News

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.

Council adopts recommendation on Roma integration

- Blog | REYN Admin

This week the Council of Ministers adopted a recommendation on effective Roma integration measures. All 28 European Union Member States committed to implementing a set of recommendations, proposed by the European Commission, to step up the economic and social integration of Roma communities. The Council Recommendation was adopted unanimously by ministers less than six months after the Commission’s proposal.

The protection of Roma children is part of the Recommendation, as well as investing in good-quality inclusive early childhood education and care, healthcare and a reference to right to education enshrined in the UNCRC. The Recommendation calls on Member States to ensure the involvement of all relevant actors including public authorities, civil society and Roma communities. It is the first ever EU-level legal instrument for Roma inclusion and reinforces the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies.

Find the Council recommendation here.

New UNDP publication on inclusive Roma education

- Blog | REYN Admin

A new publication has been released recently by UNDP entitled as ‘Roma Education in Comparative Perspective’, based on the findings from the UNDP/World Bank/EC regional survey.

Among other findings, the report shed light on the low-preschool attendance of Roma students in the CEE region, and on how it contributes to long-term disadvantages and to the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion. It has been reinforced by the report that universal access to quality early childhood education and avoiding segregated schooling has a key importance to decrease these disadvantages and provide equal chances for Roma and non-Roma children.

To read more about the findings, click here.

 

Romani early childhood development – a mechanism for change?

- Blog | Adrian Marsh
Romani paraprofessionals at work
An ECD project supported by the Open Society Foundations’ Roma Kopaçi initiatives.

One of the key arguments connected with Early Childhood Development (ECD) is that the impact upon children from the earliest point (and the earlier the more effective, according to the Nobel prize-winning economist, Prof. James Heckman), is crucial if a real change is to be made in terms of improvements in life opportunities and human capability. The net ‘returns’, if one can use such a phrase (drawing upon Prof. Heckman’s academic discipline as an economist) drastically fall as time passes.

The majority of the Roma programmes and projects that were initiated by many of the world’s largest donors, during the 1990’s were aimed at supporting those young people who were identified as the future intellectuals, advocates and political leaders of the Romani communities from which they came, through university scholarship programmes, bursaries for post-graduate, professional qualification (particularly in legal studies) and in fostering a sense of pride and unity through summer schools and other gatherings that were intended to ‘build’ an elite or ‘vanguard’ to lead the emerging Romani emancipation movement. In this context, they were aimed at the other ‘end’ of the youth spectrum and at tertiary, higher education.

The question of how effective this strategy was may well depend upon who you ask; for many Romani people the opportunities to study at university level and beyond before taking up professional positions in Roma rights organisations, advocacy and litigation based programmes and across the spectrum of Roma non-governmental associations and foundations, has been (and remains) something that would have been unthinkable for generations before them. Our aspirations as Romani people before this period tended to be small, constrained by poverty for most Romani communities though numbers of Roma in eastern Europe achieved high position and influence under the old Soviet-influenced systems. This was only ever an elite group whilst majority of Romani people remained excluded from the mainstream social and cultural life of the societies in which they’d lived for centuries.

The present situation would, at first sight, seem to be not so different for the majority of Romani, Gypsy, Traveller, Ashkali, Egyptian and Sinti people. Increasingly marginalised and excluded from the post Soviet nation states that emerged after 1989, the current economic crises have eroded any small gains in individual circumstances for Romani families in every country in Europe and beyond. Things, all in all, have not gotten better but worse by significant degrees.

In terms of education, professional qualification and the presence of large numbers of Romani people in high level positions in the international organisations and institutions, there are real improvements for a growing number of us. But, it is not enough and those of us who are in positions where we have some influence and impact must work especially hard to extend this and ensure that greater and greater numbers of Roma, Gypsies, Sinti and Travellers are empowered and enabled to reach their full potential and capability. This means intervening in the earliest years of Romani children’s lives to make the kind of difference that James Heckman writes about. We cannot accept our ‘good fortune’ (laço baxt, in Romanës) unmindful of the real costs of individual success for the vast majority of our people; namely their continued existence on the very margins of society.

Quality early childhood development provision is the way to achieve the kind of success on a mass scale, that we want to see for Roma people. Investing in ECD will make the crucial difference between short, emiserated and blighted lives for lots of Romani children and longer, fulfilled lives with meaning and joy. The key to achieving this latter picture will be the increasing number of Romani people in ECD services and provision, as professionals, role models and examples to all of the potential, given the right opportunity and an equal chance that all Romani children have in them…