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Ten Years After

Ten Years After: A History of Roma School Desegregation in Central and Eastern Europe

Edited by Iulius Rostas
With a Foreword by John Shattuck
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 393
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  • Book Info
    Ten Years After
    Book Description:

    Roma rights have emerged on the political agenda of Eastern Europe. School segregation is one of the hottest issues. Each country has developed its own approach, with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania being more visible in the desegregation process. The volume presents the results collated in the frames of the fact finding project led by the editor. The analysis includes the examination of a large number of legal documents and policy statements issued by national authorities and the international community on the matter. A critical overview is also made about the various Roma-specific political campaigns on national and European scale. The second half of the book contains interviews with activists that assumed a leading role in school desegregation. These testimony pieces have been critically reviewed by educational and policy analysts from the concerned countries.

    eISBN: 978-615-5053-33-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    John Shattuck

    The Roma people of Central and Eastern Europe have long been the victims of systemic discrimination, segregation and social marginalization. A movement to overcome this legacy has gradually taken shape during the two decades since the fall of communism and the transition to democracy in the region. The Roma Rights Movement has civic, legal and political dimensions, and is the subject of this groundbreaking and insightful study by Iulius Rostas and his colleagues.

    The Roma Rights Movement bears some similarities to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Both are aimed at rectifying the wrongs of centuries of institutionalized...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. About the Roma Education Fund
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    Iulius Rostas

    The number of Roma in Europe is estimated by the Council of Europe at between eight to twelve million, most of them living in Central and Eastern Europe. Estimates from research and international organizations put the number of Roma as high as 800,000 in Bulgaria, 300,000 in the Czech Republic, 600,000 in Hungary, 2,500,000 in Romania and 550,000 in Slovakia.¹ The governments of all these countries have adopted strategies to address the problems the Roma face, and because they are all members of the European Union have access to EU funds to help solve them.

    School segregation of Roma children...

  7. PART I

    • CHAPTER ONE Institutional Responses to Segregation: The Role of Governments and Non-Governmental Organizations
      (pp. 7-48)
      Marius Taba and Andrew Ryder

      In one of the pioneering texts on the issue of Roma education, Jean Pierre Liégeois comments on the value of education to Roma communities:

      Education increases personal autonomy, providing the tools for adapting to a changing environment and a means of self-defence from the forces of assimilation; it makes it possible to break out of the passive rut of welfarism to play an active role in cultural and political development.¹

      Yet the reality for many of the three million Roma children living in Europe is that they are denied educational inclusion and the opportunities outlined by Liégeois, instead large numbers...

    • CHAPTER TWO Setting the Roma Policy Agenda: The Role of International Organizations in Combating School Segregation
      (pp. 49-90)
      Anita Danka and Iulius Rostas

      One important strategy employed by Roma and human rights activists to fight against segregation and to promote desegregation in Central and Eastern Europe has been to appeal to the international organizations to exercise pressure and “name and shame” those governments that did not take resolute actions to address the increasing concern of Roma school segregation in these countries. “The absence of political will to implement far-ranging desegregation policies, coupled with the lack of effective legal avenues to challenge the racial segregation of Roma in the educational systems of many countries, forced human rights and Roma rights activists to turn to...

    • CHAPTER THREE Judicial Policy Making: The Role of the Courts in Promoting School Desegregation
      (pp. 91-128)
      Iulius Rostas

      Historically, courts played an important role in shaping public policies. Some authors define this process as “judicial policy making” consisting of “a choice among alternative courses of action, which choice binds those subject to the policymaker’s authority.”¹

      In democratic states, the courts make or shape policies through the interpretation of the constitutional provisions and the extra-constitutional interpretation of sub-constitutional laws and institutions and practices. Thus, judicial review—”the power of a court to void actions of the legislative and executive branches of government”²—is part of the democratic process through the separation of power doctrine meant to ensure a system...

  8. PART II

    • Interview with Rumyan Russinov from Bulgaria
      (pp. 131-144)
      Rumyan Russinov, Iulius Rostas, Mihai Surdu and Marius Taba

      Question: Thank you very much for agreeing to an interview. We have been talking with Romani activists at the forefront of the desegregation process in this part of Europe, and you are one of them.

      Rumyan Russinov: I appreciate the idea very much. In my opinion it is a very timely effort, and I believe that desegregation is one of the most important processes which have taken place in, I would say, the past 20 years in the Romani movement. I agree that we need a more systematic effort to analyze it.

      Q.: How would you describe Romani education during...

    • The Politics and Reality of Romani School Desegregation in Bulgaria
      (pp. 145-164)

      The idea of the desegregation of Romani education in Eastern Europe originated in Bulgaria. There are at least two reasons for this: the first is the extent of segregation there, which seems to be the biggest in the region and took egregious forms. The second reason is rooted in the Roma civil rights movement, which was already quite mature by the mid-1990s and was almost unanimous about the need for desegregation. In about 1998, the government and civil society seemed to be in agreement on the need for desegregation and on the methods through which it was to be implemented....

    • Interview with Ivan Vesely from the Czech Republic
      (pp. 165-178)
      Ivan Vesely and Iulius Rostas

      Question: Let's start with the education of Roma during communism. What was the education of Roma like then?

