ROUND TABLE
“ROMA AND EDUCATION”
SKOPJE, 14 – 15 MAY 2002
Report : Round Table on  Roma and Education , Skopje 14-15 May 2002

REPORT OF THE MEETING

BY ALEXANDRA RAYKOVA - GENERAL RAPPORTEUR
FOR THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

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
УНИВЕРЗАЛНАТА ДЕКЛАРАЦИJА ЗА ЧОВЕКОВИТЕ ПРА

Article 26 from the
UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

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

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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

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

INTRODUCTION

“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

BACKGROUND OF THE ROUND TABLE

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.

SUMMARY OF THE PROBLEMS EXPRESSED AND
CONCLUSIONS MADE BY THE PARTICIPANTS DURING THE MEETING

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

Internal and external factors at the same time

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

POSITIVE DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN PRACTICES/PROJECTS

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:

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

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 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.

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

ELEMENTS FOR FURTHER CONSIDERING THE ADOPTION OF A NATIONAL PROGRAMME AIMING AT IMPROVING THE EDUCATION OF ROMA IN
“THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA”

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

RECOMMENDATIONS/PROPOSALS TO THE AUTHORITIES
OF “THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA”

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

Legislation

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

Pre-schooling

Refugees

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

RECOMMENDATIONS/PROPOSALS TO THE ROMA NGOS
OF “THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA”

CONCLUSIONS BY THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

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.

EPILOGUE

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.