SKOPJE, 14 – 15 MAY 2002
Report : Round Table on  Roma and Education , Skopje 14-15 May 2002



1. Сeкoj имa прaвo нa oбрaзoвaниe. Oбрaзoвaниeтo ќe бидe бeсплaтнo, бaрeм нa нивo нa oснoвнo oбрaзoвaниe. Oснoвнoтo oбрaзoвaниe ќe бидe зaдoлжитeлнo. Texничкoтo и стручнoтo oбрaзoвaниe ќe бидaт oпштo дoстaпни, a пристaпoт кoн висoкoтo oбрaзoвaниe ќe бидe дoстaпнo зa ситe врз oснoвa нa зaслужeнитe oцeнки.

2. Oбрaзoвaниeтo ќe бидe нaсoчeнo кoн цeлoсниoт рaзвoj нa чoвeкoвaтa личнoст и кoн зajaкнувaњe и пoчитувaњe нa чoвeкoвитe прaвa и oснoвни слoбoди. Сo нeгo ќe сe унaпрeдувa рaзбирaњeтo, тoлeрaнциjaтa и приjaтeлствoтo мeѓу ситe нaрoди, рaсни и рeлигиoзни групи и ќe сe унaпрeдувaaт aктивнoститe нa Oбeдинeтитe нaции зa oдржувaњe нa мирoт.

3. Рoдитeлитe имaaт првeнствeнoтo прaвo дa гo избeрaт видoт нa oбрaзoвaниeтo штo ќe им бидe дaдeнo нa нивнитe дeцa.

Члeн 26 от

Article 26 from the

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.



    1. Introduction…………………………………………………………………… 4

    2. Background of the Round Table……………………………..…………… 5

    3. Summary of the problems expressed and conclusions made
    by the participants during the meeting…………………………..……… 6

    4. Possible domestic and foreign practices/projects……………..……… 8

    5. Elements for further considering the adoption of a national

programme aimed at improving the education of Roma……………... 10

    6. Recommendations/proposals to the authorities……………………... 11

    7. Recommendations/proposals to Roma NGOs………….…………….. 14

    8. Conclusions by the Ministry of Education and Science……………..… 14

    9. Epilogue…………………….……………………………………………….... 15


    1. Final list of participants
    2. Final agenda of the round table

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002


“The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is among the few European countries were the Roma are recognized in the State constitution as a national minority and have such a status in their country.

In “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” the Roma are among the most numerous minorities2 and at the same time the poorest one. Like the Roma in most European countries the Macedonian Roma are facing a number of economical and social problems. Representatives of RNGOs3 reckon that the Macedonian Roma are living better than the Roma in the neighbouring countries and are not stricto sensu discriminated from the Macedonian legislation. However, they highlight that due to their ethnical belonging, the Roma are victims of hidden discrimination on a daily basis.

Certainly one of the problems, which is also recognized from the Roma themselves, is the very law educational level of the Roma community in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the urgent need for improvement of the educational standards, as well as the solution of related problems (economic and social situation, sanitary conditions, transport and infrastructure, etc.).

In “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” – unlike many countries in Europe, there is a strong, competent Roma NGO movement4 and a relatively large representation of Roma in public life5. Those RNGOs and officials seem to have consolidated their position over the last years. They have generally-speaking a common understanding of the problems, as well as of the needs of their community. Through their representatives the Roma in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” are expressing willingness to co-operate with the Government to improve their own situation.

This report does not allow us to gauge the level of cooperation of the authorities of “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” with the Roma NGO’s. Hopefully further action for change will be initiated – both at the level of the Roma community and at the level of the Government in terms of policies and working initiatives.

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002


In an effort to initiate constructive dialogue between the Roma community and the Macedonian Government, the Council of Europe organised a “Round table on the education of the Roma people in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia””, held on the 14 and 15 of May 2002, in Skopje.

This activity was part of the joint Council of Europe/OSCE – ODIHR/European Commission project - “Roma under the Stability Pact” and was implemented in co-operation with the Government of “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, in particular with the Bureau for Development of Education (structure within the Ministry of Education and Science). The Centre for Refugees and Forced Migration Studies (CRFMS) was responsible for the technical inputs for the implementation of this Round table.

The meeting was aiming at:
v Identifying the major problems linked with Roma education;
v Underlining the causes, and direct and indirect consequences of those problems;
v Taking stock of good practices/projects and positive experiences inside and outside of “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”;
v Intending elaborating of common Strategy in order to improve the educational situation of the Roma as a pilot process, with a view to the possible adaptation of a more comprehensive strategy involving other sectors (employment, infrastructure, health, citizenship, etc.), which are interconnected.

