Biggest effort to stop segregation of Roma in education system from Hungary

Hungary is believed to be the Central European country with the highest number of Romanies - an estimated 600,000 are thought to live there. In Slovakia the figures lie between 250,000 and 500,000. Besides the Czech Republic, these two countries were also criticised for their handling of Roma in the education system. Claude Cahn from the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest gave us his take on this criticism:

"The criticism that Romany children are placed in special schools has been broadly acknowledged by the three governments of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. The fact of the situation is that in the Czech Republic, around half of the Romany child population is in schools or classes for the mentally disabled. Those rates are slightly higher in Slovakia and slightly lower in Hungary. But around the region it is a very serious issue and it is part of a continuum of an issue, which is the placement of Romany children in various forms of separate, substandard education, where they will not receive an adequate education."

What kind of conditions do they actually face in these special schools?

"In many conditions the conditions are fine, with the single exception that they are not being educated. In the Czech Republic, for example, there is higher investment per pupil in children who are in schools or classes for the mentally disabled than there is in normal schools. The facilities are often fine. The problem is that when one finishes school, one will have absolutely zero chances for a job of any sort that will provide a meaningful advancement or a meaningful career and so a person who has been schooled in a school for the mentally disabled is effectively condemned to a life of poverty."

You mentioned Slovakia as the country of those three that are being criticised with the highest number of Romany children in the special schools...

"Of the three countries named, the only government, which has actually created measures that seriously try to begin to address is Hungary. Even there, although there have been some very interesting policy measures, the impact is still not seen. So, none of the governments really have taken up the challenge as it exists yet.

"The situation in Slovakia has to do with the fact that in a number of very rural counties, there are very high rates of placement due to very high levels of anti-Romany hostility and there is a really strong will for separate schooling between Roma and non-Roma."