Hungary’s highest court the Curia upheld a lower court’s ruling Wednesday that ordered the closure and desegregation of the Pécsi Street Elementary School in Kaposvár, abcug.hu reports.
According to the Curia’s ruling, the school is forbidden from starting new classes, and Roma children from the nearby, segregated neighborhood of Szentjakab who have been attending the school must be transferred to other schools in Kaposvár.
Roma students of the Pécsi Street Elementary have been unlawfully segregated for years. They received an education that resulted in a far higher rate of class failures than in schools with regular curriculum. The students’ results in the national competence survey, and the rate of students who went on to continue their educations, also fell behind the average of other Kaposvár schools. Moreover, the student body at Pécsi Street Elementary is the smallest in the area, so transferring its students would not have put an undue burden on other schools.
For these reasons, the Chance For Children Foundation (CFCF) filed a lawsuit against the Kaposvár council, which at the time administered the school, in 2013. Although the NGO, which advocates for equal opportunities for Roma, won the lawsuit in 2016, nothing has changed since the final ruling and the school has since been attended nearly exclusively by Roma children. This summer mayor Károly Szita attempted to sidestep the court ruling that ordered the closure of the school by leasing its building to a foundation to operate a private school. Eventually, the Ministry of Human Resources intervened and prevented the school from launching.
Mayor Szita earlier stated that he had never forced a single parent to take their child into the Pécsi Street Elementary, and stressed that there is a free choice of schools. However, despite the freedom of choice, many underprivileged parents cannot afford to pay for the transportation that is required for their children to attend inner-city schools, let alone for the increased financial school contributions, according to CFCF lawyer Adél Kegye.
As an example of the council’s discriminatory practices, Kegye described a Roma parent who tried to take their child to an inner-city school but was rejected on the basis that their district school was the Pécsi Street Elementary. Eventually, the child was permitted to attend the inner-city school but only with the intervention of a lawyer.
Kegye told abcug.hu that the Curia’s ruling is unique in the whole of Europe as this is the first such ruling in the continent that orders the complex desegregation of a school. Complex desegregation goes beyond simply mixing students of different backgrounds; it also aims to mentor Roma children and prepare the students of host schools, their parents and teachers for the arrival of the Roma students.
Although the Curia’s ruling marks a good precedent and it is welcomed by professionals, it is still questionable how the underprivileged families will be able to afford the transportation for their children.