Nils Muižnieks sounds alarm over migrant and Roma school drop-out rates

High school drop-out rates among children from migrant and Roma families have led human rights commissioner Nils Muižnieks to urge governments to adopt more inclusive education programmes.

In an article published today, Muižnieks writes: Evidence shows that in many European states the dropout rate of children coming from migrant families or minority groups, such as Roma, is at least twice as high as that of native or ethnic majority students.

“In many countries, children with disabilities and Roma continue to be educated separately, though adequate support would permit their full integration into mainstream education.

“Poverty, persistent discrimination and social marginalisation are the main underlying reasons for this inclusive education deficit, which needs to be reversed by determined and systematic action by all European states.

“Exclusion from or divisions in education along ethnic and language lines have a devastating impact on social cohesion and reconciliation in multi-ethnic societies struggling to come to terms with a violent past.”

The Commissioner for Human rights adds: “In Bosnia and Herzegovina generations of young people have been educated in mono-ethnic schools or in segregated ‘two schools under one roof.’ Regrettably, there appears to exist no political will to change this system despite a national court ruling that found it discriminatory. Segregated education is also a reality for many Serb and Croat children in Vukovar, Croatia.

“I have also been concerned at the adverse effects of segregated education in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” on pupils’ life and relationships as well as on this country’s social cohesion.

“Inclusive education requires a mentality shift at state level, from seeing children or adults as a problem to identifying the existing inadequacies and improving the education systems themselves. It should target any child who may be excluded from mainstream education programmes. Particular attention needs to be given to members of vulnerable groups, such as migrants and national minorities, especially Roma, who often find themselves, or risk ending up, in situations of poverty and social exclusion.”

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