Tuesday, 6 June 2006

24th sitting of the Education Committee

At the sitting of the Education Committee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia held on 6 June 2006, Committee members were thoroughly acquainted with issues relating to Roma education in Serbia.


At the sitting of the Education Committee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia held on 6 June 2006, Committee members were thoroughly acquainted with issues relating to Roma education in Serbia.

The Committee’s chairperson, Donka Banovic, presented shocking data – drawn from a UNDP report – on the position of Roma in the Serbian education system, showing that Roma were the ethnic community most at risk, education-wise, in Serbia. About 80% of the Roma population are either completely or functionally illiterate. According to the 2002 census, 61.9% of Roma have dropped out of elementary school, 29 have elementary school education, 7.8% have a secondary school diploma, while a mere 0.3% of Roma have either a college or university degree.

The fundamental problem in Roma education is their exclusion from the education system, the low quality of education, a lack of respect for differences, and a lack of nourishment of cultural identity.

The sitting was attended by officials of the Ministry of Education and Sports, the Swiss Development and Co-operation Agency, UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Christian Children’s Fund – Fund for Children, the Serbian Ethnic Minorities Council, the Serbian Roma Union, and the United Nations Development Programme.

Representatives of all organisations involved in Roma education presented issues identified through many years of practical experience. The sitting stressed the success of the non-governmental sector in implementing Roma education programmes, but that there was a lack of co-ordination between the organisations. The secretary of the Ethnic Minorities Council, Petar Ladjevic, cited the example of five Roma primers that have been published recently, of which none satisfied teaching criteria.

All participants in the discussion agreed that the key role in improving Roma education was played by the Ministry of Education and Sports, which was enjoying exceptional co-operation with most non-governmental organisations as well as partnership-based relations with the Roma community.

The sitting did not have a decision-making quorum, but Committee members agreed to send the report from the very constructive meeting to all participants, and adopted Ms Bankovic’s proposal to hold a new meeting between the attendees in a few months’ time.



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