Romani Children Blocked from Enrolling in School in Spain and Serbia and Montenegro

Journalists from TeleMadrid, a private local television station in Spain, have recently conducted tests of kindergartens using hidden video cameras (a lawful practice in Spain), in order to document discriminatory practices in admissions procedures. One journalist was given extensive advice by a member of the state organization of kindergartens as to how to open a kindergarten such that no Romani children would come to it. The interviewed official sternly admonishes the journalist, who had posed as a person wishing to open a kindergarten, not to admit any “Gypsy children” at all, “or else soon you will be swamped with Gypsies.” In the video recording, the same administrator advises the journalist not to explicitly discriminate, “since this would be illegal”, but rather to place Romani children indefinitely on a waiting list until the parents’ interest in enrolling their children waned. The videotape was broadcast on a number of Spanish television stations and has reportedly provoked nationwide debate.

In other news pertaining to the exclusion of Romani children from schooling, the enrolment of approximately 140 Romani children at the “Božidar Vuković – Podgoričanin” primary school in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica is being hindered by numerous obstacles, the Podgorica weekly political magazine Monitor reported on November 9, 2001. The group includes the children of local Roma, as well as the children of Romani refugees from Kosovo. According to Monitor, the Association of Displaced Roma and Egyptians in Montenegro (Udruženje raseljenih Roma i Egipćana u Crnoj Gori) claims that their plan for the education of these children was submitted for review and approval to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Montenegro on September 12, 2001, but the association did not receive any response. The Association also expressed concern that the process of testing children by the school’s pedagogues has been going on since September, which they believed to be a deliberate delay. Previously, the Podgorica-based Roma Information Agency (RIA) reported that, on October 9, 2001, the Associati on of Roma of Montenegro (Udruženje Roma Crne Gore) and the Association of Displaced Roma and Egyptians in Montenegro sent separate letters to the Ministry of Education and Science, requesting that the above-mentioned primary school in Podgorica introduce a third shift of classes to make room for more students, and that the school introduce classes in Albanian and Romani languages. A very small number of Romani children in Montenegro attend school. Non-governmental sources estimate that around 80 percent of Montenegrin Roma do not complete even primary education. As Roma in Montenegro have the same rights and obligations as other “national minorities”, their right to education, including instruction in their mother tongue, is guaranteed by the Montenegrin Constitution. However, this right is not exercised in any school in Montenegro. Furthermore, the state does not enforce the rule of compulsory primary education when it comes to the Romani community.

(Monitor, RIA, TeleMadrid)

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