29 June 2011
End the segregation of Romani children in Slovakia’s schools

Thousands of Romani children across Slovakia remain trapped in substandard education as a result of widespread discrimination and a school system that keeps failing them.

Entrenched anti-Roma attitudes within the education system have led to situations in which Romani children from kindergarten onwards are sometimes locked into separate classrooms, corridors or buildings, separated even at lunchtimes to prevent them from mixing with non-Romani pupils.

Segregation of Romani children takes various forms. In several districts, Romani children attend ethnically segregated mainstream schools and classes that often operate reduced curriculums.

In regions with large Romani populations at least three out of four children in special schools designed for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" are Roma; across the country as a whole, Roma represent 85 per cent of children attending special classes. Yet, Roma comprise less than 10 per cent of Slovakia’s total population.

Discrimination and segregation in Slovak schools exclude Roma from full participation in society and lock them into a cycle of poverty and marginalization.

Slovakia’s 2008 Schools Act bans all forms of discrimination, particularly segregation. But it fails to clearly define segregation, or to include robust guidelines and measures to help education authorities identify and monitor segregation and enforce desegregation. Effective measures to implement the ban have yet to be put in place.

Last August, in its four-year-programme the Slovak government included a commitment to eliminate the segregated schooling of Roma. Yet Amnesty International is concerned that this has not been followed by a clear and unequivocal statement by the head of government that ethnic discrimination and segregation of Roma is unacceptable and will be combated as a matter of priority. Amnesty International is also concerned that nearly one year after the new government took office no concrete measures have been taken towards desegregation.

Segregation is a practice that does not belong to 21st century Europe and must be eliminated. The Slovak government has much to do to end this practice 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.

The choices that the government makes now will affect the lives of thousands of Romani children.

Take Action:

Print the School Progress Report for the Government of Slovakia and send a signed copy to the Minister of Education to tell him the government "Must try harder"
Download the School progress report

Image: Romani children in a special class for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" at the elementary school in Krivany, Slovakia, April 2010. Copyright: Amnesty International

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End the segregation of Romani children in Slovakia’s schools

Dear Minister / Deputy Prime Minister

Thousands of Romani children across Slovakia remain segregated in special schools and classes and in Roma-only mainstream schools and classes offering inferior education. Despite a commitment included in the government’s programme to end segregation on the basis of ethnic origin, I am concerned to learn that so far no concrete measure has been taken to that end.
Segregation is a practice that does not belong to 21st century Europe and must be eliminated. The government holds the key to allow the Roma in Slovakia full participation in Slovak and European society. I urge you to:

- Make a clear and unequivocal statement acknowledging that segregation of Romani children in special and mainstream schools across Slovakia is widespread and systemic; and that reversing it will be a priority for the Slovak government;

- Ensure that the principles of non-discrimination and equality are in the centre of the new ‘Concept on Regional Education’ that is being prepared by the Ministry of Education, and that concrete measures for desegregation will be included as a priority in this new tool;

- Include legal and policy provisions that clearly define segregation, and provide adequate resources to the State School Inspectorate, including robust, detailed guidelines and procedures on how to identify, monitor and combat discrimination and 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; such a duty should be accompanied by effective support for schools to desegregate;

- Introduce adequate measures to support Roma and non-Roma who need extra classroom assistance, so that they can attain their fullest potential within mainstream schools, and in order to promote truly inclusive education.

Yours sincerely,

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