24 April 2009
Romani children denied proper education in Slovakia
"What does special school mean to you?"
"Special school is the gypsy school."

12-year-old Romani girl, pupil of the special elementary school of Pavlovce nad Uhom

Romani pupil of the special elementary school in Pavlovce nad Uhom, eastern Slovakia, 28 March 2008Every child has the right to education without discrimination. In Slovakia, huge numbers of Romani children are denied this right.

They are inappropriately placed in "special schools" or classes for children with mental disabilities, or segregated in Roma-only mainstream schools or classes where they study lower curriculums in virtual isolation from other pupils.

Independent studies suggest that as many as 80 per cent of children placed in special schools in Slovakia are Roma.

Special schools designed for children with mental disabilities provide Romani children with sub-standard and reduced curriculum. There is a four-year gap between the curricula in special and ordinary primary schools which in practice means that 10-year-old children in special primary schools learn basic literacy skills.

"In grade 7 of the special school I learned the same things that I learned in grade 3 of the mainstream school." – 14-year-old Romani boy, found to have been erroneously placed in a special school

A special school in Pavlovce nad Uhom is one of the de facto segregated schools in Slovakia where 99.5 per cent of the approximately 190 pupils are Romani children. According to Amnesty International’s research, this is not an exception.

Amnesty International is concerned that the way assessments are conducted and the criteria used to place a child in a special school could amount to discrimination as they do not take into account effectively cultural and linguistic differences.

Amnesty International believes that thousands of Romani children are erroneously placed in special schools or segregated in Roma only schools across Slovakia.

New education legislation in Slovakia prohibits discrimination, especially in the form of segregation; however no measures exist to ensure this prohibition is implemented in practice.

The failure of the Slovak government to provide adequate education for all Romani children blights their future educational and employment prospects, and adds to a cycle of marginalization and poverty for Romani people.

Amnesty International is calling upon the government of Slovakia to reverse racial discrimination in education and address grave violations of the right to education for Romani children. Take part in our campaign for a real change!

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End discrimination against Roma children in education

Dear Deputy Prime Minister,
I am writing to you to express my concern about segregated education of Roma children in Slovakia.
According to the new Schools Act, discrimination in schooling, especially segregation, is unlawful. However, no measures are in place to ensure this prohibition is implemented in practice.
With this in mind, I urge you to review the mandate of the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights in order to ensure that it complies with the standards of other human rights bodies monitoring anti-discrimination legislation and its implementation. It should have the authority to initiate its own investigations, to investigate individual complaints and recommend remedies; to monitor and sanction segregation.
I also urge you to systematically gather data, disaggregated on the basis of gender and ethnicity, which is crucial in your efforts to monitor the extent of segregation and to eliminate it.
Additionally, I urge you to define the category of students from socially disadvantaged background, a term commonly used for Roma children, in a way that would differentiate them from students with disabilities. You should ensure that no child without proven mental disability will be ever again placed in a special school.
Finally, I remind you that the special elementary school in the town of Pavlovce nad Uhom remains a segregated Roma-only school; many Romani children have been wrongly placed there and are denied a quality education. I am aware that this case has come to the attention of the Slovak government; I urge you to take this opportunity and ensure that the new school year brings the end of segregated education for Roma children in Pavlovce nad Uhom.
Yours Sincerely, 

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