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

lifelong learning

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