The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) assesses that this International Roma Day in Montenegro is again welcomed without significant progress in the inclusion of Roma into Montenegrin society. Numerous prejudices and stereotypes towards Roma persist and aggravate the integration and full involvement of Roma in all spheres of society.
The CCE research on the perception of discrimination indicates that this group remains at the top of the scale of those who are most exposed to discrimination in our society. Ethnic and social distance, both among general and youth population, is most expressed towards Roma.
In the past years, there has been some degree of Roma inclusion into education, but it seems more formal than essential. Such is the attitude towards Roma inclusion in all areas of social life. Observed in figures, the biggest shifts are recorded in education, since that was the field where the start was from zero and today a large number of Roma children are enrolled in schools, although the coverage is still not complete. However, the number of Roma who have successfully complete their education is very small, and also only rare of those who enroll in elementary school get to the faculty.
The quality of education that Roma get is also questionable, because of the frequent occurrence, although insufficiently explored, that lower criteria are applied to pupils of Roma population, i.e. lower standards of knowledge and achievement are sought. The fact that something is wrong with the acquired formal education is evidenced by the high unemployment rates of Roma students with secondary school or university degrees. In order to provide an adequate results, further efforts are necessary in working with the community, promotion of the importance of education, more serious approach and cooperation with parents, working with children from other groups within the school to affirm mutual understanding and acceptance amongst children, improvement of the awareness of teaching staff, and their competencies to work with children from vulnerable groups, stronger promotion of the importance and achievements in the field of culture and the history of Roma through educational programmes, overcoming language barrier, which is often the cause of poorer educational achievements.
Without quality education there is no successful inclusion and movement into the labor market. The majority of Roma is not employed, and those who work most often are employed in the utilities sector. The problem of unemployment is also affecting the inability to solve housing issue and to satisfy whole range of elementary social and economic rights and needs. Poor education and unemployment entail the Roma into a vicious circle of poverty, i.e. social exclusion and vulnerability which, due to the failure of these problems, transmit to further generations and permanently marginalize this group.
The position of social deprivation of Roma is often abused for political purposes and political deals, while at the same time they do not have the opportunity to organize themselves politically and articulate their demands through representatives in the Parliament of Montenegro. Despite numerous initiatives, legal principle on the acquisition of the right to a guaranteed parliamentary mandate, already applied for members of Croat community, has not been provided to representatives of the Roma minority community in Montenegro.
Finally, despite the narrative of authorities and tricky statistics on how to achieve results in the inclusion of Roma, we can meet dozens of Roma children who beg daily, and who are on the streets instead of at the school. Most turn their head when they see these children. It is public secret that these children are exploited, but the institutions do not deal with the prevention of this phenomenon. Social and institutional neglect of this grave violation of children’s rights makes it “normalized” and turns into a dangerous attitude that we adopt and enroot in as a society. And it is quite clear that with this attitude we cannot progress as a society of human rights culture.
Petar Đukanović, Human Rights Programme Coordinator