A shocking ruling was passed down by the European Court of Human Rights last week upholding Croatia’s policy of separating students into all Roma and non-Roma classes. You can read the full coverage of the case on the BBC Website.
A Background on Roma Segregation in Schools:
The fundamental issue at hand is the separating of Roma from non-Roma students. Roma children are often put in “special needs” classes as they may not posses an adequate proficiency of language and other basic skills. This separation comes under the guise of giving extra help to Roma students while allowing the non-Roma students to not be inhibited by a slower pace of study. The result of such policies leaves Roma children at a drastic competitive disadvantage when they complete their studies; eons behind the education level of their non-Roma schoolmates. This leads to Roma students lacking the education needed to pursue continuing study at the University level or even obtain a job. As you can imagine, this perpetuates a cycle of unemployment and poverty.
The unspoken reason as to why schools are pressured to segregate is, as always with Roma issues, the perception of Roma as inferior people. Parents of non-Roma students do not want to put their children into classes with Roma children for a myriad of reasons ranging from ignorant bigotry to a practical understanding that schools with Roma integrated classes are simply not competitive with other schools when applying to University. And the cycle continues to this day…
The ruling came as a particularly jarring shock to me. As an American studying Human Rights, I have always looked fondly toward European institutions as the “gold standard” for Human Rights decisions. However, this appalling outcome has brought reality back to me full force. No organization is immune to internal and external political forces. Those comprised of members from different countries serving diverse constituencies are especially susceptible to such forces as is the case with many European Institutions(somewhere my “Policy Making Process” professor is beaming with pride).
My boss Ivan, who over the years has fought many battles within the expansive European bureaucracy, explained that this case clearly showed the push and pull within the European Court. He explained to my utter astonishment that just last year a similar case was ruled upon in the Czech Republic with the exact opposite ruling. In the Czech case, the Court found in favor of the Association of Roma individuals and organizations that had brought the case forward. Now, here at the Dzeno Association we are currnetly carrying out a campaign to ensure that Roma youths receive an equal opportunity in the classroom.
But why was the Croatian outcome different? The answer is in the details of the case but suffice to say, the Croatian state was better able to prove that it was not openly discriminating. The Croatian defense hinged on the common claim of such policies; Roma do not possess the necessary language skills to enroll in normal classes. And with that, the Court ruled in favor of the state and Croatia is now allowed to enact this “separate but equal” policy.
Posted By Colby Pacheco
Posted Jul 21st, 2008