Rather than struggle with young Roma, teachers transfer them to special schools.
That is the situation in one quarter of Czech schools. Teachers often resist working with problematic children, whether it be handicapped children or Romani children. Kids in schools are still divided into categories “white and healthy” and the “other”.
Ideal class – white children only
This is what an extensive survey of GAC agency and People in need shows. The survey conducted by People in need is based on more than 500 hours of interviews in 104 schools in eight regions of the country. It focuses on areas with high Roma population. People in need were talking to children, parents, teachers and assistants.
“Schools and their teachers still do not approach children with certain disadvantage equally,” said Zdeněk Svoboda from People in need.
The survey shows that even though some schools are trying to work with Romani children, others still attempt to limit the number of children that might require greater attention and care. Children with physical or mental handicap, foreigners and mostly Roma are looking for a place at a normal school with difficulties.
High numbers of pupils in classes also force the schools to introduce limitations. Due to that it is impossible to offer sufficient attention to those children who need it.
“Approximately one third of the schools is suitable to accept a wide range of pupils with special education needs. We have recorded a tendency to eliminate children requiring special care or those who are difficult to manage,” Svoboda said.
Third of Roma children do not attend normal school
Older the pupils and higher the grade, the fewer the Roma children in classrooms. “The chance of a Roma child to remain in the class, which it started to attend is 50%,” GAC study reports.
Young Roma leave their classmates mainly in the third and the fifth grade. Many parents therefore choose to sign their children up for a special school starightaway. Two Romani girls and three Romani boys out of 10 leave normal schools. One third of them thus attends other than normal schools.
They are above-average but want to be cooks
“One fifth of the Romani children that took part in the survey were deemed above-average by their teachers,” noted sociologist Ivan Gabal. Those are often children coming from Czech-speaking families with an above-average standard.
Almost none of them, however, want to be a doctor or a lawyer. When the sociologists asked the children about their future plans, most kids wanted to become a cook. “That is the profession they are exposed to most in their environment,” Gabal said.
Only 20% of Roma children named a profession requiring a high school education and only 8% would like to study at a university.
Ministry: it is a long-distance run
Schools do not prepare much for accepting such pupils. Only 35% of schools hire at least one special pedagogue. If there is some problem, schools tend to turn to police rather than try to cooperate with the family.
“Roma people are often perceived as lacking interest in education, being unreliable and unable to keep commitment. The surveyed see these characteristics as innate,” said Zdeněk Svoboda.
Despite all that, he does not blame only the teachers. “It requires interconnection of a number of sectors. Ministries of Education and Labour and Social Affairs should work on the change together. Different conditions should be established,” he said.
Education Minister Ondřej Liška, wants to change the situation. “I aim to create conditions that would allow to build a good school for all. That means a school, in which the teachers would be offered good conditions for their work and where the children would get good education without any regard to their ethnic origins,” he said.