Council of Europe member states must take resolute measures to end school segregation of Roma, Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has said.
In his latest Human Rights Comment, Mr. Muižnieks says that Roma children are experiencing segregated and substandard education in the school systems in the majority of the 47 Council of Europe member states.
He warns that the consequences are devastating. “It makes it very hard for these children to escape poverty and marginalisation later on in life. Non-integration also generates large – and unnecessary – costs for society at large,” Mr. Muižnieks says.
Segregation takes several forms. Roma children are overrepresented in special remedial schools for children with intellectual and other disabilities – based on biased tests.
Roma children are sent to Roma-only schools, schools with a majority of Roma pupils, or they are put in separate Roma-only classes. They are often also segregated outside classrooms, being prevented from using common playgrounds or dining halls.
In Hungary, Roma children can even be physically excluded from schools through systems of “private” schooling at home. Also, teachers in segregated education reportedly have lower expectations for Roma pupils and set accordingly lower goals for them to achieve.
Schools or classes with a majority of Roma pupils can be found throughout Europe, from Portugal to Russia, but the problem is especially acute in Central and Eastern European countries, particularly in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Serbia.