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Ombudsman's report points to Roma segregation in schools

The current educational framework with respect to conditions at schools set aside for special needs students provides only a negligible opportunity to achieve higher educational levels, ombudswoman Jana Dubovcová cautions in her special report due to be discussed by the parliamentary committee for human and minority rights on Tuesday, August 27.

The current educational framework with respect to conditions at schools set aside for special needs students provides only a negligible opportunity to achieve higher educational levels, ombudswoman Jana Dubovcová cautions in her special report due to be discussed by the parliamentary committee for human and minority rights on Tuesday, August 27.

Dubovcová added that many such pupils come from a socially disadvantaged environment. “The number of children excluded in this way, who apart from coming from socially disadvantaged environments are of Roma origin, is many times the number of children of non-Roma origin excluded from the standard educational process,” reads the report, which focuses on the 2012/13 school year. The report is based on Dubovcová's analysis carried out in 21 schools across Slovakia in which 486 pupils out of a total of 614 first-year students were Roma. The probe revealed that as many as 230 of all the pupils in the monitored facilities ended up - after diagnostic tests aimed at determining their special education needs and after consent from their parents - in classrooms specially designed for slower learners, and 204 of these were Roma.

Dubovcová notes, as quoted by the TASR newswire, that in one case the head teacher of the primary school in Šarišské Michaľany ordered that only Roma pupils should take the diagnostic tests. In her report, the ombudswoman further observed that Slovak legislation does not order the frequency of repeated diagnostic exams. “None of the 21 schools reclassified and consequently transferred any of its pupils to classes for children without special needs,” she stated in the report.

Additionally, Dubovcová pointed to the fact that Roma children have little access to studying in their mother tongue. “There's a language barrier between the [Roma] children and their schools,” she wrote. “This has an impact on their study results and may play a certain part in determining their special education needs.” She therefore thinks it essential that parliament come up with legislation that would remove any spatial, organisational, physical or symbolic separation of Roma pupils from non-Roma students based on ethnic origin.

The ombudswoman has also suggested that parliament should create the necessary conditions for securing equal access to all educational levels even for students with special needs receiving education in specially designed schools and classes.

(Source: TASR)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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