Racist lessons in Hungary

The Roma Press Center has reported that on February 21, 2001, a biology teacher in the primary school in Erdőtelek, northeast Hungary, forced 8th grade Roma pupils to write down that “the Gypsies can be characterised by high rates of unemployment and by their special odour,” and taught them that 80% of the prison population is Romani. According to the Roma Press Center’s reports, the local mayor has refused any responsibility for the events, adding that the teacher’s comments about the special odour of the Roma was not equivalent to saying that they smell unpleasant. The Ombudsman on Minority Rights launched an investigation into the incident and the Parliamentary Commissioner on Education Rights is expected to follow suit. According to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Roma constitute approximately sixty percent of the prison population of Hungary. It is the position of the ERRC that, given present levels of anti-Romani sentiment in Hungary as well as the inadequacy of anti-racist education in the Hungarian school system, a raw presentation of facts absent contextual-ising presentation of the role of discrimination in the criminal justice system is misleading and likely only to heighten anti-Romani prejudice. In a incident which is possibly related, the Roma Press Center and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have reported that the leader of the local Gypsy self-government in the village of Erdőtelek, Mr Miklós Pusoma, has received written death threats following his complaint to the mayor about the above incident. The death threat reportedly reads, “Smelly Gypsy, you will die.”

(Roma Press Center, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty)

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