No to Special Education for Roma: New ERRC Action in Macedonia

No to Special Education for Roma: New ERRC Action in Macedonia

Romani children in Macedonia are massively overrepresented in special education. As part of a wider action, the ERRC, together with National Roma Centrum, recently trained 60 Roma activists to campaign for mainstream education for all Romani children.

The European Roma Rights Centre recently started a new action an school segregation of Romani children in Macedonia. Today, I’m with the ERRC Programmes Director Tara Bedard to talk about this work.

Sinan Gokcen: Tara, what does this work on school segregated aim to achieve?

Tara Bedard: The ERRC’s work on Roma education in Macedonia aims to promote inclusive education. Our past research indicates that Romani children are very high over-represented in special schools and classes providing education for children with mild mental disabilities. While Roma account for only around 10% of the total population in Macedonia, Romani children were at least 46% of the pupils in the special schools and classes that we’ve visited in the country.

The life-long negative effects of a substandard education are well documented. These children face severely limited opportunities for accessing higher education, their employment opportunities are limited to low-paid menial work and they are stigmatized for their rest of their life. We aim to ensure the Romani children have better opportunities than this. 

Sinan Gokcen: Please tell us how will the ERRC’s approach achieve those aims?

Tara Bedard: We are empowering Romani individuals to take action against the school segregation of Romani children in their own communities through training and awareness-raising. The ERRC and the National Roma Centrum are supporting trainees to go back to their communities to educate Romani parents about the negative consequences of this type of schooling and to gather information about how this practice affects Romani families. At the same time, we’re gathering our own updated information about the proportion of Roman children in special education. All of this will be presented in a comprehensive report with a plan of action addressed to the Macedonian Government for how it should respond to this situation.

Sinan Gokcen: The ERRC cooperated with National Roma Centrum in this work. We asked them why and how the decided to get involved in this action.

Asmet Elezovski: National Romani Center is a National organization in Macedonia and also is the part of Roma movement in Europe. It is important that all of us by Roma or by not Roma we have responsibility to work to go inside in problem and to see how to open the dialog how to find the problem where is the problem and also to send recommendation first of all information after these recommendation to Roma parties, to Roma community and also directly this information to distribute to local institution and government institution because you know it’s very important to create a future of Roma child.

Sinan Gokcen: During our training programmes, we asked several participants why this action is important for them.

Sabina Ramadanova: I wanted to attend this training because it’s about stopping Roma from being enrolled in special schools. We are sharing our experiences from all parts of Macedonia to find a way to campaign, helping parents become more aware.

Demirsa Osmanov: In our municipality the major achievement we want to see is to reduce the number of children who attend special classes when in reality they should not be there.

Sinan Gokcen: Finally, what is ERRC asking the authorities to do?

Tara Bedard: The ERRC’s request is simple. We are asking the Macedonian Government to ensure that Romani children get the best education possible – one that is inclusive and one is equal to that provided to non-Romani children. We want international organizations, NGOs, educators, Romani families and non-Romani families to take up this message them self’s and put their own pressure on the Macedonian Government to make this happens.

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