Council of Europe says there are still too many Romani children in the Czech "special schools"
The proportion of Romani pupils in "special schools" continues to be disproportionately high in the Czech Republic, but measures seeking to introduce inclusive education - the enrollment of all children into mainstream schools - could bring about positive change. Those are the findings adopted by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers today.
The Council of Europe body, which brings together member state ambassadors, annually evaluates how Prague has been implementing a European Court of Human Rights judgment on this issue from 2007. The court condemned the Czech Republic for discriminating against Romani children by assigning them to "special schools".
The Czech News Agency reports that Tomáš Boček, the Czech Ambassador to the Council of Europe, said that during today's session the Committee found that while the tools described by the Czech Government's Action Plan on Inclusive Education from 2012 had been applied, the Committee still expressed its distress over the fact that, according to current statistics, the proportion of Romani pupils in "special education" classes continues to be too high. The Committee welcomed legislative changes intended to result from an amendment to the Schools Act and called on the Czech authorities to apply them and expand their collaboration with civil society in this area.
"We understand that combating discrimination is a complex problem that requires both a change in people's attitudes and a change to the laws - as well as the full support of civil society," said Ulrich Bunjes, the Special Representative for Roma Issues to the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. Bunjes said the number of pupils (both non-Romani and Romani) in special education in the Czech Republic has been constantly falling in recent years, from 17 775 in 2008 to 10695 in 2014.
"However, we would like to see greater progress as far as Romani children are concerned," Bunjes said. "The proportion of Romani children in special classes and schools has risen during the previous school year, from 28.2 % to 32.4 %. At the same time, the proportion of Romani children in mainstream schools fell from 10.3 % to 9.5 %."
The Committee underlined the need to better monitor the way in which schoolchildren in the Czech Republic are assessed and then recommended for enrollment into mainstream education. The relevant Czech authorities have until 1 September of this year to provide the Committee with information about the strategy they intend to apply per the new law.
By 5 February 2016 the Czech Republic must make available to the Committee its current statistics on Romani pupils enrolled into classes for children with mild mental disability. The committee will then reassess the situation at its June 2016 meeting based on the information received.
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