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Infringement procedures against Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary for segregating Romani children | ROMEDIA FOUNDATION
Submitted by Roma Network on 13 August 2016
Infringement procedures against Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary for segregating Romani children
How long does it take to develop according to the best potential in the context of Romani children in Central and Eastern Europe?
During my primary school years in my hometown, for a brief period, I participated in an integrated experimental cross-cultural class. It was in these formative years that I experienced first-hand the benefits of integrated education and it became clear to me that equal access to education is one of the most important factors of integration and that I would like to work on this issue.
Eliminating segregated education is a legitimate demand which is derived from basic human rights, from the philosophical principles of the multicultural state, from the general political requirement and objective to ensure equal opportunity in society, from the goals of minority and education policy, and from the legislative environment resulting from the latter two.
Research results confirm that segregated education and separation based on school performance or ethnic origin negatively affect students’ development and strengthen social exclusion. It causes damages to society, it decreases citizens’ sense of belonging together by reinforcing stereotypes and thus downgrading personal experience and opportunity of new acquaintances. These consequences reduce the chance of launching and maintaining public dialogue and for upholding the necessary level of solidarity to preserve a multicultural society.
Although all members of society are victims of segregated education, those most affected by it are the people who directly experience discrimination and its consequences. For example, by a lack of proper education, labor market opportunities are limited for Roma people, and this directly leads to and perpetuates a vicious circle of poverty.
After the formal closure of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, the integration of Roma in the domain of education remains one of the most challenging issues in the EU agenda, and the school systems still perpetuate the gap between the non-Romani and Romani students. It is clear that efficient and effective policies are needed to close the gap.
Cases related to segregated education clearly show that in Central and Eastern Europe a lot of Romani children are still waiting for the recognition of their substantive equality as they do not have the same access to education as their non-Romani peers. Even the landmark case of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic at the European Court of Human Rights was not enough of a warning for European states to end discrimination against Romani students. 17 years ago, in 1999 18 children and their families from the Ostrava region, in the northeast of the Czech Republic, filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the Czech educational system as most of the Romani children were systematically sent to special schools for children with learning difficulties. They claimed that their placement to these special schools was based on their ethnic origin.
The significance of the case is that the European Court of Human Rights has concluded for the first time that placing Romani children in schools for mentally disabled children based on culturally biased enrolment tests amounts to racial discrimination. This pattern of discrimination has violated the European Convention on Human Rights and the Court highlighted that the lack of equal access to education for Romani children is a persistent problem not only in the Czech Republic, but across Europe.