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Report from Seminar 1 B on Educational strategies against intolerance
Presentation by Ms. Dimitrina Petrova
Presentation by Ms. Milena Hübschmannová

Presentation by Ms. Dimitrina Petrova
Petrova, Dimitrina

Education for a Non Racist Society from the Perspective of Roma Rights

I. Equal Access to Education for the Roma

1. Main concerns

A. Segregation in effect of Roma in the educational system

A1. Special schools (see e.g. European Roma Rights Center country report “Special Remedy: Roma and the Schools for the Mentally Handicapped in the Czech Republic”, Budapest, ERRC, 1999);

Illustration: Research conducted by the ERRC on remedial special schools in the Czech Republic revealed abuses of the equal right to education in the structure and functioning of the special schools; the content of remedial special school education; allocation practices, including th abuse of parental consent and the application of tests which produce racially disparate results; the practical impossibility of returning to basic school, etc. A related problem is the continued existence of special classes and programs for Roma in the “normal” schools in some countries; in these classes curricula feature manual skills training, music and crafts at the expense of general subjects such as maths and literature.

A2. Segregation based on domicile (e.g. recent research data from Hungary (commissioned by the Ministry of Education) showing de facto segregated educational system which is interdependent with a de facto segregated housing system).
Illustration: the Romani schools in Bulgaria, see Jennifer Tanaka, in Roma Rights 3/2000, comparing the conditions in a Romani and non Romani school in Kardjali.

A3. Romani children overrepresentation in remedial correctional institutions, orphanages, social homes and similar establishments – see Roma Rights, 3/2000: Editorial “Displaced Childhoods”, rubric Testimony (on Hungarian practices in the past), and article by Kate Carlisle on institutionalizing practices in Italy. See also extensive research in progress on “Children in Institutions” conducted by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (results forthcoming in several volumes).

B. Degrading and humiliating treatment of Roma (racism in the classroom) Patterns of intolerance, illustrated:

B1. Authorities refusing to enroll Romani children in school; illustration: 620 Romani refugees from Kosovo accommodated in the Smrekovica refugee center in the Breza municipality, central Bosnia, started a protest, on August 29, 2000, against the decision of local authorities that Romani children from the camp could not attend the local primary school. The mayor’s decision referred to the “lack of space” at the school, but he had reportedly stated that he would not allow Romani children to mix up with non-Roma. See “Romani children from Kosovo turned away from Bosnian school”, Roma Rights,

B2. Racist mobilization of majority community against Romani children enrolment in majority schools; illustration: Greek parents’ association decision to boycott a public school in Halastra (near Thesalonniki), to prevent enrolment of 32 Romani children – see “Press release (15 November 2000) of the DROM Network for Gypsy Social Rights”,

C. No schooling and early drop out of Romani children
Illustration: Greece, in which a large number of Roma from extremely marginalized (“tent-dwelling” and other) communities have never been in school. See Roma Rights, 3/1998, editorial “Agramatos” and passim; also, the situation in Italian nomadic camps, see ERRC country report “Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy”, Budapest, ERRC, 2000, p.78-84.

2. Strategies for equal access of Roma to Educational Opportunities

Policy priority 1: DESEGREGATION, through the following strategies:

# Litigation
# Legislation prohibiting discrimination on grounds of race/ethnicity:
! domestic level: the need for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation
! international level: the role of the ECHR and its protocols 1 and 12; the role of the European Council Directive 2000/43 (26 June 2000) on equal treatment irrespective of race and ethnicity
# Policy: the role of recent governmental programs on Roma integration (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia)
# Roma rights activism: the example of the desegregation project in Vidin, BG: describe project activities. A local Romani NGO (DROM, chaired by teacher Donka Panayotova) campaigned in summer 2000 for distribution of the several hundred Romani children from the Roma neighbourhood school to schools across the town of Vidin, supported with a modest grant by the ERRC; convinced headmasters and regional inspectorate in town; with minimal OSI financial support, bought three old yellow buses and hired 7 Romani activists as assistants or mediators, who make sure the buses leave on time every morning and stay in the school during classes; the mediators supervise pupils’ achievement and adaptation and communicate intensely with teachers and families; thus, without much noise and with minimal outside support, but with vision and passion, this small local Romani organisation effectively carried out school desegregation in Vidin in the school year 2000-2001. Current term results and behaviour reports are very encouraging. (!!!)
# Human rights education for Roma: the various projects in Europe to enhance Roma to defend their rights, including the right to education.

