Romani children in Macedonia are being placed in special education without a clear and transparent process that allows parents to make a full and informed decision, according to new research by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the National Roma Centrum (NRC). Contrary to recent announcements by Macedonian Ministerial officials, most often it is education and diagnostic officials – not parents – who start procedures leading to the placement of Romani children in special education. More than two thirds of parents surveyed (68.5%) said their children were recommended to be sent for testing to attend special education by a school official, an education expert, a doctor or a social centre.
The ERRC and NRC conducted the survey in Macedonian cities where special education exists, talking to 219 Romani families with 252 children enrolled in special schools and classes for children with special needs in mainstream schools.
Children in Macedonia are placed into special schools following a categorisation process. Once placed in special schools, it becomes almost impossible to transfer back into mainstream education, severely limiting children’s chances in later life.The survey found that more than two thirds (69.6%) of parents with children in special education said that after the first categorisation their child was never tested again. And almost half of the parents ( 46.9%) surveyed were not even told what the testing of their child aimed to establish.
The ability of parents to make the best choices concerning their child’s education depends on them having access to full information about the choices available. The survey results indicated that authorities are not doing enough to ensure this is the case. Almost half (45.3%) of the Romani parents surveyed said they do not know the difference between special education and education in a mainstream class. The survey also found that for Romani parents of children in special education in Macedonia:
• In 78.9% of cases parents were not told that they can challenge the recommendation for enrolment in special education.
• In 67.6% of cases parents said they were not told that attending special education will severely limit the ability of their child to access to higher education and employment.
• 58.3% of survey respondents stated that they were never informed that they have the right to request re-testing and reintegration of their child into mainstream education.
Bullying of Romani children in mainstream education was a key concern, with almost three-quarters of parents whose children started school in a mainstream setting (73.3%) responding that their child was bullied while in a mainstream school.
Numerous legal gaps and shortcomings in education law and regulations contribute to many of the problems highlighted through the survey. The ERRC and NRC are urging the Macedonian Government to stop the placement of children in special education while the relevant regulations are being adopted or revised and to adopt legislation explicitly mandating the desegregation of Macedonian education system. The ERRC trained almost 60 Romani activists in Macedonia earlier this year who participated in the implementation of this survey, as part of an ongoing project on desegregating education in Macedonia.
The full research factsheet is available in English and Macedonia.
For more information, contact:
ERRC Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
National Roma Centrum