Access to education remains very difficult for Roma. Roma children are often assigned to schools for mentally or physically disabled children or to special schools with lower standards, diminishing their chances for the future. It is estimated that until recently the majority of Roma children attended special schools, but the situation is slowly improving. A large number of children only complete primary school, and only 20-25% stay in education beyond compulsory school. The number of Roma who complete university or other tertiary level education is negligible (less than 1%).
Nevertheless, in the political and social context of transition countries, education can play a decisive role in teaching tolerance and fostering mutual understanding between local populations and Roma minorities. For this reason, the SDC is participating in the Roma Education Fund and supporting its activities in the Western Balkans.
A broad concept of education
The Fund’s activities are based on a detailed analysis by the World Bank of the situation and concerns of Roma minorities in various Eastern European countries. Resources are used to strengthen national strategies for Roma in the individual countries. The emphasis is on reforming the educational system and expanding existing projects that have already achieved good results. Including Roma in all decision-making and implementation stages is one of the guiding principles.
For the purpose of disbursing financial means, the term education is interpreted in a broad sense. This allows support of both formal and non-formal education and competence building for children as well as for adults.
Supplementing the efforts of the countries concerned in this area, the resources of the fund are to be used to develop and foster projects with the following objectives:
- Securing access to obligatory schools with the help of various accompanying measures
- Improving social integration through a revision of the curriculum and through partial instruction in Roma languages
- Measures for integration and desegregation
- Facilitating access to kindergartens and pre-school structures
- Improving access to secondary schools and higher education and the furthering of adult education