking you, Mr Minister, to devote particular attention to this phenomenon and, as per the law on free access to information, to provide us data regarding the numbers of children who have been successfully reassigned into mainstream classes since 2007. We are merely seeking the raw numbers, not data linked to ethnicity, so as to confirm the steps taken by the ministry toward correcting this situation. There should be no concern that this data might be misused. We evaluate current MŠMT policy on this matter as not transparent, and therefore not reliable.

We thank you in advance for your response.

On behalf of the ÚR SRP:

Štefan Tišer, Čeněk Růžička, Janka Mižikarová, Rudolf Vitkovič, Zyad Yasin, Jan Kučera, Iveta Bílková

CC: Mgr. Monika Šimůnková - Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, Mgr. Blanka Hrbková - head of the Special Education Section, MŠMT

Gwendolyn Albert, Equal Opportunities Party, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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