The Roma and the right to education
The Roma in Croatia
- In the
2001 census approximately 9,000 people declared themselves as Roma out of
a total population of 4.4 million. Estimates suggest that their number is
between 30,000 and 50,000.
largest Romani communities are in the Međimurje and Varaždin Counties
in northernmost Croatia,
making up approximately 30 per cent of the total Romani population. Roma
also live in Osijek-Baranja County, Sisak-Moslavina
County and the capital, Zagreb. Many Roma
live in informal settlements, built without planning permission and
lacking basic infrastructure and services.
languages are used by almost 80 per cent of the Romani population.
suggest that between 12 and 13 per cent of the Roma live on less than 4.3
US dollars a day, compared to between 2 and 5 per cent of the rest of the
to some sources, approximately 80 per cent of Romani households have no
steady income and virtually all Romani women are not (officially)
Legal framework and national plans for Roma inclusion
Constitution provides that “Everyone in the Republic of Croatia
shall enjoy rights and freedoms, regardless of race, colour, gender,
language, religion, political or other belief, national or social origin,
property, birth, education, social status or other characteristics”.
Constitutional Law on the Rights of National Minorities provides that
“Members of national minorities shall have the right to education in the
language and script which they use”.
Constitution enshrines the principle of free and compulsory primary
National Programme for Roma was adopted in 2003. It has a section on
education, which includes a number of measures to promote the inclusion of
Roma in schools.
- Croatia is
taking part in the Decade of Roma Inclusion, a regional intergovernmental
initiative “to reduce disparities in key economic and human development
outcomes for Roma through implementing policy reforms and programs
designed to break the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion”. An Action
Plan was adopted in 2005 to improve the situation of Roma in the areas of
education, employment, access to health care and housing.
Exclusion from pre-school and primary education
improvements (especially in the Međimurje
County) in recent years, the
majority of Romani children in Croatia are not included in
Romani children of school age have no or only limited command of the
Croatian language when they begin attending school.
estimated 86 per cent of Romani children at the age of seven attend
elementary school. Attendance rates reach close to 95-100 per cent for
Romani children aged between eight and 12, and gradually decrease for
older children. Only approximately 70 per cent of Romani children at the
age of 15 are attending elementary school. Virtually all non-Romani
children between seven and 15 attend school.
- It is
estimated that only 27 per cent of Romani pupils enrolled in elementary
schools complete their elementary education. In some schools, 90-100 per
cent of Romani children do not complete elementary education.
Main barriers in access to education
and discrimination. Negative stereotyping by teachers results in low
expectations of Romani children and other discriminatory attitudes.
Segregated “Roma only” classes appear to be increasingly rare.
distances between settlements and schools, overcrowded and cold houses,
poor sanitary conditions in the settlements, lack of adequate clothing and
insufficient financial resources to meet costs associated with education
continue to deny children the full advantages of education.
barriers and lack of multicultural curricula. Failure to include Romani
language, culture and traditions in school curricula.
access to pre-school education and lack of Romani teaching assistants,
especially in certain areas of Croatia.
- Lack of
training for teachers and Romani assistants.
"Roma only" classes in Međimurje
In the school year 2000/01 almost 60 per cent of Romani elementary school
pupils in Međimurje County were reportedly placed in a total of 24
segregated classes, and in 2001/02, in the primary schools of Macinec and
Kuršanec, around 83 per cent and 88 per cent respectively of all Romani
children were taught in separate classes.
In April 2002, the families of 57 Romani children filed a lawsuit with the
Čakovec Municipal Court charging the Croatian Ministry of Education, Međimurje County and the primary schools of
Orehovica, Macinec, Kuršanec and Podturen with the segregation of Romani
children on the basis of their ethnic origins. In September 2002 the court
rejected the complaint, ruling that the alleged lack of adequate knowledge of
the Croatian language justified the creation of separate Roma classes. In
December 2002 the families of 15 Romani children filed a complaint with the Croatian Constitutional Court,
alleging that the segregation of Romani children in Croatian schools amounts to
a violation of Croatia’s
Constitution. The case is still pending.
In December 2004, the 15 complainants filed an application with the European
Court of Human Rights alleging as well that in previous proceedings before the
Čakovec Municipal Court, notes attached to the Macinec school’s submission
stated that “Romani parents are frequently alcoholics, that their children are
prone to stealing, cursing and fighting, and that as soon as the teachers turn
their backs things go missing, usually ‘insignificant and useless objects, but
the important thing is to steal’”. The case is still pending.
Although “Roma only” classes appear to be increasingly rare, negative
stereotyping among teachers working with Roma remain.
Recommendations to the authorities in Croatia include to:
that the placing of any child in separate primary school classes or groups
is not discriminatory, is always based on reasonable and objective
criteria, and takes place only when it is necessary and in the best
interest of the child.
steps to ensure that Romani culture, history and traditions are included
in school curricula in all areas or schools with a significant Romani
steps to ensure that Romani children, especially in areas not adequately
covered by existing initiatives, have access to pre-school programmes of a
sufficient duration, which should incorporate Romani culture, history,
traditions and language, as well as Croatian language.
steps to ensure that Romani assistants and mediators are employed in a
systematic and comprehensive way in all schools and pre-schools with a
significant Romani population.
steps to ensure that teachers and other staff working in schools,
especially where they work with significant numbers of Romani pupils,
receive training on Romani culture, history, traditions and language, with
the involvement and cooperation of Romani organizations.
AI Index: EUR 64/001/2006
16 November 2006