Racist Remarks Permeate Discussion on Roma Education 

“Roma people are not stupid, they are just lazy.”

By Prague Wandering Staff

Photo courtesy of Kieran Kesner via kierankesner.com

Judged solely on stereotypes of their culture, Roma are often segregated at a young age.  Photo courtesy of Kieran Kesner via kierankesner.com.

That is the question we put to Prague residents after reviewing several recent articles in the Czech media that discussed the flight of Czechs from schools around the country. Elementary schools are enrolling more Roma, known as gypsies in some countries, than ever before as they try to veer away from the communist legacy of funneling Romani children into “special schools,” or schools for the mentally disabled.

But some Czech parents say they fear that the Roma students will decrease the overall level of education in the classroom. These parents claim that the Roma require more teaching support because their parents do not place a sufficient value on education and they often have difficult economic circumstances that hinder adaptation to the demanding Czech learning environment.

Roma account for roughly two percent of the Czech population, according to census reports. As is the case across Europe, Czech Roma contend with serious social disadvantages such as high unemployment, discrimination, criminality, substandard housing, and poor educational opportunities.

“From my experience [with the Roma] I can’t say anything bad about them.”

So is it racist to pull your children from school because there are Roma there, or is it an expected reaction to a push for integration?

Here are a few responses from the passers-by near Charles University that reveal not only the status and plight of Roma in the Czech Republic, but that, for some, it is socially acceptable to repeat what many in the so-called West would characterize as tired racist rhetoric:

“Gypsies are children of the street. That’s why they have problems in school. Czechs prepare in school, they do their homework. But gypsies are late with everything. They need special schools because they’re slow learners.” – Mike Prockazka, 39-year-old construction worker.

“This lovely idea is about multiculturalism and integration. They’re trying it in Prague 5, and a friend of mine teaches there. She said that they were really trying to integrate the Roma children with the locals. It didn’t work, despite all the teachers trying. So, it’s just unfortunately not working in practice.” – Hana Pavelkova, recent PhD grad from the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at Charles University.

“Few Roma children start at the same point we do because of the special schools. It will take years, generations to fix the prejudice towards Roma.” -Denisa Sebestova, Anglophone Studies student at Charles University.

“When I went to primary school, there were Roma children. It’s nothing new. I have no problem with Roma children, but I have no children.” – Dominika Krajcova, 27-years-old. When asked about the thought of having a Roma Prime Minister, she said, “Why not?”

“But some Czech parents say they fear that the Roma students will decrease the overall level of classroom education.”

“I do not know of many Roma in schools because they are in special schools in the Czech Republic, my son only had one Roma friend in his class” – Brona Kaloudoua, 50-year-old dancer, talking about her son in school about 15 years ago.

“Roma people are not stupid, they are just lazy.” – Jurji Vanicky, Law student at Charles University.

“This is a huge problem. I would have one school for everyone, even children with disabilities. This model has been successful in other countries such as England and Germany. From my experience [with the Roma] I can’t say anything bad about them.” – Jitka Modlitbova, employee with Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

“When people talk about Roma, they are usually connected with crime and theft, mostly theft. Hearing this gets under your skin, so when you see them you just think of theft and danger.” – Martin Sedlacek, Anglophone Studies student at Charles University.

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Categories: Culture, Fall 2014 Issue Number 1

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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