Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Amnesty says Czech schools still fail Roma Gypsies

Roma children in a Czech school (picture courtesy of Amnesty International)
Amnesty says education can be a way to end discrimination against Roma

Czech schools are still riddled with "systematic discrimination" that ensures Roma children get an inferior education, Amnesty International says.

The human rights group has called on the Czech Republic to end what it calls racial segregation in schools.

It says Roma (Gypsy) children are often sent to schools for children with mental disabilities.

In 2007 the European Court of Human Rights said this violated the right of Roma children to a full education.

Amnesty says although the Czech government in 2005 changed the name of these "special schools" to "practical elementary schools", "the system which places children in these schools and teaches a limited curriculum essentially remains the same".

In some places, it says, Roma children make up more than 80% of the students of practical elementary schools.

'Vicious circle'

Roma children who do stay in mainstream schools tend to end up in classes full of other Roma, as white parents will often move their children elsewhere, says the BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague.

Unless the Czech authorities give them equal opportunities, they will be denying Romani children their chances for a better future
Amnesty report

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These Roma-only schools often provide a lesser curriculum.

All this, says Amnesty, reduces children's prospects of finding decent employment in the future, and reinforces their sense of social exclusion.

Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia programme director, said: "Education is the way out of a vicious circle of poverty and marginalisation that affects a large part of the Roma population in the country.

"Unless the Czech authorities give them equal opportunities, they will be denying Romani children their chances for a better future and full participation in the life of the country."

The BBC has yet to receive a response to the report from the Czech government.

Previously, it has admitted to difficulties integrating the Roma community but has argued that since its schools were not set up specifically for Roma children, the system was not discriminatory.

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