07 SES 02 B, Roma: Segregation, Discrimination and Intercultural Perspectives
This paper builds on our ethnographic research that we have been carring for six years now in a region in west Bohemia. This research is concerned with the issue of exclusion of Roma minority and attempts to integrate it. In the first three years long research period we studied the relationship of Roma parents to education (Czech Science Foundation project: Function of Cultural Models in Education, GAČR, reg.no 406/08/0805) It gave us insight into their thought and provided us with contacts and familiarity with the whole context of their life. It also brought us the theme of the current research which is „decision making processes of help providing professionals“. (Czech Science Foundation project: Decision-making processes of helping professions in the area of intercultural relationship; P407/12/0547). We found that studying the Roma in isolation is not enough to understand the situation and that we also need to study the people who provide them with various kinds of help or assistance, like NGO's, teachers, local government, police and other state and non state agents who are somehow involved in the issue of “integration”.
The particular topic I want to address in my paper is the infamous problem of „practical schools“ and their demise seen through some ethnographic evidence taken from our research. In last couple of years there have been strong political pressure to dismantle the „star“ of segregation of Roma in Czech republic – so called Special schools, later renamed Practical schools based on the ruling of European Court of Justice. These schools served nominally as schools for severely handicaped children and in practice they were used by both Roma and the main school system as an „bypass“ institution for many Roma children through which they were allowed to avoid the clash with the mainstream curriculum pressure. They were criticised for being segregative and that they close the path for better education for Roma children. They are now under pressure and some of them are being closed. This seems to be triumph of desegregation attempts and something generally desirable. Indeed, as one of our informants said: “Desegregation, thats what we all agree with, you can't argue with that aim.” But he then adds bitterly „but again and again, good intentions... but precarious ends“. The practical school was happily finished (and its building privatised)... but also the institution that was intended to replace some of necessary functions that the practical school used to perform was finished, voted out in local referendum.
In reality, the issue may be somehow more complex and may bring about some uneasy questions about how the positive reform aims ends in „desegregation feuds“ that are related to the interplay of fundings, institutions, school system, system of social care and the public.
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