Amnesty International welcomes the commitment by the new Slovakian coalition government to take measures to eliminate segregation in education on ethnic lines as a first step in the right direction.
The commitment is part of a government programme approved on Tuesday by the Slovak National Assembly. If put into practice it could benefit Romani children, many of whom are segregated in sub-standard education.
“This is the first time that a Slovak government has demonstrated political will to address segregation in education on the basis of ethnic origin as a systemic failure,” said Barbora Cernusakova, Amnesty International’s expert on Slovakia.
“Slovak authorities now need to implement comprehensive, measures that will help bring an end to decades of discrimination and segregation of Romani children in inferior education in Slovakia.”
Thousands of Romani children in Slovakia are placed in special schools and classes designed for pupils with “mild mental disabilities” or in ethnically segregated mainstream schools and classes that provide a substandard education.
This excludes Roma in Slovakia from full participation in society and locks them into a cycle of poverty and marginalization.
“The government will have to address the institutional failure to enforce the existing prohibition of discrimination in access to quality education.
“In doing so, it will also have to fight existing prejudices against Romani children and promote the principle of equal treatment among teachers and professionals involved in the process of education,” Barbora Cernusakova said.
“The government will further have to provide the economic resources to eliminate segregation so that Romani children can be integrated in mainstream schools.”
Concrete measures towards enforcing the ban on segregation could include providing the State School Inspectorate with adequate capacities and resources on how to identify, monitor and combat segregation in practice.
This will also require the systematic collection of statistical data on education disaggregated on the basis of gender and ethnicity.
Amnesty International has been campaigning against segregated education of Romani children in Slovakia since 2007.
The organization will continue to monitor the government’s efforts against its stated commitment and will continue to campaign for concrete measures to ensure that Romani children in the country can enjoy their right to education free from discrimination.