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Introduction to Roma in the Czech Republic

The Roma minority is one of ethnic minorities in the CR. The 2011 census registered a total of 13,150 Roma inhabitants, Roma language as their native language (or one of the native languages) stated 40,370 inhabitants. According to estimates by the ERRC from 2003 there are between 250 000 and 300 000 Roma people living in Czech Republic.

Roma people came to Central Europe and the territory of today's CR from the late 14th century.  Roma in the CR are among the groups most affected by social exclusion, with all the negative consequences of this phenomenon (low education, high unemployment and crime). There is generally strong anti-Roma mood among the Czech public with many anti-Roma strikes and demonstrations recently.

The largest group (75-85 %) are "Slovakian Roma" (called Rumungři, who came to Bohemia and Moravia after WW II. Other major branches of the Romani people are "Roma Vlachika" (about 10 %) who began to arrive from the Hungaria in the second half of the 19th century and the rest are Hungarian Roma and German Sinti.

Czechoslovakia

In 1927 the Czechoslovak Government Act of wandering gypsies was issued, which allowed police to keep records of nomadic and to some extent also settled Gypsy population.

Roma holocaust

In 1937 the Reich Leader SS and Chief of the German Police Heinrich Himmler issued preventive combating of crime, Gypsies, persons who did not work properly and carry out criminal activities were named antisocials,. Since 1938 Gypsies were monitored, prohibited free movement, many were imprisoned and deported to concentration camps.

Roma during the communist dictatorship

Rapid growth of the Roma population in the Czech part of Czechoslovakia was caused by mass migration of poor environment of Roma settlements in Slovakia and the need to inhabit Czech border after the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans. Most Roma kept her relatives in the Slovak Republic, sent them money and occasionally attended them.

In 1958 the Act No. 47 of "permanent settlement of migrants" states that "National Committees provide people who lead a nomadic way of life, comprehensive assistance to enable them to go to a settled way of life; in particular, are required to assist these persons in obtaining suitable employment and housing, and to act consistently with appropriate educational resources to become ordinary working people.

Whoever remains in nomadic way of life, although he was assisted to a permanent settlement, will be punished for an offense by imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years."

Although the Act was formulated generally to all persons without permanent residence it abused particularly the Roma minority.

During the sixties, the vast majority of Roma succumbed to the pressure and settled in the allocated flats. Demographics magazine in 1962 published an article that "The question is not whether Gypsies form a nation (...) the question is how to assimilate."

In 1965, Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the government established the Government Committee for Gypsy population, whose main task was the policy of displacement and dispersion. This meant involved in the work process, disperse all Roma settlements throughout Czechoslovakia.

The Prague Spring in 1968 brought the emancipation of the Roma movement, the national Union of Gypsies - Roma struggled for the recognition of the Roma ethnic group as the official national minority. In 1974, the Association of forbidden without its main objective reached.

In 1970, the policy of displacement and dispersion revoked in Czechoslovakia. Government Resolution was adopted the concept of socio - cultural integration. Despite the friendly name of this concept Roma began to be de facto segregated.

Roma began to be relegated to ghettos on the outskirts of cities (eg settlement Chánov), Roma children were based on tendentious tests moved to the special schools, a lot were taken to orphanages. Ministry of Health then allowed the sterilization of Roma women without their consent or knowledge. A similar approach persisted in the eighties.

Post-revolutionary era

After the fall of communism escalating contrast between sections of society requiring harsher repression and criticizing the inefficiency of the social system and its abuse by Roma and parts companies sought to integrate the Roma and to compensate for their social disadvantage. As a way to solve the assimilation cultivating specific Roma identity and culture was considered; however, these efforts had limited impact and did not prevent deepening social disruption.

At the turn of the 20th and 21st century a lot of Roma began to move to the United Kingdom, and Canada, initially motivated by successful assimilation, but under the pressure of large groups that began a disproportionate burden for generous welfare systems of these countries, the states began to further prevent the influx of immigrants.

In April 2009, a group of neo-Nazis set fire to the house inhabited by Roma family. As a result of the attack, three people were burned, most seriously a two-month baby girl. Because of the mass movements of Czech Roma to Canada visas were required in July 2009.

Social situation

Many Roma living in the CR in the working age are unemployed, largely due to their low qualifications and the related unwillingness of employers recruiting. Another reason is also improper settings of the social system (for some people it is better to receive welfare benefits than work). Unemployment and poverty of the Roma population leads to the creation of Roma ghettos and increased crime. Many Roma are victim to usury.

