Amnesty International has warned that establishing boarding schools for Romani children "and gradually detach[ing] them from the way of living they currently experience in the settlements" is discriminatory and a blatant attack on the Roma way of living.
The Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Monday that the government proposes a system, in which Romani children will be taken from settlements and be placed in boarding schools.
"The idea that Romani children have to be removed from their families and put into boarding schools, when they could be educated in normal schools near their homes, is clearly against the best interests of the child. Uprooting them from their surroundings and removing them from their families, is an attack on their identity," said Halya Gowan, director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia programme.
The fact that some Romani families living in settlements – as other families in Slovakia – experience challenges to supporting the education of children because of poverty, language barriers and other factors, highlights the need for government to provide support and assistance to all to overcome such barriers.
"Isolated from the outside world, Romani children will find it more difficult to fully participate in Slovak society. The government's proposal will perpetuate the segregation they experience now. In fact it will make it official," Halya Gowan said.
"The government's proposal is completely out of tune with developments in the European Union. If adopted, it will be in absolute contravention of both Slovak law and international human rights standards on non-discrimination by which Slovakia is bound."
Amnesty International has previously voiced serious concerns about the discrimination and segregation Romani children experience in Slovak schools, including through their placement in special schools and classes for pupils with mental disabilities.
"Rather than establishing another parallel system of separate education for children based on their ethnicity, it is necessary that the Slovak government focus its efforts towards ensuring that mainstream schools include all children regardless of the social background, language or other abilities," Halya Gowan said.
Amnesty International has called on the Slovak government to address the core of the problem – persisting segregation of Romani children in education which should be overcome by reforms to the education system to ensure truly inclusive education for all children.
The organization said that the government must provide appropriate support to families and pupils who need it, so that they can effectively participate and develop to their fullest potential within mainstream elementary schools.
This work is part of Amnesty International's Demand Dignity campaign which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign will mobilise people all over the world to demand that governments, corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights. For more information visit the Demand Dignity website.