Learn the lesson

Romani children in the Czech Republic are not getting the education that is their right.

They’re sent to schools for children with ‘mild mental disabilities’. They’re put in segregated classes and schools. And teachers and other pupils treat them badly just because they’re Roma.

This discrimination limits Romani children’s job prospects and means they can’t fulfil their potential. Ultimately, they won’t be able to build a better future – for themselves, their families and communities, and Czech society.

From April to August 2015, 38,334people in 94 countries urged the Czech Prime Minister to end the discrimination of Romani children in schools. A huge thank you to everyone who took action – we will use your voices to push the Czech government to make change happen.

They called my sister ‘black mouth’. They told her that she didn’t know anything, that she looked disgusting.

Karel, 15

The stats

of the Czech population is Roma
of children studying in education programmes for pupils with mild mental disabilities are Roma
of Roma aged 20-24 have had a general or vocational secondary education, compared to 82% of non-Roma

For many Romani children, Czech is not their first language, so they struggle in mainstream schools and are not given the support they need to catch up and do well.

What’s more, many are given unnecessary psychological tests and sent to ‘practical schools’ which are designed for pupils with mild mental disabilities.

Some ‘good’ schools refuse to admit Romani children, because they don’t want to be seen as ‘Roma schools’. What’s more, non-Romani parents often take their children out of schools that accept Romani children. It means the options of Romani children are limited to schools where the majority of pupils are also Roma and where the standard of education may not be as high.

They make idiots of us. The school is really easy. They teach slower because it’s a ‘practical’ school.

Andrej, 15

Bullying, abuse and segregation

If Romani children are able to register for a mixed school, they are often bullied and abused just for being different. Teachers blame the children and their parents, saying that they don’t value education and that the children are ‘un-teachable’. To avoid this treatment, Romani children and parents often choose ‘Roma only’ schools instead.

In these schools, it’s rare for children to continue on to further education. The schools struggle to get funding, and the quality of education suffers. What’s more, the segregated schools only reinforce the barriers between Romani communities and the rest of society. These communities become more isolated and vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.

I just wanted to make sure my sons could go to school. I wanted to register them at a nearby mainstream school, but I was refused.

Elena, mother of Romani children

So far, the Czech government has done little to wipe out the discrimination Romani children face just because of their ethnicity. They must try harder – first they need to acknowledge the extent of the problem, and then they need to make a public commitment to end it. And then they need to develop a detailed plan to show us how they’ll do it.