Manual Roma Education in Europe: Practices, policies and politics

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Did governments deliver on the promise? In short, no.

The Roma Inclusion Index shows some progress in literacy levels, completion of primary education, and access to health insurance. But all in all, the daily life of Roma remains a struggle no other ethnic group in Europe faces.

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The Roma in European Higher Education

On average, in the decade countries, only one in ten Roma completes secondary school, almost half of Roma are unemployed, and more than one in three Roma still live in absolute poverty, meaning they are severely deprived of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health care, and shelter.

One change is noticeable: when the decade began, there was less money and more political will to deliver; today there is more money, but less political will. One contributing factor is, paradoxically, the accession of Eastern European countries to the European Union. Ten years ago, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania saw the decade as an opportunity to demonstrate their fulfillment of EU accession criteria on human and minority rights.

As they were granted membership in the EU, the decade quickly lost its relevance for them. Another influence was the financial crisis, which brought with it anger and economic anxiety. Others realized they risked losing votes if they did anything positive for Roma. This toxic mix increased opposition to Roma children in ethnic-majority schools and Roma families living in ethnic-majority neighborhoods.

Anti-Roma riots, forced evictions, violence, and killings became part of life for Roma—particularly in Hungary and Bulgaria, where the decade was born.

Why Europe’s “Roma Decade” Didn’t Lead to Inclusion - Open Society Foundations

The economic crisis catalyzed anti-Gypsyism as an effective weapon in domestic politics. In western EU countries, the fear of Roma immigration coupled with long-entrenched anti-Roma stereotypes fueled antimigration and anti-EU politics. Mainstream political parties, wary of far-right electoral gains, implemented a dual strategy of hardline anti-Roma politics at home, with sympathetic policy gestures internationally. For instance, domestically France and Italy took a hard line against Roma. Italy launched a policy of fingerprinting Roma and placed them in apartheid-like encampments , while France bulldozed Roma settlements.

At the same time, at the international level, both countries pushed for measures on Roma inclusion in eastern EU countries in order to discourage those Roma from migrating to the West. This hypocrisy had devastating effects on Roma in eastern EU countries like Bulgaria, for instance. Although the EU provided generous funds, Bulgaria did not use them to prevent evictions or offer alternative housing.

It simply signed on to the EU Framework, just as it signed on to the Decade of Roma Inclusion, to create the appearance of pushing positive change, while in reality making few real efforts. Indeed, last summer, the government calmed ethnic-majority protesters by demolishing hundreds of Roma houses. The Decade of Roma Inclusion and the EU Framework for Roma Integration were two of the most significant international political developments for Roma in the last 10 years.

Did they improve life for Roma in Europe? On the contrary—for many, life has gone from bad to worse. This status quo exposed by the Decade of Roma Inclusion—the international appearance of progress concealing a devastating regression at home—works well for a narrow elite.

Roma child segregation in European schools

Too many politicians, civil servants, experts, staff of international organizations, donors, and local NGOs comfortably entrench themselves in the industry of report writing, conferences, and usually EU-funded projects. A major site of struggle has been access, attendance and achievement in the education sector for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers GRT.

Roma Education in Europe: Practices, Policies and Politics

This groundbreaking text explores the Roma in higher education, a topic of great importance since higher education is considered to be a significant pathway out of poverty and to social mobility. Why are participation rates so low? What are the barriers and what are the enablers?


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They share and critically analyse contemporary knowledge on research, policies, practices and interventions to promote Roma participation in higher education in a range of European locations. They cover key topics including the representation of Roma communities as living on the margins, but also racism, anti-Gypsyism, Romaphobia, hate crimes and discriminatory practices. The book offers insights into how to fight discrimination and re-distribute higher educational opportunities without objectifying the Roma or representing these rich and diverse communities merely as powerless victims.

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