Roma in Slovakia

The Roma, two



retrieve bright (2) scramble (2)
opinion resident inconvenience
union minority respect (2)
activist majority discrimination
fund back (3) resistance
goal (2) prevent steal/stole/stolen
severe poverty life expectancy
average sense (2) separateness
persist upstairs unemployment
stairs provide downstairs
anti- de facto make up (3)
pass (3) eliminate statement
science campaign practice (2)
bound separate agreement (2)
pursue strict (2) lead/led/led (2)
civil (3) right (4) landmark
sue prepare approach (2)
benefit gradually realize (2)
effort celebrate head teacher
stark suffer (2) complicated
area (3) rundown division (3)
get by minimal pressure (2)
hire by choice pre-school
mixed force (2) institutionalize (2)
tension inclusion model (3)
ruling condition parliament
key (2) integrate lawmaker
attend situation qualification
hope regressive take care (2)






In the town of Ostrovane, in eastern Slovakia, children scramble over a brightly-painted wall to retrieve a lost ball.

But for residents of the Romani neighborhood, the wall is more than just an inconvenience for children at play.

Boris Rakas, Activist, Union of Slovak Roma: “In my opinion, this wall is here to separate the Roma from the majority. We don’t agree with this. We’re fighting against discrimination and racism. We don’t agree with the Roma kids being separated from the majority kids.

We want the wall to be taken down.”

The town’s mayor backed the campaign to build the wall with public funds in 2009. The stated goal was to stop Roma from stealing from their neighbors.

Roma Resident: “They built it to prevent our people from taking their cucumbers and apples. They built the wall so we can’t see what they have in their gardens.”

Roma make up about eight percent (8%) of Slovakia’s population. In communities like this one, poverty is severe, life expectancy is well below average, and unemployment tops eighty percent (80%).

And a sense of separateness begins at an early age.

Journalist: “In your class, do you have White kids as well?” Roma Pupil: “No, just Roma kids. The White kids are upstairs; we are downstairs.”
Journalist: “Why?”
Roma Pupil: “Because they don’t want to be together with us.”

Slovakia passed a broad, anti-discrimination law in 2004. But de facto segregation has persisted in many schools.

In a statement provided to RFERL, Slovakia’s deputy education minister Juraj Draxler said officials are working to eliminate regressive practices.

Juraj Draxler, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sports: “The Slovak Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports respects all international agreements which are bound, and does not pursue and is strictly against policies that would lead to segregation in schools.”

In a landmark desegregation case, the nongovernmental Center for Civil and Human Rights, successfully sued the school these children attend in a nearby town.

The court’s ruling in 2013 forced the school to gradually integrating classes.

But resistance remains.

Stefan Ivanco, Center for Civil and Human Rights: “Head teachers and teachers think some children need a special approach, special help. And that’s why they need to be educated separately, in separate classes.

I believe that a lot of schools feel pressure from parents, who don’t want their children to be with Roma children. They think their children won’t be able to get a good education.

That makes segregation very complicated and difficult.”

East of Ostravane, the town Mihalovce also suffers from stark social divisions. The majority of the town’s Roma live in a rundown area known as Angi Mlyn. Most adults get by on minimal social benefits — not always by choice.

Rudolf Popik, Resident, Angi Mlyn: “Of course, I’d rather go to work, but where? Who would hire me? Nobody hires Roma. It doesn’t happen.”

Young children attend an all Romani elementary school in their neighborhood, while older kids go to a mixed high school nearby.

Families living in Angi Mlyn describe the conditions there.

Magdalena, Student: “Everything is separated: one building is for the White kids and the other one is over there. And the White kids go to the cafeteria with the teacher, and we go separately by ourselves.”

In Mihalovce, national law and the efforts of NGOs have yet to eliminate decades of institutionalized segregation. But some Slovak schools provide a positive model for social inclusion.

In the town of Hrabusitse, Romani and White families live in the same neighborhood, and their children attend classes together. Teachers say racial tensions are rare.

As the school year began in September, Hrabusitse celebrated the opening of a new pre-school, built with EU support.

Peter Pollak, Member of Slovak Parliament: “I’m happy that Roma kids can be together with non-Roma families, even in pre-school because this is perhaps the best way to integrate Roma in Slovakia.”

Peter Pollak, Slovakia’s first Romani lawmaker, says starting with young children is central to a more inclusive future.

Peter Pollak, Member of Slovak Parliament: “The key for solving Roma problems in Slovakia and Europe is to start with very small kids, so that they are prepared to start elementary school.

If they are prepared, they’ll get enough knowledge and qualifications. If they get qualifications, they can find work. And if they get jobs, we will not be in the situation of solving Roma problems anymore, because these Roma will take care of their own problems.”

It may take years before these goals are realized, but it’s hoped that lessons learned from the experiences of such schools can be a strong force for ending the segregation of Roma in Slovakia.


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1. There is a wall in Ostrovane to keep refugees and migrants out. True or false? Why was the wall erected (built)?

2. (In Slovakia), are the Roma a “model minority” or disadvantaged?

3. Describe laws regarding discrimination in Slovakia. Are they the same in real life?

4. What do most White Slovaks think? How do they feel?

5. The Roma are mostly in the middle-class. Is this right or wrong? Why are so many poor?

6. Do the students mix in public schools?

7. Is the report optimistic, pessimistic, both, neither or neutral about the future?


A. Are there minority or different ethnic groups in your city or country? What are the various groups?

B. The different ethnic groups have the same social and economic status. Yes or no?

C. Why are there similarities or differences?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. Should governments and individuals do anything?

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