Racial Segregation Continues in Czech Schools Despite Landmark European Court Ruling

13 November 2008

Prague– Roma children in the Czech Republic continue to be sent to sub-standard schools in disproportionate numbers, according to a report issued today by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).

Exactly one year after the European Court of Human Rights found that the Czech school system discriminates against Roma students, Czech government officials and Roma rights advocates agreed that little has changed for the students: most are condemned to second-class education in dead-end primary schools with virtually no opportunity for secondary or tertiary education.

"The Czech government has acknowledged the gravity of the problem and pledged to reform. Yet progress remains slow. As the Czech Republic prepares for the presidency of the European Union, there is a unique opportunity to put Roma rights front and center on the European agenda," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

Roma rights advocates and representatives along with Czech officials marked the one-year anniversary of the European Court's decision at a conference in Prague, "Education Without Barriers: Roma Children in the Czech Republic." They gathered to review the Czech government's progress-or lack thereof-toward creating a more equitable education system.

"If we agree to abolish the so-called practical primary schools which provide substandard education to Roma children, I think we can call today a great success," said Robert A. Kushen, managing director of ERRC.

The European Roma Rights Centre, a leading Roma advocacy organization, released a new report, Persistent Segregation of Roma in the Czech Education System, (available at www.errc.org ) which clearly demonstrates that Roma children continue to be shunted into primary schools that use a curriculum intended for children with mental disabilities.

"There is latent racism in the Czech Republic, but this cannot be a reason for me not to make use of my time in office to make change" said the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, OndĹ™ej Liška. "We are working towards desegregation and ending discrimination in schools."

The conference was organized by the ERRC, Roma Education Fund, Open Society Fund, and the Together for Schools coalition of NGOs in the Czech Republic.

For further information, please contact:

Sinan Gokcen, European Roma Rights Centre, sinan.gokcen@errc.org (+36 30 649 1698)
David Berry, Open Society Justice Initiative, dberry@justiceinitiative.org (+1 212 548 0385)



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