Romani Children Segregated in Serbian Kindergarten
15 September 2016
Budapest, 16 September 2016: Today, the European Roma Rights Centre has contacted the President of the Municipality of Beočin and other authorities to further investigate concerns over the segregation of Romani children in a pre-school facility in Beocin, Serbia.
Romani parents who put their children in schools where Serbs are a majority are encouraging their children to learn Serbian in the hope that the next generation will have the chance of a better future and be integrated with the non-Roma population. This is all too often not the case across Europe, and Roma are segregated in ‘catch up classes’ where they never catch up.
In the Ljuba Stankovic Kindergarten in Beocin, Serbia, Romani children are separated from their non-Roma peers. According to the director, Ljubica Lazarevic: “Romani children attend half day kindergarten, that group is in the afternoon” referring to the fact that the half-day programme is cheaper. The school director also points to a lack of space which limits the integration of Roma and non-Roma in the kindergarten.
“I would love to have them with the other children during the mornings but at the moment we don’t have spatial conditions for that. We are working on that and in two – three months I expect to have solved this is issue of a lack of spatial capacity” – Ljubica Lazarevic, Director of Ljuba Stankovic Kindergarten
According to the Romani parents, the statement cannot explain the fact that only Romani children are placed in a separate group and that the quality of education is not equal between the groups. The parents of about 25 Romani children have explained how the children attend the kindergarten in the afternoon without any contact with non-Roma and the children there are speaking only in Romani language. Mixed education should promote the goal of integration with non-Romani society, and learning the Serbian language is paramount for these children to achieve this. One of the parents said:
"The children must know Serbian so that they can attend primary school, but that is not the case. The children are not learning Serbian, they are playing there. This is discrimination, no one has understanding for us. We have asked for a reaction from the responsible persons, but without any success".
The Commissioner for Equality, Brankica Jankovic is concerned this as a case of discrimination. She has clarified that any segregation of children based on their nationality or ethnicity is not acceptable.
The ERRC is deeply concerned about this possible instance of segregation of Romani children in education. Assuming these details are true, only the climate of anti-Gypsyism in Serbia can explain how school segregation of Romani pupils based on ethnicity continues to take place. The school director suggests that there cannot be discrimination if some Romani children are included in a mainstream programme, yet the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights already rejected this argument in 2010 when it condemned Croatia for school segregation in a similar case.
Under the provision of a freedom of information request, we are investigating this possible case of discrimination and segregation of Romani children in Serbia and will decide on further action based on the response from the municipality, the kindergarten and other relevant authorities including the Provincial Ombudsman.
For more information contact:
European Roma Rights Centre
M: +36 30 500 2118
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