Romani children harassed by classmates in Yugoslav schools

The Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC), in cooperation with the European Roma Rights Center, has documented numerous cases of Romani children being systematically harassed and verbally and physically abused by their non-Romani classmates in Yugoslav schools. Teachers are reportedly reluctant to take action to guarantee safety for Romani pupils. As a result, many Romani children are afraid to attend school, and drop out at an early age. Zaim Beriša, a thirteen-year-old fourth-grade student in Zaga Malivuk primary school in Belgrade, reported that his non-Romani classmates frequently call him names and sometimes hit and kick him. In September 1999, five non-Romani boys reportedly attacked Zaim in the schoolyard, hitting him in the stomach and face. The school janitor reportedly put an end to the attack and informed the school principal of the incident. Zaim's mother, Ms Ljubica Stanković, confirmed that he came home that day with bruises on his face and a swollen nose, and that she had to take him to the doctor. She complained to the school principal, who promised to speak to the boys and to prevent any further attacks. Nevertheless, a few days later, the same group of boys attacked Zaim and his fifteen-year-old brother, Safet, at the train station as they were returning home from school. This time, one of the boys had a knife. Zaim managed to run away but the attackers beat his brother until a neighbour intervened. Since this time, both boys have been afraid to attend school.

Zoran Miladinović, a nine-year-old second-grade Romani student at Ćirilo i Metodije school in Belgrade, stated that the non-Romani children slap him and call him names almost every day. Zoran complained to his teacher, who reportedly told him it was best to ignore the other children when they called him names. In September, two boys attacked Zoran in the schoolyard, one of them holding him, while the other punched him in the head. Both of them shouted racist insults. Ms Radmila Miladinović, Zoran's mother, stated that on that day her son came home from school with a bleeding mouth, complaining that he had been beaten by the other children.

Kristina Stanojević, an eleven-year-old fifth grade student at Banović Strahinja school in Belgrade, stated that when she was in the fourth grade her classmates frequently taunted her and her two Romani classmates, calling them names such as "filthy Gypsy", and pushed, slapped and kicked her. Kristina complained to her teacher who reportedly spoke to the class about equality. However, the children did not change their behaviour. Kristina reported that this year, the children do not insult her or the other Romani pupils, but very few of the non-Romani children will associate with the Roma.

(HLC, ERRC)

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