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Czech Republic makes progress, but more action needed to fight discrimination against Roma children’s education

The Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe for Roma issues appreciates the message issued today by the Committee of Ministers to the government of the Czech Republic to fully execute the final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in D.H. and Others vs The Czech Republic, so that the unjustified enrolment of Roma children in “special” (so-called now ‘practical”) schools and programmes intended for pupils with learning disabilities ends. The SRSG understands that fighting discrimination can be a complex challenge that requires both changes in attitude, as well as changes in law – and the full support of civil society. He welcomes action plans that have been put forward by the Czech government to stop such discrimination. When this case was brought to the attention of our Court, Roma children in the Czech Republic were 27 times more likely to be placed in "special schools" for the mentally disabled than non-Roma children. Today statistics show a constant, annual decrease in the total number of pupils (Roma and non-Roma) in special schools or classes from 17,755 in 2008 to 10,695 in 2014. But we would like to see more progress when it comes to Roma children. Despite this decrease, the proportion of Roma pupils in special schools or classes increased from 28.2% (previous year) to 32.4% (school year 2014/2015). Furthermore, the percentage of Roma children in mainstream classes decreased from 10.3% (previous year) to 9.5% (school year 2014/2015). The SRSG welcomes the Committee of Ministers’ invitation to the Czech authorities to provide, no later than by 1 September 2015, information on the strategy they envisage to implement a new legislative framework, and, by 5 February 2016, an update with the most recent statistics concerning the education of Roma pupils in groups/classes for pupils with “mild mental disability” and information responding to the other concerns. In the meantime, the Council of Europe’s Roma initiatives to foster inclusive education of Roma children will continue across Europe, including in the Czech Republic. The joint CoE/EU ROMED programme promotes Roma mediation as an effective tool to increase the number of Roma children in mainstream education (more on ROMED at http://romed.coe-romact.org/). The Ad hoc Committee of experts on Roma issues (CAHROM) has addressed school segregation in the Czech Republic in its thematic work (http://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/cahrom). The CoE is also currently financially supporting (through a Finnish voluntary contribution) the five-year old project “Every child matters: high quality education for all” which consists  in  training Czech teachers on inclusive education for Roma children from Primary Schools Grafická in Prague, Trmice near Ústí nad Labem and Poběžovice by teachers from the Babington Community College in Leicester, United Kingdom (more on this bilateral exchange in the online database on Roma-related good practices: http://goodpracticeroma.ppa.coe.int/en/good-practice/every-child-matters-high-quality-education-all).

Ms Ardant, Dosta! ambassador

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