The reality for Romani children in the Czech Republic: Racism, segregation, and rejection

My colleagues recently told me about a young girl Jana* whom they had met. She told them of how she had been called ‘black mouth’, been told she ‘looked disgusting’, and had had her shoes hidden by her class-mates, leaving her barefoot in the snow. When her family raised this with the school, nothing was done. When Jana’s brother Karol* defended his sister, he felt unsupported. Other pupils told them they were dirty and smelled bad. When the teachers found out, they told the children they did not fit in, and their grades dropped.

This story was not an isolated incident of peer bullying, but an injustice experienced by so many children on a daily basis. It was and is discrimination, something that so many Romani children across the Czech Republic, and elsewhere in Europe, face in schools, where they are supposed to feel safe and supported.

Discrimination towards Romani pupils in the Czech education system takes a variety of forms. It includes the racist bullying experienced by Jana and Karol. Other children are incorrectly placed in schools for pupils with ‘mild mental disabilities’, so-called ‘practical schools’, in clear breach of Czech, European Union (EU), and international human rights anti-discrimination legislation.

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