Failing Another Generation: The Travesty of Roma Education in the Czech Republic

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June 2012

Roma children in the Czech Republic are funneled into so-called “practical schools”—dead-end institutions where they are taught a limited, low-level curriculum. The experience leaves students unqualified for all but the most basic jobs and traps generations in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

In 1999, 18 children from the eastern Czech city of Ostrava challenged the system before the European Court of Human Rights. Their case, known as D.H. and Others v. Czech Republic, argued that Roma children were being targeted for discrimination and denied their basic right to quality education.

In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights agreed. In a landmark judgment, the court demanded that the Czech government stop the segregation and redress its effect.

But victory in court and real change are two different things. Roma children still face discrimination in the Czech school system. Most still end up in inadequate, third-rate schools.

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the judgment, the Open Society Justice Initiative commissioned photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair to collect the stories of the children who won the case. She found they now have children of their own—and they face an all too familiar fate.


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