Sabrina started school in 1998, when she was six years old. She was not treated the same as other children in her class. Her teacher never involved Sabrina in activities and never asked her any questions. She just used to sit in the corner while other children were busy with schoolwork. Her mother was then told that Sabrina must change to a special school for children with "mild mental disabilities". She was never properly tested for learning disabilities.
Sabrina is one of thousands of Romani children in the Czech Republic who were placed in special schools. In November 2007 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that such discriminatory placement in special schools violated the right of Romani children to education. Three years later, however, the discrimination continues despite the obligation of the Czech Republic to implement the judgment and allow equal access of Romani children to mainstream quality education, together with pupils from the majority and other minority populations.
Special schools have now been renamed “practical schools” but little else has changed. Romani children are still overrepresented in “practical schools” – in some places, they make up more than 80 per cent of the student body.
Romani children are often socially disadvantaged and require special support and attention, which mainstream elementary schools are frequently unwilling or unable to give. Pushing these children away from mainstream education seems to be an easier option. Many end up in Roma-only schools, where the level of education is significantly lower than in other places. Those who study with non-Romani children are often taught in separate classes or face discrimination in the classroom. Their rights are still violated at every step of the way.
Image: Romani girl writes solves a mathematics exercise on the blackboard in grade 3 of a primary school for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" in Ostrava, Czech Republic. © Amnesty International