Sunday, 10 March 2013

Commissioner for Protection of Equality Determined Indirect Discrimination in the Separate Class of Surdulica Primary School “Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj” in Masurica

Upon the complaint filed by Praxis against Surdulica Primary School "Jovan Jovanovic” and the headmaster as a responsible person for discrimination against Roma children in the separate four-grade class in Masurica, the Commissioner for Protection of Equality issued her opinion with recommendation on 22 February 2013. The issued act determined that responsible persons in the school had not taken timely measures to prevent direct discrimination against Roma pupils and recommended professional training of teaching staff for individual education and interactive classes with an aim to supress stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination, and taking all necessary pedagogical measures to motivate Roma children to come to school and attend classes in order to ensure the exercise of the right to equal and quality education without discrimination.

Specifically, during the visit to an informal Roma settlement located nearby the stated school, the attention of Praxis’ representatives was drawn to the extremely bad – inappropriate, often insulting and inhumane, but primarily discouraging and excluding, discriminatory treatment of pupils of Roma national minority by the teachers and school staff. Out of total number of pupils enrolled in this separate class, 52% are members of Roma national minority. Praxis specified in the complaint all individual forms of discrimination and segregation of Roma systematically reappearing during the classes and school activities, of which Praxis was informed by the parents of the children.

Discriminatory treatment by teachers and other employees was manifested in different manners:  Roma children were physically separated from other pupils during classes, placed in the last rows of school desks, deprived of the possibility to use free textbooks as other children did, i.e. prohibited from carrying the textbooks to their homes, under the pretext of danger of their being damaged given the living conditions of Roma. The pupils of Roma nationality were excluded from English classes with an explanation that subject matter was too difficult for them to master; also, it was pointed to the fact that pupils of Roma national minority attending the Primary School “Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj” in Masurica were suggested on a daily basis that they could leave the classes and that they did not have an obligation to attend them, while special and less demanding teaching criteria were being established for them, which resulted in the fact that these children could not acquire appropriate knowledge as their peers of non-Roma nationality.

Upon conducting the procedure in which the Commissioner determined relevant facts and after the statements of all interested persons – the headmaster, teaching staff and parents of some pupils of Roma nationality, the opinion was issued with recommendations to be acted upon within 30 days. The opinion indicated that behaviour of teaching staff caused the violation of the Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, which prohibits any kind of direct or indirect discrimination, and violation of the provisions of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination and the Law on Foundations of the Education and Upbringing System. In addition, the opinion also indicated that acting of the stated persons was contrary to the strategic goals related to inclusion, integration and reduction of differences between members of Roma population and other citizens, determined by the Strategy for Improvement of the Status of Roma in the Republic of Serbia adopted by the Government of the Republic of Serbia in 2009.

Prejudices, lack of tolerance, understanding and good will to include the members of Roma nationality in social frameworks of established social system, are the problem whose solution requires active approach, transparency and more dedication of the responsible state bodies and institutions. Praxis will monitor the implementation of recommended activities and measure, as well as the future treatment of the pupils of Roma nationality by the employees in the separate class in the Primary School “Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj” in Masurica.

Download: Opinion and Recommendation of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action