Czech authorities vow to tackle wrongful placement of Roma children

Czech education authorities have said they will take measures to end the wrongful placing of Romani children in schools for pupils with “mild mental disabilities”, in response to Amnesty International’s report on the issue on Wednesday. The report criticized the Czech authorities for placing Romani children in so-called practical schools, leaving them with a sub-standard education. Following the publication of the report, the Czech Ministry of Education commended Amnesty International’s findings and pledged to instruct all directors of practical primary schools to only register children who have “mild mental disabilities”. “All the other children belong in ordinary primary schools,” said Minister Miroslava Kopicova in an official statement on the Ministry’s website. “Although the Czech authorities’ reaction to our report is welcome, Amnesty International would like to reiterate once again our key recommendation — a moratorium on placing any children into practical schools during 2010-11, pending a comprehensive review of the whole system,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia programme.. “We hope the authorities will implement this recommendation which we view as essential in order to end discrimination in the education system.” Amnesty International’s report, Injustice renamed: Discrimination in education of Roma persists in the Czech Republic, examines the systematic discrimination that exists in the Czech education system. Amnesty International visited several schools in Ostrava and found that Romani children are over-represented in so-called practical schools and classes intended for pupils with “mild mental disabilities,” due to the failure of mainstream educational establishments to meet their needs. In some places, Romani children make up more than 80 per cent of the students in schools for children of mild mental disabilities. Assessments that place them there fail to factor in cultural and linguistic differences of Romani children. Romani children are also segregated in Roma-only schools, which often offer a lower quality education, limiting their future education and employment opportunities. “In our meetings, Czech government officials agreed with the conclusions of our research and were open to our recommendations on what needed to be done to reverse the issues identified. We are looking forward to seeing concrete progress in this regard,” said Nicola Duckworth.