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Slovak Roma Students Still Segregated Says Report

Recent investigation finds that discrimination is still the most common fate awaiting minority children enrolled in primary education – despite warnings from the EU.

2 March 2017

A joint report released yesterday by Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) paints a bleak picture of the educational opportunities available to Roma children in Slovakia. Called A Lesson in Discrimination: Segregation of Romani children in Primary Education in Slovakia, the report documents the authorities’ failure to address the unequal treatment of Roma elementary school pupils, despite an infringement procedure against Slovakia launched in April 2015 by the European Commission “for breaching the prohibition of discrimination in education set out in EU law.”


“Slovakia’s abject failure to address deeply ingrained prejudices within the education system is blighting the future of generations of Romani children from the moment they step into the classroom,” ERRC President Dorde Jovanovic says

Romani children are also more likely to be assessed as not ready for school, and placed in “zero grade” classes instead. 


Children in a Roma settlement near Presov, Slovakia. Image via Blue Delliquanti/Flickr


The report finds that segregation is widespread in primary schools, and results in ostensibly Roma-only classes and even schools, and the unwarranted placement of students in classes for the mentally disabled. These phenomena are correlated with that of “white flight,” where non-Roma parents move their children out of schools they see as having too high a percentage of Roma students. 


Given the poor quality of education in such segregated classes, students are also less likely to stay in school after the age of 16, when the main option for them is to attend vocational schools. The report also speaks about cases of children whose native language is Romani, and who are unable to read, write, and speak Slovak properly even by the time they should graduate.   


“In the longer term, the failure to enforce the prohibition of discrimination in access to education has far-reaching consequences for thousands of Romani children who remain segregated in inferior education that traps them in a cycle of poverty and marginalization,” the report concludes. 


  • The findings of the report are based on four locations in eastern Slovakia, which were chosen because they have among the highest percentages of Roma in the country. 


  • In January 2015, the Slovak government approved a 26 million euro ($30 million) proposal to implement its own version of dual education systems in place in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Targeting vocational secondary school students, the plan calls for 40 percent of study time to be devoted to classroom education and 60 percent to work experience with firms that may opt to hire the students after graduation. 

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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