Various actors related to the education of the Roma participated in the meeting:
v Numerous Roma NGOs coming from various parts of “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (Skopje – Shuto Orizari, Kumanovo, Stip, Tetovo, Prilep, Gostivar), as well as a few representatives of Romani refugees from Kosovo residing in collective centres ;
v The Mayor of Shuto Orizari and the Director of “Braca Ramiz and Hamid Public School” from the same municipality, as well as the mayor of Prilep (mayors from other aforementioned municipalities did not attend) ;
v The Bureau for the Development of Education, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs throughout the meeting, while regretfully other officials from the Ministry of Education and Science and from the Ministry of Interior only partially attended the meeting ;
v Local or international non-governmental organisations, which act as donors for education projects for Roma (OSI-Soros Foundation, Save the Children, Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation-MCIC, SEECRAN, Civil Society Resource Centre, etc.) ;
v International organisations such as the OSCE mission, the European Commission Delegation, UNICEF and the UNHCR, as well as the Council of Europe - organiser of the round table - and its Office in Skopje ;
v Foreign experts on Roma education issues from Slovakia, Romania and Kosovo who were invited to present positive practices and give input to the meeting discussions.

It has to be underlined the high disproportion between a rather large representation on the side of RNGOs, compared to a small number of state and local officials.

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002

This report is providing brief summary of the discussions, the conclusions and the results from the meeting.


    According to Roma activists, in the recent years there has been a regression in the situation of the Roma people in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

    The problem with the education of the Roma people in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is not recent - it is dating 50 years ago. Presently there is large number of Roma without any or with very low education, despite many actions undertaken in this field by all actors present at the round table.

    There are both external and internal factors, which are causing problems with the education of the Roma community in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. While during the meeting the representatives of the government stated that the internal factors within the Roma community explain the present situation in relation to the education of Roma, the RNGOs stressed that the external factors are more problematic. Both the external and the internal factors should be considered when working on the improvement of the Roma educational standards. Below are listed a number of external and internal problems, which were mentioned during the meeting:

    Internal factors

      mainly cultural:

        - For the Roma in general the education is not a high priority within their value systems;
        - Within Roma families priority for education is given to boys, not to girls;


        - Early marriages (particularly from Muslim Roma families) are causing dropouts from school and are preventing the youngsters from continuing their education. However in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” a decrease of early marriages between Roma has been noticed.

    External factors


        - Very bad economic situation of the Roma community – high unemployment as being the major obstacle;

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002


        - Poor/bad infrastructure of Roma settlements (gettoisation);
        - Problems of transportation between schools and Roma settlements;
        - In some cases, poor/bad infrastructure of schools;


        - Lack of interest to deal with the issue:
        - Lack of willingness to co-operate with the Roma community to work for the improvement of Roma education;
        - Lack of willingness to support initiatives on the field, except if those are implemented by international actors, such as Open Society Foundation or UNICEF6;
        - Lack of mechanisms to put existing legislation into practice;

      Educational system:

        - Quality of education provided for Roma children (for example, in the secondary school in Shuto Orizari, there are three shifts of classes instead of two; overcrowded classes were mentioned, as well as the fact that none or very few Roma children, if not having sufficient knowledge, are left to repeat the school year from the 1st to the 4th class, etc.);
        - Attitude of teachers (Many teachers in the “Roma schools” are feeling less recognized or even punished, because of the fact that they have no other job opportunities. This may be reflected in their professional attitudes, as well as in their attitudes towards students, namely underestimating their capacities for studying);
        - Lack of textbooks about Roma history, language and culture;
        - Lack of modern techniques/materials for teaching, which can make schools/education more interesting for Roma children.

Internal and external factors at the same time


        - Lack of sufficient knowledge of the Macedonian language (language barrier at school) and lack of willingness from parents to speak the Macedonian language at home;


        - Lack of knowledge about each other’s culture, both from the Roma communities and from the majority (and other minority) population;


        - Parents with a low education level (external) are not encouraging their children to study (internal) in comparison with educated parents who tend to send their children to school.

