EU says Czech Republic discriminates against Romany children
The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia has criticized the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary for allegedly discriminating against Romanies from an early age by sending many of them to special schools for people with learning difficulties. The EU report suggests that this practice is at the root of the government's inability to deal with the integration of Roma into society as such, because wrongful assignment to special education has far reaching negative consequences for future employment opportunities.
Some 250,000 Romanies are thought to live in the Czech Republic and many of them say it is impossible to find work. Few have more than primary school education and according to a report commissioned by the EU close to seventy percent of them end up in schools for children with learning disabilities. This is largely because they come from a different language and cultural background which gives them a huge handicap. Under pressure from the European Commission the Czech government has recently undertaken steps to address the problem, introducing special pre-school language classes, Romany councillors and officially committing itself to dissolving "special schools" for children with learning disabilities. Ondrej Gabriel from the Education Ministry's press department says he is disappointed that this activity had gone unregistered:
"We are open to any kind of discussion on how to help integrate Roma children but the dialogue must be based on facts and this report does not reflect present day reality. The Czech education ministry invests millions of crowns annually into the integration Roma children into Czech schools."
Kumar Vishwanathan who works with the Romany community and is involved in some of the Romany integration projects says that the measures taken are not in themselves sufficient and that although "special schools" have been officially dissolved they continue to exist under a kinder label and Romany children still get sent there.