Minister Balog suggests officially segregating Roma schools

July 25, 2017

Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog (pictured) made a number of comments at the annual Tusványos Fidesz jamboree in Băile Tușnad, Romania, that raised troubling questions about his stance on Hungarian Roma, and on the persisting problem of segregation in education in Hungary.

Balog, who is the minister responsible for education, insisted that quality Hungarian schools must be founded in neighboring countries so that Hungarian families don’t send their children to non-Hungarian schools where the level of education is higher. Balog claimed that many Hungarian families living in bordering countries such as Slovakia do not send their children to Hungarian schools because “many gypsy children go there”. He added that “neither Hungarian communities nor the Hungarian government have decided whether Hungarian-speaking gypsies living outside Hungary’s borders are a burden or an asset.”

Balog also raised the question of whether an integrated school system is really the best thing for Hungary, and whether separate schools should be founded for Roma children with their own educational programs.

But numerous court decisions have proscribed segregation in Hungarian schools, both in Hungarian and European courts. Human rights lawyer and researcher for Human Rights Watch Lydia Gall points out that EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights specifically prohibit segregation of Roma.

“The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly in its jurisprudence said that segregating Roma children is discrimination and violates the European Convention on Human Rights,” Gall told the Beacon.  “Hungarian courts have said the same thing. Instead of trying to find obscure excuses to segregate these children, the government should focus its energy on integrated education and ensure that all Roma can access education on the same terms as other children in an inclusive environment.”

While European law expressly forbids segregation in schools, Hungarian law permits it in certain situations. The government argues that such discrimination somehow advances the interests of Hungarian Roma, though the European Commission has released a report demonstrating that Roma face harmful discrimination in every area of life including in education.