MINELRES: Bulgaria: Roma Children are not Children of Bulgaria, Decide the Parliament

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Oct 13 19:29:20 2004


Original sender: Emil Cohen <emilcohen@bnc.bg>


Human Rights Project*
Press Release

Bulgaria: Roma Children are not Children of Bulgaria, Decide the
Parliament

Sofia, October, 10 - On October 07, 2004 the Parliament of Bulgaria
rejected at first reading the Draft Law for Creation of Fund for
Minority Children Educational Integration. The Draft has been introduced
in the National Assembly by the Council of Ministers. The ruling
majority that is composed of the National Movement Simeon the Second
(NMSS) and of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), that is the
political party of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, could not reach the
necessary number of 112 MPs for approving of the Draft. 106 MPs voted
‘for’ the Government’s draft. 66 were ‘against’ and 50 MPs abstained
from voting. Thus the opposition(1) that in this case got a support by
one of the fractions of the ruling party NMSS could stop the adoption of
the Draft. By its voting the Parliament practically eliminated the
possibility such a law to be approved by the end of the term of the
current National Assembly because of some special features of the Rules
of the Parliament. 

The proposed Draft provides for a special fund for a desegregation of
the Roma children to be established. This fund should collect money
designed especially for a desegregation of the so-called ‘Roma schools’.
It has been provided for that the main part of the money should be got
from international donors such as World Bank, Open Society Institute
etc. By the establishment of that fund the Bulgarian State should create
a legal framework for accumulation of international money. The financial
participation of the state was provided for to be minimal. 

As it is well known at present in Bulgaria there are 106 schools and
pre-school facilities in which the student body is 100% Roma. Beside
this around 70 % of the Romany children are currently educated in the
Romany ghetto schools. In addition to that there are over 300 schools in
which the share of Romany children is 50%-100% (2). The segregated
Romany schools are a heritage from the totalitarian regime. It is well
known that the segregated ‘ghetto’ schools provide the students with an
education of an extremely inferior quality. As a result of the long-term
existence of these schools now the share of Roma aged 15 or above, who
are without any education is 13, 3%. The part of these who have only
primary education is 76, 4%; 10% have secondary education and only just
0,2% have university education (3). It too well known that the general
educational state of the ethnic Bulgarians and Turks is much more well. 

Since 2000 in seven Bulgarian cities have worked special projects of
local Roma NGOs for desegregation of the Roma schools. They have been
financially supported by Open Society Institute – Budapest. The total
amount of Roma children who take part in these projects and thus study
in normal Bulgarian non-segregated schools is about 2000. The total
number of the Romany children at school age is around 106 000 and as it
was noted above 70% of them study in segregated ghetto schools. It is
absolutely clear that the financial and organizational possibilities of
the non-governmental organizations do not allow them to enlarge the
scope of the desegregation projects. Only the state can take charge of
the enlargement of the process of desegregation.

The desegregation of the Roma schools is one of the most important steps
that state has to do if it wants to fulfil its obligations according to
the Framework Program for Equal Integration of Roma in the Bulgarian
Society. This Program was approved by the Government on April 22, 1999
and the present ruling coalition has confirmed its engagement to execute
it. 

Unfortunately the Draft was refused without any reasonable
argumentation. In contrary a part of the reasons against the Draft were
openly nationalistic ones. ‘This Draft establishes preferences for the
minority children and puts the majority students at disadvantageous
situation’ said some MPs of the left opposition. 

On September 14 three NGOs – the Interethnic Initiative for Human
Rights, Human Rights Project and Equal Access Foundation held a special
round table devoted to the problems of the education of the Roma
children. They wrote a special Open Letter to the National Assembly and
called on it to pass the Draft as soon as possible. The document was
backed by over than 100 Romany and non-Romany organizations. On
September 30, 2004 the Open Letter was handed in to the National
Assembly.

On October 8, 2004 six (5) NGOs held a special press conference at which
they expressed their protest against the decision of the Parliament.
‘Unfortunately we are forced to generalize that the attempts for solving
of the problems of the education of the Roma children meet a serious
resistance on the part of the political class. Obviously the Bulgarian
politics prefer Roma people to remain illiterate and poor. They prefer
so in order to continue to manipulate the Roma before every elections’,
is written in the document of this press conference. The title of it is
‘Roma children are not children of Bulgaria, decided the Parliament’. 

Human Rights Project will continue its efforts for adoption of
legislation in favor of the state engagement to the desegregation of the
Roma schools. We call on all human rights and Roma organizations to make
a pressure upon the Bulgarian National Assembly for an adoption of the
refused Draft as soon as possible. 

Endnotes:

(1) There are two main opposition fractions in the Bulgarian parliament:
the first one is of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the second is of
the right parties United Democratic Forces and Democrats for Strong
Bulgaria. 

(2) See Stigmata – Segregated schooling of Roma in Central and Eastern
Europe , a research, published by the ERRC, Budapest, May 2004, p.p. 10,
22

(3) Ibid. 

(4) For more details see Kanev, K. The First Steps: an Evaluation of the
Non-governmental Desegregation Projects in Six Bulgarian Cities. An
External Evaluation Report to the Open Society Institute. Open Society
Institute, 2003

(5) Consultative Council on the Education of the Minority Children,
Equal Access Foundation, Human Rights Project, Bulgarian Helsinki
Committee, Interethnic Initiative for Human Rights, International Center
on the Minority Problems 

On behalf of HRP:

Emil Cohen

____________
*Human Rights Project was established in the summer of 1992 as a
non-profit organization focusing on monitoring the human rightssituation
of the Roma in Bulgaria, and on legal defense in cases of serious human
rights abuses. The HRP monitors the human rights situation of the Roma
community in Bulgaria and reports on the cases which it had
investigated; works with Roma volunteers from all over the country who
report on the human rights observation in their region; conduct
independent extrajudicial investigation into allegations of human rights
violations against Roma; hire lawyers to take up selected cases and
monitors the process of legal defense; advocates legislative and policy
changes in favor of Roma.

Ivan Ivanov is Chair of the Board of HRP. 
Dimitrina Petrova, Dimitar Georgiev, Mitio Kemalov and Rumian Russinov
are members of the Board.
Emil Cohen emilcohen@bnc.bg is Executive Director.

Our address: 23 Solunska St., 6th floor, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel./fax: (+359 2) 986 35 46 and (+359 2) 981 50 66;
E-mail: hrproject@bnc.bg and  hrp@bnc.bg

-----------------
Emil Cohen
Human Rights Project
Executive Director
1000 Sofia, 23 Solunska Str.
Phone/fax: (+359 2) 98150 66; GSM: (+359) 0888335707