• Press Release

Amnesty International Urges Slovakia to End Educational Segregation of Romani Children

March 27, 2011

Amnesty International Media Release
For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Amnesty International Urges Slovakia to End Educational Segregation of Romani Children

Human rights organization welcomes commitment to eliminate segregated schooling; advises immediate action

Contact: AIUSA media relations office, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.)  Amnesty International is urging the Slovak government to immediately end the segregation of Romani children in the country’s education system. This practice leaves thousands of Romani pupils in substandard education in schools and classes for pupils with “mild mental disabilities” or ethnically segregated mainstream schools and classes.

In a briefing to the Slovak government, Steps to end segregation in education, Amnesty International points to serious gaps in the enforcement and monitoring of the ban on discrimination and segregation in the Slovak educational system.

“Romani children across Slovakia remain trapped in a school system that keeps failing them as a result of widespread discrimination,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia deputy director. “It deprives Romani children of equal opportunities and sentences them to a life of poverty and marginalization."

“The Slovak government has much to do to end the segregation that has an impact on a large part of the country’s population. Segregation in education means a life-long stigma for children whose future chances are brutally limited. It is a practice that does not belong in 21st century Europe and must be eliminated.”

Segregation of Romani children takes various forms: special schools or special classes within mainstream schools designed for pupils with “mild mental disabilities” and mainstream Roma-only schools and classes. While Roma are estimated to comprise less than 10 percent of Slovakia’s total population, they make up 60 percent of the pupils in special schools, according to a 2009 survey.

In regions with high Romani populations, three out of every four pupils in special schools are Roma. Eighty five percent of the children in special classes in mainstream schools across the country are Roma.

The causes of segregation are complex and include entrenched anti-Roma attitudes as well as policy failures in the education system such as early and flawed child assessment and insufficient support for Romani children within mainstream education.

Widespread anti-Romani sentiment across the country expressed by non-Roma parents and educational professionals, has also led to segregation of Romani children even in mainstream schools and classes. This has led to a situation in which Romani children are sometimes literally locked into separate classrooms, corridors or buildings to prevent them from mixing with non-Roma pupils.

The new government’s recently stated commitment to eliminate segregated schooling of Roma, included in the coalition government’s program adopted in August 2010 is, however, a welcome development.

“The idea that separate can be equal has been discredited,” said Diaz-Jogeix. “Slovakia cannot continue to deny its Romani children their right to education without discrimination. The choices that the government makes now will affect the lives of thousands of Romani children. The government holds the key to allow the Roma in Slovakia full participation in Slovak and European society.”  

Amnesty International calls on the Slovak authorities to:

·    Provide the State School Inspectorate with adequate resources, including robust, detailed guidelines and procedures on how to identify, monitor and combat segregation in practice
·    Begin the systematic collection of data on education, disaggregated on the basis of gender and ethnicity;
·     Introduce a clear duty on all schools to desegregate education and provide them with effective  support;
·     Introduce adequate support measures for Roma and non-Roma children who need extra assistance, so that they may achieve their fullest potential within mainstream schools.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.