Discrimination in Education faces by Roma children: should we first educate the educators ?

In many European countries Roma children face segregation in education. They are discriminated against by other students and teachers and their parents are advised to move them to special schools. This is the situation in Hungary and Czech Republic, while in France, according to the findings of the European Roma Centre Rights (ERRC), officials refuse to enrol Romani children. Without education there is no hope for these children to integrate in the society they live in and accede to the labour market when they grow up.

Article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

“1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory (…)

2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”

Right to education and right not to face discrimination seem to be embedded in the constitutions and laws of the European countries but there are some groups which do not enjoy these rights. Whether they are immigrants or citizens of the countries they live in, the situation of Roma persons does not change across Europe. The ERRC has evidenced that racial segregation in mainstream education, lack of collection of data and lack of access to quality education, especially for Romani girls, are widening the education gap between Roma and non-Roma students everywhere in the EU.

Racial segregation in education is a problem mainly observed in Hungary and Czech Republic. In Czech Republic Roma children are put in schools for children with “mild mental disabilities”. In 2007 the European Court of Human Rights condemned this country in the D.H. judgement. The ECHR stated that segregated education amounts to discrimination and observed that equal access to education for Roma is a persistent problem throughout Europe. The Court also added that intent was no necessary in order to establish the responsibility of the State and in that occasion shifted the burden of proof from the complainants to the State. Seven years after this decision in Czech Republic there are still schools with 30% of Roma children, while they represent only 3% of the population. For this reason the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against this MS for the breach of Racial Equality Directive by racially segregating children in education in September 2014.

Even when they go to normal schools they face discrimination and abuse and often teachers do nothing to protect them. The ERRC has collected testimonies in Czech Republic from Roma children who were bullied at school. When they told teachers what was happening they only met other discrimination from those who are supposed to educate and protect them. Usually teachers blame them for the way they are treated because they are Roma.

An additional problem is the attitude of other parents who tell their sons and daughters not to play with Romani children, so they face segregation when they are in classes with not Roma students. School boards defend themselves saying that if they accept Romani children, then they loose other students because their parents would place them in other schools.

Sometimes they are beaten, pushed and offended by other children. If they try to defend themselves and they are involved in fights, they risk being expelled by the school board because they are blamed for starting the fight. The result is that they drop out from school or they are forced to go to these special schools.

In some cases they are being asked to produce a certificate of residency in order to be accepted at school but when they live in slums they are not able to produce such documents. They are not registered by authorities because sometimes they are thinking of evicting them and there is no need to put children in school any more. This is what happens in France, according to the ERRC, where there are schools which refuse to enrol Roma children. One way of doing that is by putting them in waiting lists for children who do not speak French. Poor alphabetisation and language skills represent a gargantuan barrier to any attempt of integration. This report states that in 60% of the cases political actors refused to enrol Romani children. France does not have data on Roma because it does not compile disaggregated data based on ethnicity. The absence of concrete data on the situation of Roma in France undermines attempts at policymaking with respect to the integration of Roma.

Roma populations considered in this article are heterogeneous, since some of them are citizens of countries they live in, while those living in France are immigrants of Romanian origins, nevertheless problems in education are similar.

Anti-Gypsysm is growing in the EU since their presence is exclusively linked by media and politicians with criminality. There are several projects financed by the EU aimed at Roma inclusion, there are National Roma Integration Strategies, nevertheless situation is worsening instead of improving. They cannot access housing, education and labour market and these problems are interlinked, hence it is difficult to obtain results only by tackling one aspect of the equation. But besides these issues, discrimination is another ingredient to this ravelled situation. It is so deeply rooted in our societies that we do not realise that we actually discriminate more the very same persons who seek to integrate. If Roma parents want to send their children to school, they expose them to injustice and abuse by other students and teachers. The lesson we teach them is that is better to avoid integration because in any case they will never be accepted. Maybe we should start by educating educators. This will not solve the problems but certainly will slightly improve someone’s situation.


(Ana Daniela Sanda)



To know more:

     -. UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

     -. Destroying Progress/Progressing Destruction ERRC Report on Roma women and children in France http://www.errc.org/cms/upload/file/destroying-progress-progressing-destruction.pdf

     -. D. H. and others v. Czech Republic, European Court of Human Rights, Judgment 13/11/2007 http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-83256#{« itemid »:[« 001-83256 »]}

     -. Dossier Roms de Nea say http://www.eu-logos.org/eu-logos_nea-say.php?idr=4&idnl=3334&nea=152&lang=fra&arch=0&term=0



Adeline Silva Pereira

Après avoir effectué la deuxième année du master Sécurité Globale analyste politique trilingue à l'Université de Bordeaux, j'effectue un stage au sein d'EU Logos afin de pouvoir mettre en pratique mes compétences d'analyste concernant l'actualité européenne sur la défense, la sécurité et plus largement la coopération judiciaire et policière.

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