07 SES 11 B, Taking Diversity into Account
In Slovakian highly stratified and selective system of compulsory education students tend to be socio-economically and academically segregated across the schools. (OECD 2016). Desegregation efforts often collide with both the resistance of the middle class parents and the disapproval of destitute families for whom distant school means additional expenses to other hidden fees for education.Transition to distant school significantly increases truancy of children from disadvantaged family background in Slovakia.
"External" policy measures such as free school buses are considered to be important support of school desegregation. However, because of decentralisation of many public policies, including public transport (with exception of the railways), there is no universal programme of this sort in Slovakia. Introduction of school buses for children living in segregated localities (often poor Roma concentrations) or other kinds of support of socially disadvantaged students is not welcome by the majority population and labelled as "unjust privilege for undeserving population". After almost three decades of emphasis on meritocracy and individual responsibility as the crucial prerequisites of decent citizens of "democratic and market society" of Slovakia, the understanding of social justice as reciprocity dominates in the public discourse. In this situation, the positive measures based on redistributive concept of justice are difficult to advocate.
The paper is based on the case study of the process of negotiating free public transport for all children in the city Žilina (85,000 inhabitants). Žilina municipal educational policy has been selected as a comparative case for the doctoral research of K. Deáková lead by Z. Kusá. Žilina recently managed to close fully segregated school attended by Roma pupils only and to disperse Roma children equally among other 8 schools in the town. Žilina' unique free public transport for children attending compulsory education seemed to ease school commuting and desegregation process. However, the approved municipal regulation allows benefiting from the program only children whose parents have no financial liabilities (debts) towards Žilina and its turned out that majority of Roma children were not eligible for free of charge public transport because their jobless parents did not pay for garbage collection.
The analysis targets the local conflict between the demand of responsibility and deservingness of parents and the need to support children from disadvantaged families and prevent transport costs that may increase the risk of truancy: It trace the dynamics and links among the civic initiative of collecting money for street-line passes, mobilisation of public, intervention of media and negotiation of major and municipality deputies. The main focus is on the argumentation of all involved actors and their understanding of the social justice and justice for children. Though the right of the use free public transport for all Žilina children was finally approved, the new rule was passed rather due to the voting maneuver than due to establishing wide consensus based on acceptance of the disttributive justice principle.
The work on this study is supported by by the APVV project No. 15-0653 Values
in the Dynamics of Societal Changes in Slovakia and Europe (2016 – 2020
Paper will analyze mass media coverage of the conflict and the negotiating process about the right to free use of public transport for children from the families with debts. This will include interviews with main actors, communication of contributors for collection for street-line passes, the record of debates and voting in the municipal parliament. The critical discourse analysis (CDA) will be used to identify discursive frames of "calling for justice" of individual actors. The analysis will be done with support of the ATLAS.ti program.
We will suggest that there are almost absenting discursive resources for defending autonomy and dignity of every child - for addressing children' needs independently of "deservigness" of their parents in the Slovak public discourse. It seems that the meritocratic understanding of of justice and with fatalistic view of "unchangeable mentality of Roma" create almost insurmountable obstacle of extensive launching of positive actions in favour of disadvantaged children.
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