03 Oct 2017

The devil in the details of integration policies

Many children in Žilina are born with debt when their parents don't pay the town for waste removal. When this happens, they are not available for free public transport and cannot get to school.

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
The devil in the details of integration policies - NewsMavens
School bus. Pixabay (CC0)

Why this story matters:

In Žilina, northern Slovakia, a school most frequented by Roma children was shut down and its 62 students split between 9 other schools. The town is calling it a perfect project of integration. But people close to the kids say they are at risk of dropping out of school.

Their new schools are often too far away from where they live. Some of them are about an hour on foot, and they can't afford the bus fare. Sure, buses are free for children under 18, but only if they aren't in debt  -- a condition Roma children can't meet.

Many children in Žilina are born with debt when their parents don't pay the town for waste removal, for instance. In this waychildren are being punished for the poverty (and sometimes the irresponsibility) of their parents.

A spokesperson for Žilina says the town doesn't want to make exceptions by allowing in-debt children to ride the bus for free because it would cause public outrage.

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Slovakia has to respect rights of all kids, without discrimination, be it based on ethnicity, social origin, socio-economic status or anything else. Why is it that these rights don't seem to apply to Roma?

Details from the story:

  • Žilina closed the school most frequented by Roma children, who lived near the school, and divided them between 9 different schools in the town
  • Many poor children in Žilina have debts because their parents don't pay for waste removal, and they aren't able to pay for it either.
  • Because of the debt, children are not entitled to free travel on city buses
  • Bus fares are too expensive for poor families, most of which have more than one child, so some are considering moving their child to the "special school" for mentally disabled children because it's closer to where they live.
  • This is not a threat country-wide. Many other towns in Slovakia don't oblige underage residents to pay for waste removal, so not all poor kids are born with debt
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