Roma Education Fund: Equal access to quality education is a long run

November 13 has marked the sixth anniversary of judgment in the case of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, which denounced segregated education of Romani children. On this occasion representatives of the Roma Education Fund (REF) decided to share their experience from Ostrava. In two localities of Ostrava, REF supports project aiming at equal opportunities of Romani children in education. In cooperation with Ostrava municipality and nongovernmental organizations REF has helped in establishing of mothers’ clubs and is making an effort to promote the highest possible attendance of socially excluded children in mainstream kindergartens. Support of the project in Ostrava has a strong symbolic meaning – it is where the 18 children from the 2007 case of the European Court of Human Rights come from.

“We are fully aware of the fact that education of Romani children has not been affected by significant changes since the ECtHR judgment. Romani children still remain transferred out of the mainstream education and high level of segregation at some primary schools persists. Therefore we decided to start early, by supporting of the project ‘Together to Preschool’, which in line with series of studies and analysis stresses preschool education of Romani children and children socially disadvantaged,” says Judit Szira, Executive Director of REF.
According to her words, in Ostrava REF has identified partners with strong enthusiasm to change the unhappy situation. So far, in its first year the project successfully supported fifty children from localities Poruba and Mariánské Hory – Hulváky. “We know how much work is ahead of us. We however very much appreciate the active involvement of organizations Bílý Nosorožec and Beleza, who, in cooperation with number of institutions, effectively equalize the chances for disadvantaged children from excluded localities. In this regard we also appreciate involvement of Ostrava municipality and Czech School Inspectorate in our project. We want to demonstrate that the way forward is in active participation of families and institutions.”

In Ostrava, the Roma Education Fund, systematically focusing on closing the gaps in education between Roma and non-Roma and operating in 14 European countries, would like to verify its international experience and point at the fact, that even though it is still a long run, equal opportunities in education are not only legally compulsory, but also practically achievable.