Friday, April 2, 2010
FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN TO STOP PLANS FOR ROMANI LESSONS IN CZECH REPUBLIC
From The Times April 2, 2010
Plans to teach Roma in Czech classrooms have resurrected prejudices
By Adam LeBor, Central Europe Correspondent
Proposals by Czech authorities to offer lessons in Romani, the language of the country’s Roma minority, in schools have triggered a Facebook campaign against the plan.
More than 85,000 people have signed up to a page on the social networking website called “Petition against the teaching of Romani in Czech Schools”, even though the ministry has emphasised that the lessons will be voluntary and started only with the consent of parents.
The campaign has highlighted the endemic racism against the country’s 300,000-strong Roma minority that belies the Czech Republic’s image as a beacon of liberalism and human rights. Romany people have a shorter life expectancy, are more likely to live in extreme poverty, be unemployed and have a higher infant mortality rate. Racism against Roma is openly expressed, even by the educated, and is widely accepted.
The protest comes as the European Union prepares for the second EU Roma Summit in Cordoba, Spain, next week. The Ministry of Education and Roma activists have been taken by surprise by the speed and strength of the nationwide opposition to the plan. A ministry spokesman, Tomas Bouska, told Czech Radio that the Facebook campaign was proof of the need for more multicultural education in schools, not less.
“It’s a sensitive topic in general, and the only thing that the Education Ministry can do is introduce more integrated forms of education that would put both sides together and hopefully explain and declare that there is no need to fight, there is just a need to speak. And what else can help than language?”
Czech authorities continue to place Romany children in schools for pupils with “mild mental disabilities”, thus providing a substandard education, according to a recent report by Amnesty International. The practice contravenes a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 2007, which found that the Czech Republic discriminated against Roma children by placing them in special schools.
Michal Kocab, the Human Rights Minister, told The Times: “The Ministry of Education knows that the Roma children have potential for education but the municipalities often have no will to implement the laws because they are still influenced by prejudices and stereotypes.”
A new schools Act, passed in 2005, simply renamed special schools as “practical elementary schools” but the selection procedure and limited curriculum remained the same.
“The real issue is to ensure quality education in Czech for Romany children learning side by side with their Czech peers,” said Rob Kushen, director of the European Roma Rights Centre.
Posted by Morgan at 1:42 PM