In Box

Segregated but Profitable

If race is no longer a factor in school admissions, then Romani children in Central and East European countries must have very low IQs. For how else might one explain why 9 out of every 10 children herded into special schools in rural areas at the beginning of each school year are of Romani origin? ...

If race is no longer a factor in school admissions, then Romani children in Central and East European countries must have very low IQs. For how else might one explain why 9 out of every 10 children herded into special schools in rural areas at the beginning of each school year are of Romani origin?

"The Impact of Special Schools on the Roma in Central Europe," a February 2003 report published by the European Committee on Romani Emancipation, provides a simple answer: Romani kids are now cash cows for local authorities who exploit central governments and the sponsor programs of the European Union (EU). As the authors of the report note, Roma are "far better business than cattle" in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Indeed, a special education student, who on average spends 9 to 10 years in school, allows local authorities to request total funds of up to 17,500 euros per child. The calculation is remarkably straightforward: huge gain, little investment. Most important, the alleged beneficiaries and their guardians remain silent. In Hungary, for example, Romani parents who send their children to special education facilities receive financial assistance that seems like bribery. In the current economic climate, in which 60 to 80 percent of Roma are unemployed, such payments can help support a whole family.

All of these factors keep the system rolling so effectively that even the speed of European integration and the membership requirements for applicant countries are unable to put a stop to it. Since Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam (a key legal foundation for European citizens’ rights) was introduced in 1997 with the aim of banning all forms of discrimination, the number of special students in these countries has doubled and the rate of budgetary transfers per child has significantly increased.

Roma rights organizations have accused the European Commission of not investigating the issue thoroughly enough and of believing applicant countries when they claim they are "assessing the special school problem." In September 2001, Günter Verheugen, the European commissioner for enlargement, said in a speech to the European Parliament that EU membership is the most effective form of protection for ethnic minorities. But yet again statistics speak louder than politicians: About 50 percent of Roma already living in EU countries never attend school.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola