Commemorations and Inclusive Education
Another opportunity to make a leap into the a more inclusive future working together for the benefit of Roma, non-Roma and all of Czech society still remains open, despite the Czech courts’ decision in 1999 which was overturned at the European Court of Human Rights in 2007, whose decision has still not been implemented fully and resulted in the beginning of infraction procedures from the European Commission, and has also received recent criticism from President Zeman: inclusive education. Each step of the way offered an opportunity at reform, a chance to invest in the future, a chance to improve conditions for teachers and students, but instead it was met with resistance, reluctance to change, and excuses for why change wouldn’t work. While billionaires tunnel out money that should belong in the public budget for health care, housing and education, people instead focus their blame on Roma for the low level of teachers’ salaries, the high student to teacher ratios, and the unreasonable demands to look at education as a human right. Instead of using the impetus of a change sparked by a Roma for the good of all society which could have resulted in reforms including raising teachers’ salaries and providing funding for a variety of programs, the public reaction was unaccepting of any indication that anything could ever be improved. The economic interests of special schools are still playing a role in prevention of inclusive education. Shouldn’t the government be providing much better educational services for all? Instead of looking at this as simply a duty to implement the court’s decision, as the chance to correct an injustice and show the world its maturity as a developed nation to submit to the rule of law and use this occasion to go beyond what is expected but actually reform and invest in the future for all of society to benefit by making education a budgetary priority, they continue to drag their feet and build discord between constituents who in reality want the same thing: a better future for our children. The role of the president should be to bring people together, but he doesn’t see it that way.
Roma have not been asking for special privileges. The quest for equal rights has been long and hard work, often volunteer work that is unpaid, just to obtain what is offered under existing laws. The nudge that can push the rest of Czech society into the avant-garde, as a modern, developed inclusive society ready to face the challenges of the 21st century is coming from Roma. We are the first Europeans. When we arrived over 800 years ago, we didn’t seek territory to create a nation state. We offered our services as soldiers, blacksmiths, traders and healers within every society. Our history demonstrates that we were an integrated and integral part of many national histories, despite not keeping separate records of our own. We have constantly adapted to change for at least a thousand years. We could not have survived without those skills. Our grandfathers fought for Czechoslovakia during World War I. As we commemorate the founding of this country in 1918 and the revolution of 1989 this November, let us remember the promises our forefathers fought for: a better future for our children, with rights, freedoms and responsibilities guaranteed by the state. At the same time, if our society is ill and in need of reform, then this quote from Jiddu Krishnamurti may be worth repeating here as well, “It is No Measure of Health to Be Well Adjusted to a Profoundly Sick Society.” There is no shame in refusing to adapt to an environment of injustice. We can change it for the better, together. No one is holding a gun to the Czech nation’s head, even though we have a bully as the head of state. The outside world is watching. This is not Munich 1938 where the country capitulated under perceptions of pressure from fair weather allies France and the UK. But even then, military historians have estimated that if at that time the Czechs had resisted and if Hitler would have tried to invade, the border fortifications and Czechoslovak military superiority over Hitler’s army could have defeated him, and perhaps even forced him out of power. No one is forcing anyone to do anything today, the choice is completely free. Will the Czechs save Europe, save Roma and save themselves by avoiding complacency and habit? They could create the momentum needed to help end the trend of demagoguery in Central Europe, or will they prefer to suffer as eternal victims of despots, foreign invaders, and alliances between great powers?