Roma and the draft law on education in Romania

A draft Law on education is in the lower chamber of the Parliament. the Ministry of Education organised consultations with civil society on the draft and then proposed it to the Government for approval. In the process of adopting the new law on education there is a high risk that Roma will not be able to promote several strategic interests: desegregation and inclusive education, financial transparency and accountability, curricula reforms, ensuring equity as regards the quality of education. Some of these interests are beneficial for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin: transparency of financial allocations and financial accountability, promoting inclusive education and inclusive schools, ensuring equity, etc.

There are several social actors that are trying to influence the adoption of the law as regards education for Roma. As there is a competition among these actors on who has higher influence and better connections the general interest of the Roma is disregarded. In fact, it would be normal to get these actors together, to define their interests as regards the law on education, to agree on what should be in the law and what could be negotiated, and to attract support for their positions.

To date there is nothing about segregation in the law, to give just one example why the pressure is high on those that represent the interests of Roma. Some are totally disregarding the issue of equity-discrimination-segregation and its consequences and are opting for a mother tongue education. These groups and individuals did not get that these two position are not excluding each other. On the contrary, the definition of segregation makes a clear distinction between these two possibilities. The discussions among Roma social actors are about who is more expert on education than other.

It seems that those opting for a minority rights approach to education (mother tongue education) are “winning” the competition. Partida Romilor with its Sub-commission on Roma in the Parliament are strongly supporting such a position.  By taking this position they are avoiding a clash with the Hungarian Alliance (UDMR) who is against segregation discourse of Roma. UDMR never expressed o clear position on education for Roma, their way of thinking is that whatever is good for them is good for al national minorities.

The other Roma social actors, are hopping that each of them will be able to influence the decisions based on their expertise, reputation, connections with political forces or protest actions.  To date they were unsuccessful to influence the bill even though they know the legislative process and participated in the public consultations initiated by the Ministry of Education. They are supporting inclusive education, desegregation and in general they have a human rights approach to education for Roma. Of course, the positions of different Roma actors are simplified in this posting, practically there are nuances among them.

Each Roma social actor prefers to play alone (I remember Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam) and to loose everything instead of getting together with others. It seems that personal rivalries and egos are more important than the interest of the Roma. None will be surprised if all of them will lose on a long term, eventhough the once supporting a minority rights approach might be the ones to claim a win. The winner will be determined by the negotiations among political forces and Roma will stay out of the decision table.

As it is the situation now it is a zero sum game. It is up to Roma to make it a positive sum game. I doubt that this will happen.


One Response to “Roma and the draft law on education in Romania”

  1. CrisRom Says:

    Interesting points you bring into discussion, Mr. Rostas, and I like your consistency, as the argumentation is in line with your conclusions presented in your article within the Palgrave’s most recent book analysing politics in relation to Roma. I would argue though that within the Roma civil society there has been some allignment arround the principles of equity, non-discrimination and desegregation. If one would analyse the previous draft of the law on education, proposed last autumn by the PDL-PSD government, that one included most of the proposals submitted formally and informally by Roma organisations and interested individuals. The new government has brought a new approach regarding education, disregarding previous efforts and principles put forward by the Presidential Commission on education, within the National Pact on education, or the positive ideas of the previous draft released under the ministerial mandate of Mrs. Andronescu. As rightly pointed, the Roma civil society actors familiar with the legislative process have submitted comments to the Ministry of Education in the legal term when the draft law has been subject to public debate. Yet, the point where I would argue is that the current government has taken consideration of no proposals submitted by stakeholders within the consultation process. The ignorance of the executive has regarded all mainstream policy proposals, not only those directly connected to the Roma education. In addition, ammendments have been submitted to the Senate for consideration by both the Commission on Education and the corps of elected representatives. Still, I would stress that the problem comes from the chronic lack of political power linked withe the obvious under-representation of probably the most important national minority in Romania, in factual absolute terms. The draft piece of legislation is still under debate in the Parliament and it remains to be seen whether the proposed ammendments (out of which some crucial ones would be supported by MPs) will pass the vote of the plenary. Otherwise, there are dangerous consequences to some proposed measures, despite there a priori well-intended character.

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