Marcela Adamova, Slovakia
MPA, Class of 2017
Intern, Roma Education Fund
The segregation of Roma children in schools is a serious issue in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). It is a violation of human rights and of EU principles. It also obstructs communication and interaction between groups, which tends to lead to increased suspicion, distrust, and hostility. Although it is illegal and unethical, it is still the reality for too many Roma children in this part of Europe.
I am really interested in this issue, which is the main reason I chose to do my internship with the Roma Education Fund (REF), the leading international NGO in this field. Its mission is to close the gap in educational outcomes between Roma and non-Roma through the design and implementation of policies and programs that support quality inclusive education in Central and Eastern Europe.
This internship has been a great opportunity for me to gain new knowledge and perspectives. I have also made contacts and gotten to know people from different countries. What I have learned this summer will also help me with my Applied Policy Project, which is related to migrants living in EU countries and their access to education.
The most interesting task I was assigned was to draft a policy brief for the European Court for Human Rights about REF's position on the segregation of Roma children in schools. The policy brief focused on Hungary, which is facing an "infringement procedure" from the European Commission because of the ongoing discrimination against Roma children in schools.
I have also helped to organize and have participated in international conferences for REF beneficiaries from several post-Soviet Union and Balkan countries. It was an enriching experience that has strengthened my belief that true Romani empowerment will come not from strengthening old traditions, as many people believe, but by building a new and positive Roma identity – one that would replace the dominant and negative stereotype.
How is it possible that our governments can claim that segregating Roma children in schools is justified? Many current educational policies have negative consequences for Roma children and for the entire society. We need to establish and implement inclusive educational policies that provide all children with equal access to education and with opportunities to meet and learn about each other.
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