Available statistical data on Roma’s inclusion and achievement within the Latvian education system raises serious concerns. Among the 5,985 Romani people who were fifteen years old or older at the time of the last census in 2000, 24.3 per cent have not completed the fourth grade. For comparison, only 2.1 per cent of the Latvian general population has not completed primary education.
The Central Statistical Bureau does not perform a breakdown of illiterate persons according to their ethnicity; however, it is assumed that illiteracy is a serious problem among Roma. These assumptions are supported by the data at the disposal of several branches of the National Employment Agency (NEA) showing that majority of the registered illiterate unemployed are Roma. According to the NEA, out of forty-six registered illiterate unemployed on February 1, 2003, thirty-nine (85 per cent) were Roma.
Since Latvia regained independence in 1991, no specific complex national policy or programme aimed at the improvement of the situation of Roma in Latvia had been developed. Along with all other ethnic groups in Latvia, Roma are subjects of the overall domestic and international norms regulating education, minority education and anti-discrimination.
At present, there are eight initiatives on municipal and school levels aimed at raising the educational level of Roma, however, all of them consist of organising the special segregated classes for Romani children. Although those classes have different status, their content is very similar. No official evaluation of either attempts to include Roma into the general mainstream education, or creation of the segregated classes has been performed. Neither has a broader public discussion about the effects of segregation taken place in Latvia.
The unequal situation of Roma in the field of education raises concerns about the observance of minority rights and anti-discriminatory norms in education.
Author: Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies