Thoughts for the New Year…

2012 was not a good year for achieving equality among Roma and non-Roma in education (nor in other fields of public life). Maybe an exception was the publication by the CEU Press of the book “Ten Years After: A History of Roma School Desegregation in Central and Eastern Europe”. I am proud that together with a team of dedicated human rights activists and policy experts, I managed to bring to an end such a difficult endeavour. I take this opportunity to thank them once again. Events on topics cover by the book took place in Bucharest, Skopje, Prague, Boston, New York, Washington DC and Budapest as well as in Cadiz at the annual conference of the European Educational Research Association.

I am optimist for 2013 and I have some good reasons. On December 11, the European Court of Human Rights decided against Greece once more in what cold be called Sampanis II. The press release in English from the Registrar could be read here and the full decision Of Sampanis I in French could be read here.  Failing to integrate Romani children into mainstream schools was considered a continuous violation of their right to education.

At national level, in Hungary, Chance for Children Foundation continued its legal battle against school segregation managing to secure the possibility to desegregate a school through a court order if the applicant proposes a desegregation plan. In Slovakia, Poradna won the first ever school segregation case – see my post from November 1.

In 2013, I will have the possibility to talk about Roma school segregation and Ten Years After at the American Educational Research Association meeting in San Francisco. Another event is the Accept Pluralism European  conference in Lyon on January 24-25 where members of a consortium that include European University Institute, University of Bristol, Central European University, University of Milan, University of Amsterdam, Bilgi University and other institutions will talk about Roma school desegregation.

But my main reasons resides in the people I had the opportunity to meet and talk about the topic. In my trips to promote the book I met people who are interested in the subject. At our last meeting of the Roma Research and Empowerment Network on December 5, there were more than 30 persons attending the discussion on school segregation. The growing number of people interested in the subject would continue in 2013 and thus the efforts to build a critical mass to fight for school desegregation.

One example of such people is Iveta Nemeckova, the coordinator of a coalition of NGOs in Czech Republic that aims to implement the ECtHR decision in DH to desegregate the schools in the Czech Republic. Iveta articulates very clear what needs to be done to desegregate the schools and to promote inclusive education:

“In conclusion, I would like to sum up this commentary by reflecting on the question of what the advantage is of educating children together in the same school and what the hidden risks of this approach are. The children now in the “practical primary schools” who will attend mainstream school along with the rest of the population in future will achieve better results, provided they have sufficient support, and will be more motivated to educate themselves. It will be far easier for them to assert themselves in their adult lives and to choose a profession from a broader range of options.

Another big bonus – and this argues against educating these children in “special schools” – is the option provided by the mainstream schools for natural contact with their peers, for the building of relationships, and for the acquisition of the corresponding social skills. It is precisely those skills that are very important for their adult lives and their ability to assert themselves in society – and not only for them. Many years ago, I noticed that children who collaborate with, communicate with, and encounter other children who need a greater degree of support in a natural setting become more mature as human beings. They look at the world with a greater degree of comprehension and understanding of their own needs and those of others. That is a very big bonus for all of us.”

The full article could be read here.

In the end, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year 2013 and all the best! Be optimistic life is beautiful!

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