Thursday, 24 April 2014

Number of Roma children in schools for mentally impaired drops

9 August 2012

Prague, Aug 8 (CTK) - The share of Romanies educated as slightly mentally disabled in Czech practical schools dropped by 8.6 percent in the past two years, the School Inspection concluded after checking these schools, Katerina Savicova, from the Education Ministry's press section, has said.

Young Romanies make up 26.4 percent of pupils in practical, previously special, schools now, compared to 35 percent in the past.

Only children diagnosed as slightly mentally disabled should be placed in practical schools but in the past some kids were sent there over their bad social conditions, too.

The Czech School Inspection has proved an increasing effort to integrate Romany children in regular schools, Savicova said.

New directives are behind this trend, according to the ministerial clerks.

Since the past school year, the parents' informed consent to placing their child to a practical school has been required, along with a confirmed diagnosis from an expert advisory centre.

In the past some parents preferred a special school without realising that the child would thereby lose a chance of a higher education and better job opportunities in the future.

However, the inspectors say there are still parents who do not wish to send their children to a regular school in spite of the school advisory centre's recommendation.

Since 2009, 38 pupils have been educated in 15 of the checked practical schools as their parents wish it though the children are not diagnosed as mentally handicapped.

As from September it will be possible to place children in practical schools maximally for a year, or five months in the case of socially disadvantaged kids, and then they will be re-examined to see whether they still belong to practical schools or not, Savicova said.

The inspection checked a total of 187 practical (special) schools in the past school year.

International organisations have long criticised the Czech Republic for sending too many young Romanies to special schools.

Under a verdict by the European Human Rights Court from November 2007, the Czech Republic violated the right to education of 18 Romany children by sending them to special schools unrightfully.

Ombudsman Pavel Varvarovsky has also called the situation of Romany pupils an indirect discrimination.

His office's research shows that the number of Romany children in practical (special) schools is much higher than the share of Romanies in Czech society.

This is why the Education Ministry with the ombudsman and the government human rights commissioner are preparing other steps to improve the equal access to education in the country. The ministry will present concrete measures in September.

The Romany ethnicity was claimed by 13,150 citizens of the 10.5-million Czech Republic in the March 2011 census, compared with 11,700 in the 2001 census. However, experts put the real number of Romanies at about 250,000.

Copyright 2014 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.
Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. The Prague Daily Monitor and Monitor CE are not responsible for its content.