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002

    Some of the main problems that the Roma community in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” are confronted with and which have direct consequences on the educational situation and standards of the Roma people, are the following:

      - Poverty (the majority of the Roma families often do not have money to buy textbooks, clothes, shoes for the children, etc.);
      - Unemployment;
      - Lack of transport;
      - Health;
      - Discrimination (it was expressed a number of times that in comparison with Roma communities in other countries, the state and legal system is not allowing for discrimination of the Roma people; nevertheless the Roma people in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” are confronted in their everyday lives with open and hidden discrimination and intolerance towards their problems. It was concluded that it is more difficult to combat hidden discrimination, because it is difficult to define instruments for that);


One of the aims set by the organisers of the Round table was to acquaint all participants with innovative and effective practices/projects implemented in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and in some other countries.

SEECRAN, the Open Society Foundation and the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC) made a presentation, giving details about their projects, their goals, the conditions, the financial resources at disposal, their local partners, etc.

A number of foreign practices were also presented namely from Slovakia, Romania and Kosovo. In addition, one of the recent reports concerning the situation of Roma access to education Tuzla Canton (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) was made available to all participants;

Below there is short list of points raised by the speakers.

Slovakia – Input by Mr. Jan Hero – Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic

v The Government of Slovakia has elaborated in 1999 a Strategy for Addressing the Problems of the Roma National Minority and adopted a Set of Measures for Its Implementation. By adopting it the Slovak government has recognized:

        - the present situation of the Roma;
        - the willingness of the Roma community to improve their situation;
        - the fact that the Roma problems are problems which concern the Slovak society as a whole;

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002

        - the fact that there is need to approach those problems with the right balance between a human dimension and solutions determined by the possibilities of the state.

v Education and training are priority areas in addressing problems of the Roma community. A Set of Measures for the implementation of a concrete programme was presented.

v At the end of his input Mr. Hero presented the School System of the Slovak Republic and how it was adapted to the specific needs of the Roma Community.

Romania – Input by Ph. Dr. Gheorghe Sarau – Ministry of Education and Research

      v Mr. Sarau presented a number of Strategic principles in the work of the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research:

        - Respect Roma culture – examine the ideas of the Roma about education and schooling;
        - Increase the number of the Roma teachers;
        - Solve problems by establishing co-operation with different partners: governmental and non-governmental, Roma and Non- Roma, local and international, religious institutions etc.

v The Romanian Government has adopted a Strategy for the Improvement of the Roma situation in 2001, but the Ministry of Education has its own Strategy for Improvement of the Roma Education since 1998. This Strategy has eight different priority areas, which has been presented by Mr. Sarau.

      v Mr. Sarau finished his presentation with a number of concrete achievements obtained over the past few years.

Kosovo – Input by Mr. Ramadan Berat from the OSCE MIK, expert on education

v Mr. Berat explained that the Ministry of Education Science and Technology envisages to establish the position of “Assistant Teacher for Roma, Ashkalija and Egyptians” and gave further details on how the role of such Assistant teachers is perceived and how they will be trained;

v He also mentioned catch –up classes (how, by whom and what for they are organised);

v He informed participants about the creation of an Educational Help desk.

v Finally, he mentioned a number of recommendations to the Ministries of Education.

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002


      The number of RNGO increased in the last years and a large number of them is dealing with the education of the Roma people, but the efforts of the RNGOs are not sufficient to combat the problems and to bring any sustainable change of this aspect in the Roma community.

      The Macedonian authorities should undertake their role and responsibility for designing and implementing appropriate policy, because the RNGOs cannot replace the authorities in their functions. They can only be the corrective and can support the planning and implementation of the governmental programmes.

      One possible starting point for breaking the vicious circle of problems of the Roma community in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is the improvement of the educational level of the Roma people, through the development and the implementation of a comprehensive Programme.

      Developing such a National policy and/or strategy on Roma issues should become a priority for the Government. This strategy should be coherent and comprehensive. An immediate starting point should be to develop a Programme for the improvement of the education of the Roma people.

      The National Programme for improving the education of the Roma people should be designed while taking into consideration measures for resolving/improving other related problems/aspects, such as:

        - Issues related to citizenship and identity documents;
        - Improvement of the economic situation (for example, to encourage the development and the implementation of income generating projects);
        - Infrastructure of Roma settlements;
        - Health/sanitary conditions in and around Roma settlements.

      RNGOs should be actively involved in the development and the implementation of the National programme for improving the education of the Roma people. More generally speaking, RNGOs should be involved in the design and implementation of programmes of the Ministry of Education and Science, so far mainly implemented through INGOs.

