Amnesty International is petitioning the government of Slovakia to end racial segregation in schools and to allow Romani children access to proper schools.
Romani children are typically placed in either Roma-only schools or special schools designed for children with mental disabilities. According to Amnesty, there is a four year gap between the curriculum of special schools and mainstream schools, hindering children’s development. One school director illustrates the discrepancy:
“In the first grade of the mainstream elementary school pupils study the numbers from 0 to 100; in the [first grade of the] special elementary school they learn only from 0 to 5. When it comes to Slovak language, children in the mainstream school learn the whole alphabet in the first grade; at the special school they study the alphabet during grades 1 to 4.”
The government adopted the Schools Act which prohibits discrimination and segregation in schools. However the problem still persists. In 2006 a dismal 3 percent of Romani children reached secondary school, according to the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
The Roma make up approximately 10 percent of the country, but are overrepresented in poverty and segregated from mainstream society. Stereotyped as lazy thieves, they are often discriminated against when trying to obtain housing in Slovak towns, and often have no choice but to settle in rural areas where they live without sanitation systems, clean water, electricity or paved roads. The opportunity for Romani children to receive a proper education is crucial to help break the cycle of poverty.