FRA Director holds speech on combating Roma discrimination in education

FRA Director Morten Kjaerum (3rd right) during a conference on Roma rights at Harvard University, 8 April 2013.
FRA Director Morten Kjaerum (3rd right) during a conference on Roma rights at Harvard University, 8 April 2013.
FRA Director Morten Kjaerum held a speech on the occasion of International Roma Day on 8 April at a conference entitled 'Realising Roma rights: addressing violence, discrimination and segregation in Europe' at Harvard University.

The speech focused on the exclusion of Roma children from quality education, resulting in fewer employment opportunities and an increased chance of falling into poverty. The ethnic segregation of many Roma children, which takes place in a number of EU Member States with high Roma populations, also greatly hinders their integration into mainstream society.

The EU’s Framework on Roma Inclusion sets clear benchmarks to be reached in education, in order to break through the vicious circle of social exclusion and marginalisation. In his speech, FRA’s Director emphasised that

  • Early childhood education and care for Roma must be improved
  • Roma children should take part in compulsory, non-segregated schooling

And, in connection with the fact that in some EU countries up to a quarter of the workforce entering the labour market will be Roma in a few years’ time:

  • Roma must be given the opportunity to learn marketable skills

The speech ended on a positive note, stressing there is evidence that progress has been made on Roma inclusion. One example is that research shows younger Roma are now far more likely to go to school than in the past: in Spain, only 1% of Roma aged 16-24 have never attended school, compared with 43% for Roma aged 45 and above.

While the EU framework and national strategies are in place, though, sustained political will and effective monitoring tools are needed to ensure they are implemented, improving the prospects of the Roma children of today and of the future.