EU's anti-racism agency urges improving attitude to Gypsy children

Widespread discrimination and negative stereotypes are hampering the integration of Gypsy children into public schools across the European Union, and governments must do more to promote equal access and combat segregation, the EU's anti-racism watchdog says in a new report. Governments should ensure that all Gypsy children have free access to compulsory and higher education and should remove unnecessary administrative barriers to encourage their enrollment, the Vienna-based European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia said in a report being released Wednesday.

The report, which focused on Gypsies also known as Roma and their counterparts in Britain and Ireland often called "Travelers" found that enrollment and attendance in primary education was low in most countries and that absenteeism was a persistent and common problem. The study highlighting the "marked absence" of ethnically differentiated data on school enrollment and attendance. It also found that Roma pupils have a tendency to drop out of school early, making it difficult for them to compete for jobs.

The report urged European governments to provide practical benefits such as additional social benefits to Roma and Traveler families to promote enrollment in preschool education, which the report said would also indirectly support the development of employment opportunities for women. The study also noted with some concern that Hungary , Slovakia and the Czech Republic have placed Roma pupils in schools for mentally handicapped children.

"Wrongful assignment to special education is an issue of particular concern not only because it directly violates the principle of equal treatment in education, but also because attendance of such schools has far-reaching negative consequences for future employment opportunities," the study said.

To promote better understanding and appreciation of Roma and Traveler history, governments should develop respect-promoting policies and measures and publicize their plight. Roma and Traveler history and culture should be included in mainstream textbooks, and teachers working in a multicultural environment should be properly trained, adequately paid and supported by educational experts and intercultural mediators, the center said.

Roma are believed to be descendants of people who left the Indian subcontinent at the end of the first millennium and likely arrived in Europe around the 14th or 15th century, according to the report. They have a long history of discrimination and were sent to concentration camps by the Nazis.

In the report, the term "Roma" refers to ethnic groups who identify themselves as "Romani" or those such as Sinti, Gypsy and Travelers in the United Kingdom, Ireland and elsewhere, who share similar aspects of culture and history, and who confront similar issues of discrimination and social exclusion, reports the AP.


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