Only parents can beat segregation

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

On the 6 month anniversary of the birth of his son, Stanislav Daniel Junior, REYN Co-ordinator, Stanislav Daniel reflects on what it means to be a parent standing up for your rights.


A year ago we published a blog post about the legacy of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, the case that brought the segregation of Romani children on to the international agenda. On November 13, another anniversary will pass and another cohort of young Romani children in the Czech Republic, and elsewhere, will start their schooling in segregated schools, learning from their very young age that, because of their ethnicity, they will be put on a different track: a slower one.

Nine years have passed since the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. Since then, Court rulings on segregation of Romani children have been issued against Greece, Croatia and Hungary.  A number of domestic courts, for instance in Slovakia, put segregation outside of the legislative framework. For years, civil society organizations and international institutions have been pushing for the implementation of these judgments. Recently, the European Commission joined in these efforts and started infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia for segregating Romani children.

Reading through the 2007 judgment, a lot of attention was given to the role of parents who consented and sometimes even requested their children to be enrolled into segregated school. Their reasons for doing so included avoiding abuse from non-Romani children, keeping the children from the neighborhood together, but sometimes – even if not explicitly – lack of interest in education. But should they to be blamed?  In the atmosphere of omnipresent discrimination preventing even qualified Roma from getting adequate jobs?  Frustration, not tradition, stood behind their decisions.

But as long as we admit that segregation is rational, the cycle of poverty and exclusion will not be broken. In most countries, parental consent is required to place a child into a particular school. Simply put – if parents do not agree with segregated school, they can object and schools or any other authority should not push them. Most of the issues, also those listed above, can be addressed if parents get organized and demand their rights, for their children and for themselves. As hard as it may be, we must stand up and reject discrimination in all its forms.

On the day that I write this blog, my son turned 6 months old. Today, I do not write as coordinator of Romani Early Years Network, but as a father who wants the best for his child. I refuse to believe that other Romani parents do not want the same and we need to demand it now. If we are afraid that our children will be discriminated at schools, we should address discrimination, not take our children to low-quality segregated schools.

As an activist, I have spent years in advocating for better living conditions for Roma, particularly young children and their families. But being a father brings a different perspective to my approach. Strategies and action plans may provide us with a framework for doing the right thing. Strategies and action plans may provide us with framework for inclusion. But we need to insist on inclusion in the first place. And we can only do it if we always ask for nothing less than the best for our children. Be it quality early childhood services, inclusive primary schools, high schools developing their talents or colleges increasing their chances to turn their talents into a living.

Let’s invest in young children, they will pay us back.

The legacy of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic – eight years on

- Blog | REYN Admin

In late 2007 the European Court of Human Rights emitted a spark of optimism for Romani activists around Europe. The historic ruling in the case of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, confirmed a number of key principles of non-discrimination in education which were expected to shape inclusion policies throughout Europe. The case, featuring Denisa H. and 17 other Romani children who suffered wrongful placement into special schools was the first challenge to systemic racial segregation in education to reach the European Court of Human Rights. When the case was brought, 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.

Recent developments in the Czech Republic suggest that the ruling from 13 November 2007 is still misunderstood.

At a recent conference in the Czech capital, “Starting Early Means Starting Well II”, co-hosted by Open Society Foundations, ISSA and Open Society Fund Prague, one of the most discussed issues was the Czech government’s plan to enforce compulsory preschool attendance on all children in the year before they attend primary school. While many may applaud this step, forcing children to attend possibly low-quality, perhaps ethnically segregated kindergarten, may continue discrimination rather than find ways to address it.

It is worth noting, preschool attendance will be compulsorily enforced at a time when numerous studies from around the globe highlight that access without good quality can be eventually harmful. The proposal’s potential to conserve and limit early education only to kindergartens is also dangerous and can be detrimental. While we believe in the benefits of preschool attendance, it is crucial to guarantee high-quality standards, promote an inclusive environment and provide an alternative care structure to kindergartens. The “Roma Early Childhood Inclusion” report which was launched at the Prague conference, highlights the importance of quality kindergartens describing them as offering tangible compensation to children from families suffering from poverty and social stress. While it is commendable that the Czech government sent a representative to the conference, it is clear that they urgently need to work more closely with a variety of professionals to secure the top-quality early childhood development services.

On this the eighth anniversary of the D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, it is important to highlight that as we try to promote inclusion we have in fact lost many Roma along the way. The original judgment spoke clearly about discrimination of Roma and the case files refer directly to ‘Roma’ 416 times. The Czech government, on the other hand, seems coy to call people by their name; strategic documents identify socially excluded localities and socially disadvantaged children, but do not mention that they are Roma communities or Roma children.

Eight years after the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights, the role of institutional racism and discrimination continues to be denied by national governments.

Strategies to combat segregation of Romani children in schools

- Blog | REYN Admin

In Strategies to combat segregation of Romani children in schools, the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights of Harvard University analyzes the interventions employed by civil society organizations active in six EU countries to push and/or support the state institutions in developing and implementing measures to prevent and stop segregation of Romani children in schools.

The report presents six case studies summarizing findings based on an in-depth literature review and from conversations with communities, experts, and stakeholders in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, GreeceHungary and Romania.

To download the report, click here