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European Roma Rights Centre v. Ministry of Education

Name of Case

European Roma Rights Centre v. Ministry of Education

Keywords, Remainder of Citation, On what breach of law was the case brought?, Process, Result of case, What has this case done to further the right to education?

Keywords

Acceptability, racial discrimination, segregation, indirect discrimination, Bulgaria, national court, national statute. Roma, European Roma Rights Centre

Remainder of Citation

Bulgaria, Case 11630/2004. Decided on 25 October 2005

Context

100 per cent of the student body of School 103 in Sofia was Romani. There were substandard material conditions in the school, lower expectations of the students’ performance compared with other schools in the area, lack of training for teachers working with bilingual children, and a lack of control on school attendance.

On what breach of law was the case brought?

Article 29(1) of the Bulgarian Protection Against Discrimination Act (2003) states, ‘The Minister of Education and Science, and local government bodies shall take such measures as are necessary to exclude racial segregation in educational institutions.’

Process

The Court referred to the Bulgarian anti-discrimination act in force since January 2004 which explicitly defines racial segregation as a type of racial discrimination.

Racial segregation consists in actions or inaction leading to coercive separation, distinction or isolation of a person on grounds of race, ethnic belonging or colour of skin.

Result of case
The Court accepted that the separation of the Romani children in School 103 was the result of lack of opportunity to attend other schools caused by residential segregation in an all-Romani neighbourhood, obstacles for enrollment in other schools, and fear of racist abuse by non-Romani children.

The Court found that the poor material conditions in School 103, the low educational results of the children, and the failure of the school authorities to exert control on truancy were a clear indication of unequal and degrading treatment of the children. This violated the prohibition on racial segregation enshrined in the Protection Against Discrimination Act.

Even thought the national standard educational requirements were applicable to the school, it was apparent that the Romani children could not meet these requirements to a degree comparable with that of children in other schools. The evidence of this was sufficient to prove a violation of their right to equal and integrated education.

What has this case done to further the right to education?

This is an example of indirect discrimination – even though there was no direct legislation that discriminated against the applicants (as in the above case of D.H. and Others v Czech Republic), the State had not done enough to create equality between schools. (see the section on direct and indirect discrimination on the website.)

Note that in the unsuccessful case of San Antonio Independent School Districtv. Demetrio P. Rodriguez et al (in this section) the State provided a basic level of education for every child suggesting an element of acceptability, whereas in this case, the level of education was clearly not at an acceptable level.