MINELRES: Rights Groups Press Czech Government on Roma Education

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Wed Sep 17 20:00:04 2008

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rights Groups Press Czech Government on Roma Education

David Berry (Open Society Justice Initiative, New York) 
dberry@justiceinitiative.org, +1.212.548.0385;
Andi Dobrushi (ERRC, Budapest) 
andi.dobrushi@errc.org, +36.1.413.2224;

BUDAPEST — Despite changes in legislation and a landmark ruling from
Europe’s highest court, racial segregation of Roma children remains a
fixture of education in the Czech Republic, a coalition of rights groups
said today.

The Czech government must take significant steps, including enacting new
legislation, to desegregate the country’s schools, the groups said in an
official communication to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of
Europe. The statement was signed by the European Roma Rights Centre
(ERRC), the Roma Education Fund, the Open Society Justice Initiative,
and the Open Society Institute.

The Czech Republic’s School Law of 2005, curriculum modification of
2007, and the European Court of Human Rights’ landmark decision in D.H.
and Others v. the Czech Republic have all failed to end a segregated
education system in which the vast majority of Roma students are still
assigned to “special” schools with sub-standard curricula. The full text
of the communication is available here: Communication_ GM_D.H.v.theCzech

“Czech authorities have relabelled ‘special remedial schools’ as
‘practical primary schools,’ but the reality of unequal educational
opportunity for Roma children has not changed,” said James A. Goldston,
executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. 

Research conducted by the ERRC during the first half of 2008 found that
despite assurances from the Czech government, the situation of Roma
students had not improved. In fact, curriculum modifications of 2007
have actually made it harder for Roma students to move into the
educational mainstream. 

“We found that while overall enrolment in regular schools is declining,
enrolment in special schools has remained the same; this indicates that
Roma students are not moving into regular schools,” said Savelina
Danova, acting executive director of the ERRC.

The communication to the Committee of Ministers outlines several steps
the Czech government must take to end segregation of Roma students,

- Enacting national legislation requiring public authorities to
desegregate the educational system.

- Declaring publicly the goal of providing equal access to educational
opportunities for all by 2015, creating a comprehensive strategic plan
for achieving that goal, and allocating funding for enacting the plan.

- Revising the process of testing and assessing students to bring it
into line with European standards and eliminate anti-Roma bias.

- Providing better information to Roma parents on the benefits of

The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute (OSI), pursues law reform activities grounded in the
protection of human rights, and contributes to the development of legal
capacity for open societies worldwide. The Justice Initiative combines
litigation, legal advocacy, technical assistance, and the dissemination
of knowledge to secure advances in five priority areas: national
criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information and
expression, equality and citizenship, and anticorruption. Its offices
are in Abuja, Budapest, and New York.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public
interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at
combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma. The
approach of the ERRC involves, in particular, strategic litigation,
international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of
Romani activists. The ERRC is a cooperating member of the International
Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and has consultative status with
the Council of Europe, as well as with the Economic and Social Council
of the United Nations.

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