07 SES 05 B, Professional Perspectives on Roma Education
Education of the Roma is one of the crucial problems in the sphere of equal access to education in the Czech Republic. Its solution is expected to ease social tension and to bring successful integration of the people who are pushed to the margin of society and reproduce the social position. For this reason, the issue of Roma exclusion or the issue of social exclusion in general is one of the constantly present topics, both in the media and protagonists’ discourse and that of experts. Those voicing their views on the issue see the problem either in ethnic terms or try to de-ethnicize it (Moravec, 2007). The problem is viewed either as a consequence of the position of an ethnic minority in majority society or it is placed in the context of social and economic conditions of life in a society that systematically denies access to sources (livelihood, education, housing, etc.) to some of its members. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that ethnic labeling is still an expected strategy to denote social groups. In other words, there is always a search for their ethnic origin (Eriksen, 2007).
In practice, both attitudes (ethnicizing and de-ethnicizing) have their political impact and a negotiating force. Within the framework of both Czech and international political scenes, the idea of discriminated Roma has repeatedly successfully gained ground. It says that they are excluded from the educational mainstream into “practical schools,” thus having a worse position on the labor market. Similarly, the expert discourse focuses on the question of Roma education as a special sphere of examination and intervention (Levínská, 2011). Programmes aiming at a deliberate support to Roma education are drafted and implemented. On the other hand, there is a fight against ethnicization in the approach to children and their families. There is a criticism of the bias on the part of teachers who have prejudices against children from the Roma minority (Svoboda, 2010), while an unbiased, individual approach to them is suggested. Due to this, the management of many schools refuses to provide official information on the number of Romany schoolchildren to avoid their being accused of violation of human rights. They prefer to speak about socially excluded or socially weak pupils, although off-the-record, they admit their ethnic characteristics. Naturally, this struggle of various types of rhetoric has its rules. It is logical that juggling with ethnicity and de-ethnicized social exclusion rests both in the recipients of the message – those to whom spokesmen turn – and in the “negotiators” – the spokesmen and their concepts and objectives they set. Basically, the problem of ethnicization x de-ethnicization can also rest in the empathy the spokesmen want to create or which they themselves feel.
As a result, the contribution would like to examine:
a) the question of what is the substance of the discrepancy of this dual rhetoric, why the codes are switched or why in the sphere of Roma education there is a parallel, ethnicizing and de-ethnicizing, rhetoric; and
b) the question of how the dichotomy is handled by the people who occupy the professional positions helping the Roma or socially excluded people in day-to-day contact.
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