Czech Republic must eliminate second-rate education for Roma

Amnesty International, None, CZECH REPUBLIC / Amnesty International

13 January 2010
The Czech authorities are continuing to place Romani children in schools for pupils with "mild mental disabilities", leaving them with a sub-standard education, Amnesty International said in a report published on Wednesday.

"Systematic discrimination against Romani children in education continues despite repeated international and national exposure. The Czech authorities must end the segregation of Roma children in schools and act to tackle the underlying causes of discrimination," said Nicola Duckworth, director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Programme.
Amnesty International's report, Injustice renamed: Discrimination in education of Roma persists in the Czech Republic, examines the systematic discrimination that still exists in the Czech education system, despite a 2007 judgment by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Court found that the Czech Republic had discriminated against Romani children by placing them in "special schools" for children with mental disabilities, where they received a sub-standard education.

With a new Schools Act in 2005, the Czech authorities merely renamed "special schools" as "practical elementary schools", but the system which places children in these schools and teaches a limited curriculum, essentially remains the same.

"Recent measures to support Romani children in mainstream education announced last November by the Czech authorities do not go far enough as they are neither comprehensive nor legally binding," said Nicola Duckworth.

Amnesty International visited several schools in Ostrava, where in 1999 18 Romani children initially filed the court case, which eventually led to the European Court judgement.

The organization found Romani children are still over-represented in so-called practical schools and classes intended for pupils with "mild mental disabilities," due to the failure of mainstream educational establishments to meet their needs.

In some places, Romani children make up more than 80 per cent of the students of practical elementary schools.

Romani children are also segregated in Roma-only schools which often offer a lower quality education, limiting their future education and employment opportunities.

The placement in practical schools and classes for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" is based on the results of assessments that fail to factor in cultural and linguistic differences of Romani children and may be compounded by the prejudice of staff conducting them.

"The duty to ensure the successful inclusion of Romani children into integrated mainstream schools lies with the Czech authorities who have a unique opportunity to reverse decades of discrimination and segregation," Nicola Duckworth said.
"Education is the way out of a vicious circle of poverty and marginalization that affects a large part of the Roma population in the country. Unless the Czech authorities give them equal opportunities, they will be denying Romani children their chances for a better future and full participation in the life of the country."

Amnesty International has called on the Czech authorities to:

  • Freeze all placements of children into practical schools and classes for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" for the school year 2010/11, pending a review of the need for such a curriculum and schools;
  • Enforce in law the desegregation of education and adopt a comprehensive plan with clear yearly targets to eliminate school segregation of Romani children;
  • Ensure that additional support is immediately made available for children who need it in order to effectively participate in and develop to their fullest potential within the integrated mainstream elementary school.

This work is part of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign will mobilise people all over the world to demand that governments, corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights.