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Prague - Rather than struggle with young Roma, teachers transfer them to special schools.
That is the situation in one quarter of Czech schools. Teachers often resist working with problematic children, whether it be handicapped or Roma children. Kids in schools are still divided into the "white and healthy" and the "other".
These are the latest findings in an extensive survey conducted by GAC agency and People in Need foundation.
The study is based on more than 500 hours of interviews in 104 schools in eight regions of the country. It focuses on areas with high Roma population. People in need interviewed children, parents, teachers and assistants.
"Schools and their teachers do take an equal approach to children who are disadvantaged," said Zdeněk Svoboda from People in need.
Ideal class: white and healthy
The survey shows that even though some schools are trying to work with Roma children, others still attempt to limit the number of children that might require greater attention and care. Children with physical or mental handicap, foreigners and mostly Roma are having difficulties to find a regular school.
A high number of pupils in classes also force the schools to introduce limitations. Due to that it is impossible to offer sufficient attention to those children who need it.
"Approximately one third of the schools is suitable to accept a wide range of students with special education needs. We have recorded a tendency to eliminate children requiring special care or those who are difficult to manage," Svoboda said.
50 percent drop out
The older Roma kids get, the less of them are found in classrooms. "The chance of a Roma child not to drop out is 50 percent," GAC study reports.
Small Roma kids drop out mainly in the third and fifth grade. Many parents therefore choose to sign their children up for a special school straight away. Out of ten Roma kids two girls and three boys drop out. One third of them attends other than regular schools.
Good grades but wants to be a cook
"One fifth of the Roma children that took part in the survey were deemed above-average by their teachers," noted sociologist Ivan Gabal. Those are often children coming from Czech-speaking families of above-average living standards.
Almost none of them, however, want to be a doctor or a lawyer. When the sociologists asked the children about their future plans, most kids wanted to become a cook. "That is the profession they are exposed to most in their environment," Gabal said.
Only 20 percent of Roma children named a profession requiring a high school education and only 8 percent would like to study at university.
Ministry: It is a long-distance run
However, schools do not have any preparation programs to enroll pupils with special education needs. Only 35 percent of schools hire at least one special pedagogue. If there is a problem, schools tend to turn to police rather than try to cooperate with the family.
"Roma people are often perceived as lacking interest in education, being unreliable and unable to stay commited. The surveyed see these characteristics as innate," said Zdeněk Svoboda.
Despite all that, he does not blame only the teachers. "It requires interconnection of a number of sectors. Ministries of Education and Labour and Social Affairs should work on the change together. Different conditions should be established," he said.
Education Minister Ondřej Liška, wants to change the situation. "I aim to create conditions that would allow to build good schools for all. That means a school, in which the teachers would be offered good conditions for their work and where the children would get good education without any regard to their ethnic origins," he said.
Adapted by Prague Daily Monitor.