ERRC Welcomes "Instruction for Integration of Minority Children and Pupils" by Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science

ERRC welcomes the Instruction for Integration of Minority Children and Pupils, issued by Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science, and sent the following letter to the Minister today.


Mr Vladimir Atanassov
Minister of Education and Science of Bulgaria
September 12, 2002
Budapest

 

Honourable Minister Atanassov,

 

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, welcomes the Instruction for Integration of Minority Children and Pupils issued by your Ministry in September 2002 and believes that this document is a good first step towards the elimination of the barriers for equal education of the Romani children in Bulgaria.

The ERRC notes that the following strategic tasks with respect to the education of the Roma, stated in the Instruction, are coherent with the international standards in the area of Romani education: "1. Preparation for a process of taking the children and the pupils out of the school facilities in the Romani neighbourhoods and ensuring equal access to quality education; and 2. Elimination of the existing practice of routing normally developed children to schools for children with mental disability."

The commitment of the Ministry of Education to eliminate the all-Romani schools in the Romani neighbourhoods as well as to prevent segregation of Romani children in the schools for children with mental disability is commendable. The existence of inferior all-Romani schools and the over-representation of Roma in the schools for children with mental disability has inflicted a dramatic harm on the development of the Romani community in Bulgaria over the past several decades. The disparate treatment of Roma in education not only deprived Roma from equal participation in social life but also deprived Bulgarian society from realising its full potential.

The awareness that the schools in the Romani neighbourhoods are a barrier to the integration of Roma in Bulgarian society has prompted several desegregation initiatives in Bulgaria in 2000-2002, led by Romani non-governmental organisations. With their limited resources, these organisations have achieved encouraging results in the integration of Romani children in the mainstream schools, and these first initiatives have received international recognition. We believe that the models establsihed by these organisations which have proven their efficiency, will provide a stable basis for the Ministry's strategy for the integration of Roma in education.

The ERRC welcomes the decision of the Ministry of Education to set up a Consultative Council on the education of minority children and pupils which will formulate a national strategy for integrated education. In this regard, we express our willingness to help the work of the Consultative Council with our expertise in the area of combatting discrimination against Roma and promoting equal educational opportunities for Roma.

Finally, the ERRC hopes that the measures envisaged by the Instruction for the Integration of Minority Children and Pupils will be implemented without undue delay and in good cooperation with all interested sides, primarily experts and activists from the Romani community in Bulgaria.

Sincerely,
Dimitrina Petrova,
Executive Director of the ERRC

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