Beth Wofford

Elizabeth Wofford (Dzeno): Between 2009 and 2011 Beth studied at the University of Maryland – she graduated with with a Bachelor of Arts in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. In 2010, Beth studied in Prague, where where she first encountered discrimination against the Roma community. She spent the spring semester of 2011 interning at the Global Terrorism Database (a research project of the US Department of Homeland Security). Beth was also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and the Sigma Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Fraternity. After her fellowship Beth wrote: “I am absolutely more confident. I know that I can work through tough issues and be able to make a product happen. I have more faith in myself and in other people to get things done that need to get done.”



Is Inclusive Education in the Czech Republic Possible?

21 Jul

The education of Roma children in the Czech Republic for has been a major issue facing the Roma community for a number of years. One of the first landmark decisions affecting Roma education was the court case D.H. and others versus the Czech Republic in 2007.

The case was brought before the European Court of Human Rights in 2000 by a group of people who had been educated in the Czech city of Ostrava. They had all been put into “special” schools meant for children with mental disabilities. They were put into these schools after a psychological testing and consent of the parents. After being put into these schools the children received substandard education and were much less likely to be able to break into the mainstream school system. Although the parents did “consent” to such a decision, the case brought up evidence about the profiling of Roma children to be put into these schools. (Look at some of the facts presented in the case here.)

In 2006 the case was overturned, with the European Court of Human Rights finding no violation. The group petitioned for an appeal, which was granted. Once the case was reviewed by the Grand Chamber, in 2007 they concluded that there was a human rights violation happening in the Czech Republic. Despite the ruling, little has been done in recent years to stop the discriminatory actions of the education system, and Roma children are still more likely to be put in “special” schools and/or receive substandard education compared to their non-Roma peers.

Roma children in a special school. Source: Amnesty International

Roma children in a special school. Source: Amnesty International

In attempting to rectify the abuses recognized in the D.H. and others versus the Czech Republic case, the Czech Ministry of Education came forth with “The National Plan for Inclusive Education,” approved in March 2010. The goals of this plan were to increase levels of inclusivity in education, reduce social exclusion of Roma families, and to work towards social cohesion within the Czech Republic. The actions taken before and after the approval of this plan have been feeble – many so called actions are simply proposals to change amendments of the Czech constitution. (Read information about the National Plan for Inclusive Education here.)

A little more than a year after this plan was put into legislation, 50 members of the working group concerning planning and implementation of inclusive education resigned in protest of inaction from Czech Minister of Education Josef Dobeš. These people were from a multitude of organizations including the Czech branch of Amnesty International, Charles University, Roma specific NGO’s, and others. They submitted a letter of resignation to the Prime Minister and Minister of Education, citing their resignation was due to lack of action from the Ministry of Education and to demonstrate their lack of compliance with the government using this “plan” as a scapegoat, hoping that this action will be a push towards actual advances in desegregation. (Read the letter here.)

Education Minister Josef Dobes. Source: Romea.cz

Education Minister Josef Dobes. Source: Romea.cz

A new approach towards inclusive education arose earlier this month – “Inclusive Education System in the Czech Republic.” This plan has little to do with action, but more to do with research. Education Minister Dobeš plans on using CZK 45 million (USD 2.6 million) on discovering why disadvantaged children (Roma in particular) often end up in “special” schools. Critics of this plan argue that information regarding this question has been available since 2009 – and the two year study which came to those conclusions cost only CZK 2 million (USD 115,000).  Former Minister of Education Ondřej Liška agrees with these critiques, stating that the Ministry already has all the necessary information regarding inclusive education at its disposal, and that this new plan is another example of the incompetence of Minister Dobeš. (Source)

It is awful to think that despite the advances made by the Roma community in education by winning the case brought up against the European Court of Human Rights, the Czech government is misusing funds and using these inclusive “plans” as rhetorical tools to provide a scapegoat to continue their blatant, systematic discrimination of one of the most innocent groups of any population: the children.

Posted By Beth Wofford

Posted Jul 21st, 2011

2 Comments

  • iain

    July 24, 2011

     

    Very interesting. So the Czech authorities are ignoring the European Court’s ruling on DH and marking time on desegregation in schools. Who should be protesting this one, and raising the red flags in Strasbourg and Brussels?

    • Beth Wofford

      July 24, 2011

       

      Technically, they are not ignoring the ruling, just choosing to take their time in the “planning” stages of integration. Multiple NGO’s and civil society groups have mentioned the lack of attention paid to this issue, but further judicial or legislative action on the European level has yet to be taken. I personally am not knowledgeable enough to answer how this issue should be addressed on the pan-European level, with the intricacies of both responding to European concerns and allowing states sovereignty…

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