Croatian Parents Refuse Integrated Schooling
07 November 2002
According to the Croatian regional daily newspaper Međimurje of September 17, 2002, nearly one hundred ethnic Croatian parents stopped Romani students from entering the primary school in the town of Držimurec-Strelec in Međimurje County on September 9, 2002. According to Međimurje, the ethnic Croatian parents were protesting against a decision of the Croatian Ministry of Education and Sports to block the formation of separate classes for ethnic Croatian students and Romani students in the primary school. As the non-Romani parents reportedly made threats against the Romani children, one of the Romani adults present took the children into his van and drove them to the nearby Romani settlement of Piškorovec where the children live. "It was very close to having our children hurt by the protesters. They were shouting that we should all be killed," said some of the Romani parents present, as quoted in the daily Međimurje of September 17, 2002. At a September 10, 2002 meeting attended by non-Romani parents, local educational and municipal authorities and representatives of the Croatian Ministry of Education and Sports, the non-Romani parents reportedly stressed that racially-mixed classes be attended only by those Romani children able to "keep up with their non-Romani peers" in relation to "Croatian language skills, manners, hygiene, etc." The Ministry reportedly gave in to the demands of the ethnic Croatian parents and approved separate classes in the primary school, according to the Croatian regional daily Glas Slavonije on September 12, 2002. The school year in Držimurec-Strelec thus started with five classes for Romani students only, and two "combined" classes that reportedly include seven and eight Romani pupils respectively; it was also planned to hire one Romani teaching assistant. According to Međimurje, a reconciliatory meeting took place in Piškorovec on September 11, 2002, with the representatives of school authorities, the municipality, and local Roma and non-Roma present.
Držimurec-Strelec is located approximately ten kilometres away from the town of Čakovec, where the ERRC is involved in a lawsuit which has charged the Croatian Ministry of Education and Sports, the Međimurje County local government, as well as four primary schools, with segregating the plaintiffs and numerous other Romani children into separate and educationally inferior classes based simply on their ethnic background. The complaint further alleges that the result of this practice is the denial of equal educational opportunities for most Romani children (further information on the case is available on pp. 129-137 of this issue of Roma Rights). On October 17, 2002, the ERRC was informed that the Čakovec Municipal Court had rejected the ERRC's claim. Additional information on the situation of Roma in Croatia is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: http://lists.errc.org/publications/indices/croatia.shtml
(B92, Glas Slavonije, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Međjimurje)