Discrimination and poverty hinder Roma's access to education


In the field of education and training, discrimination based on ethnic origin has often
hampered the access of Roma people to quality education. This is a tremendous loss
as peoples’ futures are mostly shaped by their education and early experience in life.
When the educational element is missing there is little hope for the meaningful
integration of these European citizens.

Early childhood education and care is left wanting. Many Roma children do not complete
primary school education and many do not even begin at all. Sometimes this
situation is made even worse by the difference between the language spoken at
home (Romani or any other dialects) and the language of instruction. When children
eventually find themselves in school, their lives are made especially difficult as a
result of the combined effect of ethnic discrimination and poverty: hostility, stigmatisation
from fellow students and staff, the lack of adequate transportation, basic
pedagogical materials and textbooks, appropriate infrastructures, and ghettoisation
of existing schools, to name but a few. The figures for early school leavers in Roma
communities are well above national averages. Moreover, due to the prevalence of
traditional family values, an inordinate proportion of these early school leavers are
young girls, whose families expect them to leave school as soon as they are deemed
suited to marry. This is often very early.

Illiteracy and a lack of skills transferable to today's labour market severely compromise
prospects of finding proper employment when this is available. This situation,
combined with prevalent ethnic discrimination, means that Roma find it very difficult
to find a job. This generates even greater social exclusion for many Roma.

The difficulties Roma communities experience in the field of education as well as
the other related social fields – employment, housing and health – actually reflect
those that mar the general situation of the mainstream societies, especially in Central
and Eastern Europe. In other words, what is seen in these Roma communities most
affected by economic turmoil is a general situation, which ethnic discrimination and
negative cultural stereotypes intensify. The initiatives and actions to be taken in
favour of Roma communities at the European level were therefore, to be inspired
and guided by the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy, i.e. smart, sustainable and
inclusive growth, together with better economic governance. Conversely, inclusive
growth could not possibly happen whilst excluding communities whose development
had been blatantly hindered by social exclusion and discrimination.


Source: Roma and Education: Challenges and Opportunities in the European Union

© European Union, 2012


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