Issues between Roma and the majority population identified a questionnaire survey among Roma advisors and assistants conducted by the Institute for Criminology and Social Prevention Ministry of Justice are divided into the following groups:

  • Social problems, which includes Roma unemployment or poor housing. Roma is accused of receiving social support as the only source of livelihood and a reluctance to get involved in the work process.

  • Problems in civic coexistence, such as neighbourly relations, noise and mess around the home.

  • Crimes.

  • Roma issues with drugs, alcohol and prostitution.

  • Problems in communication between the Roma and the majority population and in negotiations with the authorities.

  • Racism, intolerance and prejudice against the Roma population.

With the transition to a market economy after 1989, often unskilled Roma again come to the edge of society. Roma unemployment (75 – 95%) is high to their lack of education, but also because of hidden racism. The priority of many Roma and non-Roma governmental and non-governmental organizations therefore becomes a question of education.

In many cases, however, the approach of the past persists and will for real change is rather unique. Many teachers do not know about Roma history and culture about pupils. Although Roma make in the CR largest ethnic minority, there is not a single mention in textbooks. Racist attacks by extremist individuals and groups cause quite legitimate fear, but even worse Roma perceive the silence of the majority.

Education

Ombudsman: Roma children are discriminated against in access to education

Although the share of Roma population in the CR ranges from 1.4 to 2.8%, there are about 30% of Roma children in elementary practical schools. According to Ombudsman it can be considered as indirect discrimination.

This stems from research that Ombudsman has performed in 67 randomly selected basic practical schools in all regions of the Czech Republic.

The CR was repeatedly criticized for this discrimination in access to education. The European Court of Human Rights in its judgment, DH against Czech Republic in November 2007 stated that the Czech school system does not provide equal access to education, because Roma children are placed considerably outside the mainstream education. Equal access to education and its provision for all pupils, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity, is in both school and anti-discrimination law.

The continued segregation creates the conditions for an even deeper social and economic poverty of future generations of Roma, the problem of excluded areas at risk of social pathologies and growing tensions between the Roma and the majority population.

Situation nowadays – segregation in education

Although Czech officials claim there has been an improvement in the matter (decrease of LMP diagnosis of Roma children etc.), the situation is not much better than before the DH case in 2007.

In November 2012 the Ministry of Education presented a list of anti-segregation steps to remedy the situation. Resort, for example, intended to focus on counselling, improvement of the awareness of parents.

Mainstream schools, however, argue that inclusive education (ie, teaching all children together, but with an individual approach) is not just about the teaching of Roma pupils, but also physically disabled children with learning disabilities, foreigners or exceptionally gifted pupils.

The complaints of directors of elementary and secondary schools state that schools do not have enough money for teaching assistants, speech therapists and special education teachers. Inadequate facilities often lack e.g. wheelchair access.

Only 10% schools have an assistant for socially disadvantaged pupils. An assistant for the disabled has approximately half of the respective schools. Grants often are only valid for a year so the support is not systematic. But, it is often more important to change the approach to teaching and working with pupils' families than the presence of another teacher.

Current Minister of Eucation Marcel Chladek wants to increase the number of teaching assistants.

The conditions for the development of inclusive education are not systematically prepared and directors often have to run a variety of time-limited projects. Schools for students with disabilities and social disadvantage receive in addition to the current normative an additional cost. They can also use a number of subsidies and development programs.

The schools wishing to develop an inclusive education and reach a progress can be supported in many ways, e.g. remedial help, use of teaching assistants, school counselling, education of teachers, or non-profit organizations – cooperation with parents, extra-curricular help – acquisition of needed skills and habits, leisure time activities.

According to some experts, it is not enough. "Inclusive education is one of the most expensive systems. Educational system it is not at all ready, it's completely out of reality, considering current conditions at schools".  The state originally planned to abolish practical schools, eventually withdrew from this plan, this will not solve the problem.

The League of Human Rights coordinating the project Fair School estimates that 10% of schools in the CR have inclusive education.

Lack of qualification

About 70 percent of teachers teach pupils with mild mental disabilities without the necessary qualifications. "Currently, teachers are not adequately prepared for inclusion not only in education, but not personally do not support this idea fully identify themselves.

Educators need to be better prepared to work with students in a diverse team, which is definitely more demanding. Such lessons often make it difficult for the high number of pupils in classes. In the coming years it will be even more difficult because of strong population years. The problem is the lack of training implemented for the needs of particular schools and particular support for the implementation of the acquired knowledge into practice. Promoting inclusive education by the state and in the long term is, however, definitely worth it.

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