Segregated Education for Romani Children in Slovakia
29 October 2003
According to ERRC research, conducted in partnership with the Košice-based Slovak Roma Press Agency (SRPA) in February 2003, out of two hundred and eleven Romani pupils enrolled in school in Svinia in eastern Slovakia, only four attend regular classes in the elementary school, while the remainder attend special and specialised classes. Special classes are classes for mildly mentally handicapped pupils, while specialised classes are classes focused on a particular subject or trade. The principal of the elementary school, Mr Jožef Senko, stated to the ERRC/SRPA that if the school placed Romani and non-Romani pupils in the same class during their first year, non-Romani parents would pull their children out of the school. The elementary school is comprised of two buildings; non-Romani students attend classes in the new building while Romani pupils attend classes in two shifts in the old building. Romani children are served their lunch in a separate room beside the regular school lunch room, on dishes marked to indicate that they are for Romani students only. Romani students are also forced to eat with cutlery made of aluminium, though this type of cutlery was banned long ago.
The segregation of Romani children into substandard schools and classes greatly decreases their chances of proceeding to further educational opportunities and, eventually, gain access to employment. The Slovak English language newspaper Slovak Spectator of May 12, 2003, quoted Ms Anna Koptová, Director of the Košice-based Romani organisation Good Romani Fairy Foundation, as having stated that there are currently only three Romani students enrolled in high schools in eastern Slovakia. Article 3 of the International Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Slovakia is a party, states, "States Parties particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction." In addition, Article 13(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICSECR) states, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace." Further, Article 2(2) of the ICESCR obliges States Parties to ensure that the rights delineated in the Covenant are exercised without discrimination of any kind.
(ERRC, Slovak Spectator, SRPA)