Ombudsman Finds Discrimination against Roma in Education in Hungary

On April 11, 2002, the Roma Press Center (RSK) reported that the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights ("Ombudsman") Mr Jenő Kaltenbach declared that the segregation of Romani students at a primary school in Verpelét in Heves County in north-eastern Hungaryis unlawful, and that students are subjected to discrimination as a result of the school's practices. Previously, on January 7, 2002, RSK reported that an investigation carried out by the Ombudsman's office found that Romani pupils are educated in separate classes from the first grade on, without the express request or consent of their parents. On February 24, 2002, the Hungarian national daily newspaper Népszava reported that Mr Kaltenbach had also noted that the school had been unlawfully applying for and receiving "supplementary ethnic funding". "Supplementary ethnic funding" is a government grant intended to facilitate the development of Romani students and enhance school curriculum to strengthen Romani identity, and knowledge of Romani culture, history and language.

Also related to the misuse of the supplementary ethnic funding for schools, on October 15, 2001, RSK reported that in an unprecedented decision, the State Auditor found that the primary school in Bogács in northeastern Hungaryhad inappropriately spent government funds intended for minority educational and catch-up programs. As a result of the finding, the school's subsidy for the provision of minority education was withdrawn because it was unable to prove that such a programme existed. The decision of the State Auditor follows an investigation commenced in February 2001 at the request of the Ministry of Education by the National Public Education, Evaluation and Examination Centre (additional information on the misallocation of state funds intended to benefit Roma in Hungary is available at: Creative accounting: State spending on programmes for Roma in Hungary ).

In relation to the segregation of Roma in schools in Hungary, on May 3, 2002, RSK reported that in an official statement, the Jászladány local government in Szolnok countyannounced that in September 2002, it will open a private school for students "who are indeed willing to study," reportedly in order to provide schooling exclusively for non-Romani children. The announcement was made despite the continued protest of the local Roma Minority Self-Government. Eleven classrooms in the local primary school will reportedly be made available for the private school to use. According to RSK, Romani families will not be able to afford the high tuition fees at the school. RSK also reported that several teachers and a general practitioner in the area stated that "the segregative purpose is clear." The announcement was made following an earlier statement by Jászladány Mayor Mr István Dankó that "peoples who bear different cultures cannot be locked up together by force, so the best way to avoid confrontation is to set up alternative institutions."

(Népszava, Roma Press Center)

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