      Ivan Vesely : It was quite simple. If we take, for example, Slovakia, the place where I used to live, we went to school together normally with non-Roma. There was almost no segregation there until the seventh grade. After that, Romani children were segregated into special classes which were called Integrational Roma Classes. The official purpose of having such classes was to prepare children for their future work, for example, in forestry. Most of the Romani children were directed after the seventh...

    • Education Policies in the Czech Republic
      (pp. 179-196)
      Gwendolyn Albert

      In 1997, the de facto existence of ethnic segregation in the Czech school system was brought before the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic. This segregation was and is the product of a practice by which Roma children are disproportionately educated separately from other children according to a curriculum for the intellectually disabled, irrespective of their actual intellectual capacity. When this practice was first challenged, the government and most of those involved in administering education rejected the argument that this state of affairs constituted either discrimination or segregation. The Constitutional Court itself also found that the constitutional rights of the...

    • Interview with Viktória Mohácsi from Hungary
      (pp. 197-216)
      Viktória Mohácsi, Iulius Rostas, Mihai Surdu and Marius Taba

      Question: My first questions are about how the authorities in Hungary dealt with minority education in the transition period. Were there schools and classes where teaching was in the mother tongue, and, with respect to Roma, how did the educational system deal with Romani culture and identity?

      Viktória Mohácsi: First, we need to outline a broader perspective as regards the whole educational system rather than simply listing different kinds of programs in the educational system. I learned in the European Parliament that although joining the European Union (2004) reduces the differences of the legal measures between the countries, when we...

    • Roma School Desegregation Policies in Hungary
      (pp. 217-266)
      Orsolya Szendrey

      The Hungarian public education system does not provide equal opportunities irrespective of race or cultural background. Moreover, the educational system is extremely selective: higher status families choose the schools that best suit them, and higher status schools choose the most desirable children and quickly shed the less privileged ones. The largest differences between the schooling success of children of higher status families and that of the most disadvantaged pupils, and Roma children in particular, are witnessed in the wide gap between the educational levels of the Roma and the Hungarian average. This is the main cause of the desperate labor...

    • Interview with Costel Bercus from Romania
      (pp. 267-282)
      Costel Bercus, Iulius Rostas, Mihai Surdu and Marius Taba

      Question: Let us start the discussion with the issue of Roma education under communism and in the transition period. What was the education of Roma like during the communist period? What were its main characteristics?

      Costel Bercus: On the one hand, communism had quite a positive impact on the issue of Roma education. This favorable effect was due to the emphasis that the system of education placed on school attendance. The result was a high level of attendance of Roma children in mainstream schools. Also, there was a less overt level of discrimination that Roma had to face during communist...

    • Roma School Desegregation Policies in Romania
      (pp. 283-302)
      Florin Moisa

      In education, the best words to describe any progress are “not enough,” and, when talking about school desegregation, there is plenty of room for improvement.¹ School segregation seems to be a long-term presence in the Romanian educational system, and only after 2003 did it become an issue debatable by educators, Roma activists, and politicians (see the interview with Costel Bercus in this book). The issue has been shaped through the years by a host of factors, including the European Union accession process, the emergence of anti-discrimination legislation, the improved ability of Roma activists to monitor discrimination cases, and international interest...

    • Interview with Klára Orgovánová from Slovakia
      (pp. 303-316)
      Klára Orgovánová, Iulius Rostas, Mihai Surdu and Marius Taba

      Question: Looking at your career, you have been involved in quite a number of things.

      Klára Orgovánová: Yes, it is true. But first of all, I would like to tell you that I am not an expert in education—I am a clinical psychologist. I started to become involved in Roma-related issues in 1989, and for the past approximately twenty years I have been in different positions. I started my work in a non-governmental organization, and in 1991, we established the first Romani NGO in Slovakia. It was the Foundation for Romani Children, and I was its executive director. From...

    • School Desegregation Policies in Slovakia
      (pp. 317-340)
      Miroslava Hapalová and Martina Kubánová

      Educational segregation of Roma children in Slovakia has been repeatedly noted by studies and analyses from non-governmental organizations and research institutions.¹ The prohibition against discrimination and segregation in education by the School Act from 2008 was the result of continuous pressure from international bodies² over the last 20 years, which consistently urged the Slovak Republic to eliminate persistent discrimination and segregation, as well as from joint activities of national and international NGOs.³ Although the explicit prohibition of segregation is undoubtedly a very important step, an isolated legal act is not sufficient. Even three years after its approval, neither legislative nor...


    • Conclusion
      (pp. 343-366)
      Iulius Rostas

      This is not the history some readers may have expected. It is not focused on events, dates or characters. It is the history of a process that began ten years ago in Bulgaria and spread across Central and Eastern Europe. Educational segregation had been brought into the public forum as a legal concept years earlier, as indicated by Danka and Rostas in their chapter, and concerns about equal opportunities for Roma in education date back to the communist era. But the important movement on the issue only began in Vidin.

      Roma school desegregation has not been a unitary process—some...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 367-370)
  11. Index
    (pp. 371-378)