Skip to Content

Amnesty International's work on Roma rights


The following links and resources aim to give an introduction to Amnesty's work on the right to education for Romani children in Eastern Europe, which has been a highly successful campaign.


Bosnia and Herzegovina:

AI report: False starts: The exclusion of Romani children from primary education in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia (PDF 6MB)


Romani children in Slovakia are being denied the right to a proper education by a system that routinely discriminates against them.
Huge numbers of children are being segregated into Roma-only schools, while others are being placed in 'special' schools, despite not having any mental or learning disabilities.
In some parts of eastern Slovakia, 100 per cent of schools are segregated. Romani children often receive a second-rate education and have a very limited chance of progressing beyond compulsory schooling. In 2006, only 3 per cent of Roma children reached secondary school.
"Regardless of their individual abilities, Romani children receive a substandard education in segregated classes. The failure of the government to provide adequate education for them blights their future employment prospects and adds to a cycle of marginalization and poverty for Roma people," said Nicola Duckworth, head of Amnesty International's Europe programme.
Many Roma view education as key to improving their prospects. Yet Romani parents are pressured to accept segregation as normal, and even beneficial, for their children. However, studies revealed that up to half of Romani children in special schools or classes had been placed there incorrectly, while 10 per cent could immediately be integrated into mainstream schools and classes.
Romani children are put at an immediate disadvantage at school entry age, because they usually do not speak Slovak and have not had the benefit of pre-school education. Once they are assigned to special schools, the door leading back to mainstream education is often effectively shut.
Some positive measures have been introduced, such as preparatory classes, the employment of teaching assistants and financial incentives for schools to integrate Romani children. But all these provisions are entirely optional, meaning they are often not implemented at the local level, and monitoring by the central government is absent.
The Slovakian government must show leadership and direction in the reversal of discrimination in education. As a first step, it must make an immediate political commitment to eradicate segregated education of Roma. The European Union must support efforts to end the violation of the right to education by providing necessary financial and technical assistance and monitoring its use. Crucially, it must ensure the full participation of the Roma community in setting and implementing policies and programmes that affect their lives.
Discrimination in education cultivates the marginalization of the Romani community. Poverty and lack of opportunity at the beginning of the lives of Romani children should not condemn them to a life of the same. (Read more: Slovak education system fails Romani children).

Amnesty International carried out research, visiting Slovakia in March/April 2008 to investigate the segregation of Romani children within the public education system and meet with the Roma community, school staff and local, regional and central government authorities. This report documents the violations of the human right to education identified during that visit. Read the Report: A tale of two schools: Segregating Roma into special education in Slovakia  Watch a short video about this segregation on you tube by clicking here.

In November 2007 Amnesty International published “Still separate, still unequal: Violations of the right to education for Romani children in Slovakia”. The report highlighted the segregation of Romani children within the public education system through their discriminatory placement in “Roma-only” or special schools for children with mental disabilities. Regrettably, the government of Slovakia has so far failed to acknowledge the real extent of the problem and, consequently, to take comprehensive measures to reverse the situation. Read the Report: Still separate, still unequal: Violations of the right to education for Romani children in Slovakia .


 Legal framework

  • "The 1992 Constitution recognizes that the citizens of national minorities or ethnic groups shall be guaranteed: a) the right to be educated in a minority language, b) the right to use a minority language in official communications, and c) the right to participate in decision-making in matters affecting the national minorities and ethnic groups.
  • The 2002 Basic Positions of the Slovak Government's Roma Communities Integration Policy notes that the disproportionately high representation of Romani children in special schools requires immediate attention.
  • The National Action Plan adopted in the context of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 aims to cut down the number of Roma children attending special elementary schools and special training facilities.
  • The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Slovakia has been a party since 1993, sets forth the obligation of state parties to prohibit and eliminate “racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law”. States parties are required to prevent, prohibit and eliminate discrimination, including in respect of “the right to education and training”.
  • The EU Race Equality Directive prohibits discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin in access to education and training" (From Fact Sheet).
  • Web feature: Romani children segregated in Slovakia’s schools– includes link to report A tale of two schools: segregating Roma into special education in Slovakia.

    Web action: Slovakia urged to end segregation of Romani children

    Web clip and feature on how Slovak education system fails Romani Children.

    Learn more about Amnesty's work on:

    economic, social and cultural rights



    indegenous people

    violence against women