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Minority Rights Group

MRG's recommendations

Batwa in the Great Lakes region of Africa

Roma in Serbia

Minorities in Turkey

Minorities in China

Pastoralist women in the East and Horn of Africa

We would like to acknowledge the collaboration of Minority Rights Group International . This organization campaigns worldwide with around 130 partners in over 60 countries to ensure that disadvantaged minorities and indigenous peoples, often the poorest of the poor, can make their voices heard. Through training and education, legal cases, publications and the media, we support minority and indigenous people as they strive to maintain their rights to the land they live on, the languages they speak, to equal opportunities in education and employment, and to full participation in public life.

We echo the recommendations made by Minority Rights Group International regarding education:

1. Human and minority rights should pervade all aspects of school activity, and not just consist of a booklet with guidelines. Training for teachers, administrators and support staff is needed so that they understand and implement these values.

2. Intercultural education should be a part of the state education strategy, so that cultural differences are understood and respected.

3. Increased cooperation and the development of joint initiatives between governmental bodies, educational institutions and NGOs is needed. Women and men from minority communities should be fully involved in the planning/reviewing and implementation of the Action Plan, and in current educational reform in general.

4. The regular and intensive consultation of policy makers with local stakeholders is needed to identify the best methods and policies to address minorities’ educational needs.

5. International actors should prioritize support for programmes to meet minority girls and boys' educational needs.

6. Minorities’ organizations, parents and community representatives should take a more proactive role and fully participate in formulating the education philosophy on the local level. Responsible governments and international donors should provide financial help to minorities in order that they can form NGOs for this purpose.

Gordana C´ ic´ak and Danijela Hamzic  “Bosnia and Herzegovina: National Minorities and the Right to Education”. P. 4.  

Roma in Serbia

“Often Roma children are caught in a vicious circle; schools fail to support the language they use at home and their skills in this language are poor. At the same time, they do not progress with a second language at school and are labelled ‘semi-lingual’. The educational consequences are severe. If a child has a poor knowledge of a language, this can seriously impair their intellectual development”.  (Ackovic  “Roma in Serbia: Introducing Romany Language and Culture into Primary Schools” p. 2)

“However, the Roma’s situation is unique and parents should have a right to choose. If children are educated separately, there is a risk that Roma education would be of a lower quality, due to insufficient resources. There is also the risk that different ethnic groups would not mix and that the Roma would not be sufficiently fluent in the dominant language to succeed in further education and in the employment market”. (Ackovic  “Roma in Serbia: Introducing Romany Language and Culture into Primary Schools” p. 2)

MRG’s Recommendations to the Serbian Ministry of Education:

1. A new strategy for Roma education centred on the principles of the best interest of the child should be designed and implemented immediately. It should be designed with and by Roma to meet their needs, and international minority rights standards.

2. The Serbian laws on the Protection of the Rights and Freedom of National Minorities and the law on Primary Schools should be applied in their entirety for Roma children.

3. The practice of testing Roma children in Serbian for entry into primary school should be halted.

4. Local and international support should be obtained for Roma teaching in the classroom, with Romanes speaking teachers and assistants, Romanes textbooks, literature and the necessary resources.

5. A major review of the whole educational system should be undertaken to remove institutional discrimination against the Roma, to promote an atmosphere of multiculturalism in schools, and to learn about each other’s culture and language in lessons.

6. Any textbook, poem or piece of literature that is derogatory towards the Roma should be removed from the curriculum and not be used as a reader.

To the international donor community and the Serbian government:

7. Institutional and financial support should be given to NGO initiatives to promote a broadening of Roma education that is sensitive to the Roma culture, lifestyle and language”.  (Ackovic  “Roma in Serbia: Introducing Romany Language and Culture into Primary Schools” p. 4). 

Minorities in Turkey

“Since the foundation of the state, the only protection for minorities has been that set out in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Turkey has been violating the Treaty since it was adopted, not least by restricting its scope to Armenians, Jews and Rum Christians.

Minorities excluded from the Treaty of Lausanne rights have been banned from using their languages in schools and in media, and from fully exercising their religious rights. Others have been subjected to policies aimed at homogenizing the population of Turkey and destroying minority language, culture and religion. Normally, only Turkish language, culture and history have been tolerated in education and political life”. (Read more MRG's A Quest for Equality: Minorities in Turkey). 

Minorities in China

“When the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China announced its plans for building a harmonious socialist society in 2006, President Hu Jintao said it would be founded on ‘democracy, the rule of law, justice, sincerity, amity and vitality.’ But a close examination of the realities faced by three minority communities in China tells a different story. Behind the progress, there are brutal civil and political rights violations, with rising levels of exclusion, poverty and social unrest.

Instead of tackling these problems at root, any actions that challenge the regime’s legitimacy have been met with retribution. The government has promoted a system that allows generations of repressions to go unacknowledged and as such remain unaddressed. State-sponsored violence has ensured that no one dares to speak out. This report shows the extent to which Hu Jintao’s ‘harmonious society’ is in reality a thinly-veiled campaign to crack down and exert more control over society.”(Read more: China: Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions)  

Batwa in the Great Lakes region of Africa

“The Batwa communities of the Great Lakes Region are mainly former hunter-gatherers who have been evicted from their forest homes over the course of many decades. They now live as a neglected and marginalized minority, often in remote conflict and post-conflict areas. Though Batwa adults and children across the region have identified education as one of their most important priorities, the vast majority have had little - if any - chance to go to school. Poverty and hunger, and the long distances they often have to travel to access schooling, prevent children from enjoying what is their fundamental human right.

Batwa communities have experienced almost every kind of abuse imaginable, particularly in times of war. More generally, they are routinely excluded from participation in public life and are denied their share of public resources. There are many interconnected reasons for this, but poor access to education is a central one”.

(Read more: The Right to Learn: Batwa Education in the Great Lakes Region of Africa). 

Pastoralist women in the East and Horn of Africa

Pastoralism is the one of the predominant livelihoods of east Africa and the Horn. It contributes significantly to national economies and can conserve fragile natural resources. Yet pastoralists remain socially and economically marginalized and have little or no representation in local and national government. Governments in the region continue to hold that pastoralism is unsustainable and a barrier to development.

Despite the numerous key tasks women fulfil in pastoralist societies, they face this discrimination two-fold. They are even less able than pastoralist men to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods. Little has been done to adapt education and health services to pastoralist livelihoods. Though governments may have taken steps to address the gender gap in education in general, these measures are not reaching pastoralist girls.

(Read more: A Double Bind: The Exclusion of Pastoralist Women in the East and Horn of Africa By Naomi Kipuri and Andrew Ridgewell)