Roma Education Fund’s Statement on Educational Segregation and the Exclusion of Roma Children in Bulgaria

The Roma Education Fund (REF) expresses its concerns regarding the ongoing discrimination, segregation and exclusion of Roma children from mainstream educational institutions in Bulgaria.

REF warns to end school segregation and the exclusion of Roma students from mainstream schools. REF also discloses its willingness to cooperate with international bodies and with the Bulgarian government to provide policy proposals for direct action tailored for the Bulgarian situation to ensure Roma pupils’ access to integrated quality education, which serves as a basis for both social and economic integration, thereby benefiting all Bulgarian citizens.

As of June 29, the 9th Peyo Yavorov Primary School in Blagoevgrad shared a post on its social media page stating, "We do not admit children of Roma ethnicity". The Blagoevgrad case calls our attention to the need for urgent action from the Ministry in order to prevent similar harmful practices against Roma children.

Even though the Bulgarian educational legislation prohibits class-based segregation, the legislation or the Ministry of Education and Science do not offer strategies or actions on desegregation. Based on the 2014 Report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, more than 25% of Roma pupils attend de facto segregated school classes.

Being one of the most relevant stakeholder in supporting Roma education, REF offered its knowledge accumulated across Central and Eastern European to the Ministry of Education and Science in Bulgaria in order to initiate a professional discourse about the educational segregation Roma are facing as well as to support the government in developing proper policies and practices against school segregation. 

Regarding the prevention of other similar cases in the future, REF suggests that the Ministry of Education and Science in Bulgaria needs to elaborate and legally adopt school desegregation framework on national level, with the relevant methodology on how to work with both Roma and non-Roma parents, the Roma pupils and school authorities.

In addition, the Ministry is asked to appeal to all mayors and municipal/regional authorities responsible for education, to contribute actively to the school desegregation processes in their respective localities, thus the Roma pupils could be equally distributed in all schools. 

In order to preclude further exclusion of Roma from mainstream schools and halt segregation, international bodies present in Bulgaria, especially EU, and the Bulgarian government should initiate a common dialogue to ensure international support in fighting against discrimination and segregation of Roma.