03.06.2009International conference on Roma education
International Conference “The Right to Education for Every Child: Removing Barriers and Fostering Inclusion for Roma Children” took place in Belgrade on June 2 and 3. The conference was organized by UNICEF, World Bank, Roma Education Fund, Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Ministry of Education of Republic of Serbia and Open Society Fund - Serbia. More than 70 politicians and experts took part in the conference: ministers and representatives of ministries of education of the Roma Inclusion Decade member-states, leaders of UNICEF and REF, activists from leading Roma NGOs.
Educating Roma is investment rather than expense – said Bozidar Djelic, Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, in his opening speech. Educating Roma is the most profitable investment and it is an issue of well-understood interest. He supported his words explaining that Serbia had approved its national strategy for Roma integration and had dedicated special financial amount for its implementation. Now the way of engaging the National Council for Roma Integration in its implementation is discussed. The Minister of Human and Minority Rights Svetozar Ciplic and the Minister of Education Zarko Obradovic supported these statements and provided additional examples.
The participants discussed political recommendations in 5 fields: importance of starting and including early; ending segregation and fostering inclusion; supportive classroom and school environment; public financing; and monitoring discrimination in Education. The intensive discussions lead to numerous changes and contributions to the initial draft texts. It has become clear that the vast majority of the participants tend to recommend active targeted actions for quality education of Roma as well as a realistic approach that combines social and educational activities backed up with special financial mechanisms. The final recommendations of the conference will be ready in a week.
Bulgaria was represented by Mariana Bancheva and Ofelia Krumova (Ministry of Education), Toni Tashev (Roma Education Fund) and Deyan Kolev (Center “Amalipe”). During his interventions within the plenary sessions and the working groups Deyan Kolev stressed the importance of more and diverse pedagogical activities in the process of Roma educational integration. It is not necessary only to guarantee the equal access of Roma children to quality education but also to establish integrating school environment. This would stop the process of dropping out and would raise the school success, pointed Kolev. According to him introducing an intercultural perspective in modern education is a necessity which should not be delayed. Intercultural education forms tolerance among children of different ethnic background and helps Roma children preserve their ethnic identity: if this is lacking integration would quickly turn into assimilation. The recommendations made by Kolev in this direction were accepted and would be included in the final document.