"Everyone has the right to education": Article 26: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

10 September 1998

International elaborations

  • 1969: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 5:

"...States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right to everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:...e.(v) The right to education and training."

  • 1989: Convention of the Rights of the Child, Article 29(1):

"States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

  1. the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
  2. the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
  3. the development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
  4. the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
  5. the development of respect for the natural environment."

European follow-up

1995: Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Article 14:

"The parties undertake to recognise that every person belonging to a national minority has the right to learn his or her minority language.

In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial numbers, if there is sufficient demand, the Parties shall endeavour to ensure, as far as possible and within the framework of their education systems, that persons belonging to these minorities have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority language or for receiving instruction in this language.

Paragraph 2 of this article shall be implemented without prejudice to the learning of the official language or the teaching in this language."


At present, where Roma are concerned, the school systems of Europe repeatedly fail with respect to the international obligations delineated above. The educational systems of countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary include a network of schools for the mentally disabled in which Roma are more likely to be present than non-Roma by a factor of fifteen. School systems in countries as dissimilar as Romania and the United Kingdom feature a range of bureaucratic obstacles which make the enrollment of Romani children either difficult or impossible. Roma report a range of abuse such as physical abuse and racist taunting by teachers and other children, and the failure of teachers to intervene when Romani children are being picked on. All over Europe, Romani children are seated apart, placed in separate classes, and forced to learn in languages they do not fully comprehend. The curricula of nearly all educational systems in Europe contain no mention of Romani history and culture; few Romani children learn Romani in schools, and none learn in Romani, Boyash, Pogadi Chib or any of the other languages of European Gypsies. In many places, Roma are not being educated at all. The Summer 1998 issue of Roma Rights focuses on the issue of discrimination against, segregation of, and minority education for Roma in Europe.


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