In Croatia, Ministry of Education Supports Separate Classes for Roma

The Croatian Ministry of Education and Sport claims: "There is full justification, pedagogical and psychological, for the separation of Romani children from others," according to the Zagreb daily newspaper Vjesnik of December 13, 2001. This statement was made in response to claims that, in Međimurska County, in northern Croatia, every fourth school features separate classes for Romani children. In some schools, this includes separate playrooms and dining facilities, as Vjesnik reported on December 12, 2001. The headmaster of one primary school in Kuršanec was quoted by Vjesnik as having stated, "Roma make better progress in separate classes." Other headmasters quoted by the daily claim that Romani children reportedly "preferred separation," and that non-Romani parents also oppose integrated classes, arguing that their children are "at risk", and complaining of "specific Romani hygienic habits." ERRC research in Croatia in May 2001 revealed that out of five primary schools in Međimurska County, four had separate classes for Roma. According to information provided by the Međimurska County Department of Education, Culture, Sports, and Technical Education, out of the 865 Romani children enrolled in the twelve schools of the County, 511 are educated in separate classes. The practice of segregating Romani children at school was noted by the Croatian Ombudsman in his 2000 Annual Report which stated that "discrimination [towards Roma] finds expression in the segregation of Romani children in most of the schools in the MeÄ‘imurje County under the pretext of lack of hygiene habits and poor command of Croatian language by the Romani children." The Ombudsman also called the practice of segregating Romani children at school "apartheid".

(Slobodna Dalmacija, Vjesnik)

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