The Romani population in the Czech Republic has long been wrought with hardship and discrimination, leaving them trapped in poverty generation after generation. A large contributor to this cycle is the poor educational opportunities available to Romani youth. For years, Romani children have been pushed into low-performing practical schools that prepare them for little beyond the most basic of jobs.
In 1999, eighteen children from the town of Ostrava stood before the European Court of Human Rights to demand changes to the current system in the landmark case D.H and Others v Czech Republic. In 2007, the court ruled the Czech government had to take steps to end the widespread discrimination and segregation.
A recent report released by the Open Society Foundation catches up with the original 18 children, now adults with families of their own. Unfortunately, little seems to differ, with the current youth suffering from many of the same problems as their parents.
Denisa Holubova, lead applicant in the 1999 case, was pushed into a practical school after she and her sister were bullied in elementary school. Although she wanted better for her children, she found that little within the system has changed. Holubova said, “The director insisted that the girls be enrolled in the practical school because, he said, they are not able to learn. The same as they say with so many Roma children.”
Even the students who are able to attend standard school face great difficulties. Many Roma are the minority in their schools and subsequently targets of bullying from both students and teachers. The standard schools with Roma majorities tend to be extremely low-performing. Bára Kocˇkova attends one such standard school. Students are assigned homework only once a month, leaving her ill-prepared for her dreams of becoming a teacher. The current climate in the Czech Republic is failing the Romani youth, forcing many like Bára to give up their dreams for a life of poverty and hardship.
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