UNITED conference discussed education of Romani children

UNITED has held its 48th conference on October 13-18, 2014 in Georgia. The conference was devoted to the topic “What Divides Europe? Bridging Traditional Values and Fundamental Rights”. Activists of NGOs from over 30 countries, including Russia, took part in the event. Conference participants discussed issues of interaction between the so-called majority and various minorities, the conflict between traditional values and human rights in immigrant communities, the situation of LGBTI persons and their co-existence with “traditional values”, as well as links between these values and hate speech. This last topic was discussed at a session organized by the department of OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which works with hate crimes.

Expert of ADC “Memorial” organized a political discussion on “Reasons for non-implementation of Romani children’s right to education: problems of traditional values and the approach of state authorities”. In spite of the fact that the right to education is considered one of the fundamental rights of the child today, it is not being observed in many of the countries and regions of the world, and this is especially true for children coming from minority groups.

The right of Roma children to education is systematically violated in Russia. On the one hand, many of Roma parents demand adequate conditions for their children’s education, but their efforts often have no positive outcome: Roma children are given possibilities to study in correctional schools of VIIIth type, they study in accordance with the curriculum for schools of VIIth type (these are the types of schools and curriculums for mentally challenged children), although no medical indications for this are in place, or in boarding schools for children coming from dysfunctional families. The practice of segregated education in special “Roma classes” or “Roma schools” is also widespread in Russia. Sometimes the authorities even respond with threats of destroying Roma settlements when parents complain about the quality of education their children get, which deprive the latter of possibilities to complete secondary education (as was the case in Peri, Leningrad region, in 2014 or Tambov region in 2010).

On the other hand, Roma children are prevented from getting proper education by “traditions”, as their parents often have low motivation to give their kids proper education. In this case, too, state authorities fail to defend the rights of children: they do not try to provide proper conditions to make education attractive, they do not try to improve the prestige of education (for example, they do not establish after-school facilities in schools, although it is often due to lack of proper space for studies at home, lack of educational materials, books and such that children cannot do homework properly, while their poorly educated parents also are not in a position to help them with studies).

In a certain sense, for the state authorities it is easier to “agree” with “traditional” views on education in Roma communities, than to improve the situation. One of the dramatic consequences of the children’s lack of quality time at school is the practice of early marriages and early start of work.

In general, the bodies of authority should not try to reconcile themselves with “traditions”, if the latter violate the rights of children. Instead of the statements like “Roma people do not want to study”, which are one of the excuses for inactivity of the state, the latter should help children implement their right to education.

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