      Although the educational system in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is very good, it does not always correspond to the specific needs of the Roma community, which have specific problems. The Roma aspect has not been usually considered when developing the educational system/materials/curricula. As a result, the system needs to be adjusted/adapted to the needs of the Roma people. If not, it will continue producing a large part of illiterate people among the population of “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002

      It is important to underline that the Roma in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” do not need and do not want segregated education, but integrated one. One of the most meaningful examples for that is that they are willing to learn Macedonian language at school (this is not the case for all minority groups).

      The RNGOs are expressing strong willingness to co-operate with the authorities to support the resolution of the problem/improve the education standards of the Roma community in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. In addition to their expertise and contacts in the field, they are proposing to the Government their database, and other relevant documentation on those issues.


    Mixed Commission at the level of the Ministry of Education and Science

    To establish an ad hoc Commission/Board aiming at identifying and analysing the problems in order to establish real picture of the situation of the education of Roma and the needs.

      This Commission/Board should be composed of:

        - representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science;
        - representatives of other ministries when relevant side issues are discussed (infrastructure, transport, sanitary, professional training, etc.);
        - delegates of Roma NGOs,
        - representatives of international NGOs/organisations active in the field of education of Roma and donor organisations (Save the Children, UNICEF, Open Society Foundation, Save the Children, etc.).

      The members of the Commission/Board should use existing database of RNGOs, INGOs, and collect information from local authorities (and possibly compile information in one single document and review it on a regular basis).

      Should the Minister of Education and Science accept this proposal, his administration should convey a first (probably informal) meeting in autumn taking into consideration that the RNGOs will have finished drafting a document called “Strategy for the improvement of the situation of the Roma community” by the end of June 2002.

      Should it be successful, this informal meeting should become a more regular practice.

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002

    National Programme on Education for Roma

    To develop a National Programme on education for Roma, as well as an Action Plan for its implementation;

    To initiate an interministerial co-operation in order to facilitate the implementation of the National Programme on Education and its Action Plan;

    To organise in co-operation with other parts of the Government and local authorities field visits to the Roma settlements and schools, and invite representatives of International Institutions to join the visits;

    National Programme/Strategy on Roma Issues

    To propose (if it is in the capacity of the Ministry of Education and Science) to the Government the elaboration and adoption of a National Programme/Strategy aimed at Improving the Situation of the Roma in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”;

    To propose the establishment of an Interministerial Commission, which will be responsible for the development of the aforementioned National Strategy;


    To strengthen the existing legislation on education, especially the one which states that every Macedonian citizen should have basic education, and find mechanisms to reinforce its implementation taking for example effective measures to obtain a decrease in children dropouts of school;

    To enable the local self-governmental units to fulfill their mandate to work for combating problems faced by the Roma in their position as direct local representatives of the community, particularly in the context of the future adoption of new legislation about decentralisation (self-governments) in relation with the Framework Agreement about the decentralization.

    Consultation and participation of Roma

    To involve Roma people with expertise/experience in the field of education in the relevant Governmental structures, which are dealing with education related issues (Ministry of Education, National Commission on children’s rights, etc.);

    To involve Roma children and parents in decision-making (focus groups and extended meetings with the participation of Roma children and parents should be organised in order to ensure that the opinions and the needs perceived by Roma children and parents are taken into consideration throughout the process of designing the Programme on Improving the Education of Roma);

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002

    To promote continuity/sustainability of the effective projects implemented by the NGOs;

    To involve Roma NGOs in the development of strategies proposed by INGOs for improving Roma educational standards;


    To work on teacher’s attitudes and to train human resources Roma and non-Roma, assistants to teachers, school mediators, etc.;

    To employ Roma officers in the Ministry of Education and Science;


    To put accent on pre-schooling of Roma children, aimed at improving their knowledge of the Macedonian language;

    To introduce pre-schooling obligatory for one year for the Roma children (0 year in school);

    Textbooks and literature

    To raise funding for translation of relevant school books and literature;

    Scholarships and quotas

    To increase scholarships for university, and for secondary school students;

    To find mechanisms to guarantee that the quotas for Roma in universities are used by Roma and not by other ethnic groups;

    To provide financial support to Roma families;


    To consider the specific problems of the Roma refugees and to use specific working approaches;

    National and International good practices

    To examine existing good practices - both national and foreign (for example examples the Slovak and Romanian innovative reforms in the education field);

    To review relevant recommendations of ECRI7;

    To initiate discussion and try to involve Macedonian MPs8 from the PACE9 in relation to the recent decisions of PACE concerning Roma issues.