Policy priority 2: Ensuring to Roma the freedom to choose and construct new choices
Possible choices:
# Integrated education, with differing degrees of integration in the majority culture; and in the regional and global culture;
# Schools focusing on developing Romani culture (e.g. the Ghandi school in Pec, Hungary); efforts to promote Romani language and history;
# Various combinations of majority oriented and Romani culture education, etc.

II. Responsible Public Education as Antidote to Racism
1. Problems to be addressed by public education institutions (school, media, church, army, public services, etc.)
(a) The widespread denial of racism (in particular, anti-Romani racism) in the European civilization – see Dimitrina Petrova, “The Denial of Racism”, Roma Rights, 4/2000, analyzing the phenomenon of denial and identifying specific rhetoric forms of denial of anti-Roma racism; why the discussion of racism should not be mitigated by the discourse of intolerance [A footnote on the limitations of the “tolerance” imperative: even intended to mean an entirely positive value, still hints that there is something about the object of toleration that tries our patience.]
(b) Deficiencies of anti-racist and Holocaust educaton, with a focus on the specificity of Central/Eastern Europe and the lessons the region has not learned, such as:
(i) the “normality”, “banality”, and rationality of evil; fascism as a part of modernity rather than a pathology; the Frankfurt school “dialectic of Enlightenment” discussion; see e.g. Konstanty Gebert, “After the deep freeze: ethnicity, minority and tolerance in the new East and Central Europe”, Roma Rights 4/2000;
(ii) the Nazi persecution and extermination of the Roma; minimal public awareness of the Roma holocaust;
(iii) the insights into the formation of prejudice; the cognitive and sociopsychological characteristics of biased thinking; the sociology of prejudice, social distance, exclusion and intolerance;
(iv) the lack of internalized mechanisms of identification of fascizoid attitudes, and lack of cultural/historical “immunization” against them; the postcommunist personality is better “immunized” against totalitarian ideologies of the Communist type (to change the world to correspond to traditional values) but not against the Nazi type of projects (to change the values and substitute new ones, with subsequent change of world according to new values);
(v) lack of inward looking academic reflection on the cultural (including racist) bias of institutionalized social science.
2. Strategies of anti-racist education
(a) in schooling systems:
- in curriculum development (e.g. the use of attitudinal survey data as educational tool);
- in teacher training;
- in relationship with family and community (teaching assistants – the Czech experiment; minority mediators; parent associations);
(b) in the media (e.g. codes of professional ethics);
(c) in the public services sector (e.g. organization of the public space, such as the street or the railway station; advertisements in public transport facilities; administrative forms and other artifacts; rules of procedure and personnel manuals containing clauses against harassment on the basis of gender/ethnicity etc.);
(d) in other institutions.

Conclusion: A note on the importance of the legal rights approach to intolerance, or the “learning by doing” strategy Intolerance against vulnerable groups will not be significantly reduced by legal means alone. Racial discrimination will not be removed by outlawing its expressions. Antidiscrimination lawsuits alone – however successful - will not eradicate racism. Just like even the best criminal justice system is incapable of eliminating crime, the best laws are only one strategy among others in the movement toward a more tolerant, more open society. This is all quite taken for granted: public education is inevitable the big task of our time.
HOWEVER: The opposite is also true. The utopia that “education peut tout” is history. The more so when the reality to be challenged is in the realm of mass culture. Intolerance is a matter of political significance and political interest as a phenomenon of collective experience, as a culturally and historically based attitude shared by many. In other words, it is expressed (and therefore exposed to being measured) at the level of the so-called public opinion. Intolerance and racism revealed as characteristics of public opinion are broad and far from clear-cut notions. On the other hand, the concept of racial discrimination, as defined in international law (see e.g. Art. 1 ICERD), is more clearly defined and its meaning and scope continue to receive validating legal interpretations. By concluding the international treaty on race discrimination (ICERD) , the states signatories have in effect made it possible for practical accomplishments in fighting racism and intolerance to overtake public opinion when/if the latter is moving at lower speeds. In Europe, this possibility was greatly enhanced last year by the adoption of Protocol 12 ECHR and the EC Directive 2000/43. The legal concept of racial discrimination takes the struggle against racism and intolerance beyond its dependence on acknowledgement. One may or may not acknowledge one’s ethnic intolerance or xenophobic views, but will be sanctioned for actions amounting to racial discrimination, regardless. I think that societies as well as individuals will not learn to be more tolerant before they start to act as if they are more tolerant. Practical legal and policy steps to eradicate discrimination are the key to a culture of tolerance. The best textbook of tolerance is perhaps the lived experience of the effects of the enforcement of anti-discrimination law and policies.

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