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Czech Human Rights Commissioner asks anti-Romani reader be withdrawn from schools

Prague, 7.11.2011 22:02, (ROMEA)
Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková

Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková is asking that a reader for second-graders as well as other teaching aids be withdrawn from an ongoing "Rainbow School" project because they include anti-Romani texts. Šimůnková has called on the Czech Education Ministry to take action on the issue.

The Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Romani Community Affairs met today to discuss the materials. Šimůnková informed the Czech Press Agency of her decision when the meeting was over.

The second-grade reader includes a story called "Mýdlová Madla" ("The Soapy Rail") by Ivona Březinová. "Mama told me I shouldn't talk to those Demeterovic boys at all ... she said they're Gypsies. Gypsies are dirty and steal," second-graders read in the textbook, which was published in 2005.

"Seven-year-olds have been reading this for the last six years. That is truly alarming," Šimůnková said. In her view, other teaching aids in the Rainbow School project for multicultural education also include "anti-Romani texts that rise to the level of racism". The project is running in elementary schools in the Moravian-Silesian Region.

The Museum of Roma Culture drew attention to the content of the project. According to museum experts, the material depicts Romani people almost parodically, simplifies the view of Romanipen, promotes stereotypes, and is an insult to members of the minority. The material attributes behavior such as fraud, prostitution and theft to Romani people, the Human Rights Commissioner said. In her view, the teaching aids are instead supposed to serve the purpose of educating people to live in an open society.

The Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Romani Community Affairs is disturbed by the instruction materials and is demanding an explanation, calling on the Czech Education Ministry to follow the content of such teaching aids and devote attention to the issue. Šimůnková believes Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs - VV) will have the ministry review the reader and the results of the project and will remove it from instruction. She said representatives of the ministry promised her to do their utmost to address the issue.

Several activists and Romani parents drew attention to the reader three years ago. In their view, it incites racism and supports prejudice. Representatives of the ministry said at the time that the stereotypes were in the text so children could learn to overcome them.

On the other hand, one year ago Romani organizations distanced themselves from a complaint filed by the Roma Realia association over the use of a story about Mikeš the Tomcat in schools. A passage in which the cat is attacked ends with the sentence: "Dear children, those people were Gypsies."

The Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Romani Community Affairs also discussed the situation in Šluknov district today and called on the cabinet to proceed systematically and to consider creating a coordinating commission on events in the region including members of the legislature, ministries, municipalities, police and regional authorities. The team would harmonize various measures in order to improve the status quo in the area. The Inter-ministerial Commission also asked the Czech Labor Ministry to submit data on the impacts of cuts to welfare on ghetto residents. The Czech Education Ministry was also asked to inform the Inter-ministerial Commission as to how many children with light, medium and severe mental disability are attending "special" schools in the country.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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