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002


    To mobilise the internal resources of the Roma community by establishing co-ordination through RNGOs;

    To maintain and further develop co-operation among Roma NGOs. They should decide together and propose jointly to the authorities what is best for their community and what kind of support the Roma community needs from the authorities and from the International community.


As the representative of the Ministry of Education, particularly the Bureau for Development of Education, Ms Liljana Samardjiska Panova took the floor at the end of the round table to respond to the concrete proposals made by the participants.

She concluded the following on behalf of the Ministry:

1. There is awareness in the Ministry about the complex situation of Roma education;

2. The Ministry of Education is expressing satisfaction about a general increase in the educational level of the Roma people, although it is considered to be still not sufficient;

3. One of the primary aims of the Ministry in relation to Roma education will be to increase the inclusion of Roma children in the pre-schooling system;

4. Apart from the pre-schooling of Roma children, other priority areas are combating stereotypes/prejudices in education, and training for teachers;

5. Involvement of Roma children in kindergartens is also considered very important;

6. Co-operation between the Governmental and the Non-governmental sectors is perceived as absolutely necessary. Taking this into consideration, the Ministry will continue to support the development and implementation of new programmes in co-operation with the same partners, i.e. INGOs and UNICEF10;

7. Important NGOs are already represented in the National Commission on Childrens’ Rights; The Ministry shares a common aim and vision with this Commission;

Round table “Roma and education” Skopje, 14-15 May 2002

8. Already three persons11 from the Bureau for Development of Education are working on Roma issues;

9. Speaking about the education of the Roma children as one of its main concerns, the Ministry recalls the role of the Roma parents in encouraging their children to study and attend regularly school. The Ministry considers that cultural aspects remain the main obstacle to an upgrading of the educational level of the Roma community, especially when speaking about Roma girls education.

When she was asked again to respond to the concrete proposals made earlier by the participants in the Round table, Ms Samardjiska responded that she does not have the mandate to answer any of those, but will certainly pass the message to the Minister.


A few alternatives were discussed after the intervention of Ms Samardjiska in terms of possible follow-up to the meeting:

- To establish alternative team, which can address in integrative manner the issues discussed during the meeting and can try to work on contractual level with the Ministry of Education;
- To work through NGO representation in the National Commission for the Childrens’ Rights;

Both proposals were neither further discussed, nor considered by the participants as relevant and feasible.

Mr. Neždet Mustafa, Mayor of the Local municipality of Shuto Orizari also expressed his willingness to organise and hold a follow up meeting, which could be implemented in autumn12 but stressed that the possibility remained also open to the initiative of any of the actors present during the meeting.

Despite the fact that education was recognised as a key angle to break this vicious circle, the meeting failed to establish a constructive dialogue between Roma NGOs and the Ministry of Education and Science and to initiate co-operation among those main actors.

It is hoped that the authorities of “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” will react in a not too distant future to improve the situation of Roma.

1 “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is a member of the United Nations since 1993.

2 Figures – According to the statistics from the last census in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” are living 47,303 Roma people. According to representatives of Roma Non-Governmental Organisations the number of the Roma is between 180,000 – 200,000 people.

3 RNGOs – Roma Nongovernmental organisations

4 Recently a network of 16 RNGOs (called “ROMA 2002”) has been established. They signed a memorandum of understanding and are currently drafting a “Strategy for improvement of the situation of the Roma community in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

5 At the political level there are 4 Roma parties: the Party for Full Emancipation of Roma , the Alliance of the Roma, the Democratic Progressive Party of Roma, and the Democratic Party for Full Emancipation of the Roma. There is one Roma member of Parliament - Mr. Amdi Bajram – and at the level of local authorities there is one Roma mayor - Mr. Neždet Mustafa – and Roma counsellors in the municipality of Šuto Orizari. Recently Mr Bajram Murat was appointed Roma Adviser to the Minister of Interior.

6 The Ministry of Education and Science expressed at the round table its wish to continue this type of cooperation with international actors, but did not react to the wish expressed by Roma NGOs to increase direct co-operation.

7 ECRI – European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (Council of Europe)

8 MPs – Members of Parliament

9 PACE – Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

10 Roma NGOs had expressed the wish to be directly consulted by the Ministry, and not only be the beneficiaries of contacts between the Ministry and international actors.

11 All of them Non-Roma.

12 Preferably after the Parliamentary elections of 15 September 2002.