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.
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