World Children’s Day (November 20)
Roma children in Ukraine need access to education
On the occasion of World Children’s Day (November 20), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) criticizes the situation of Roma children in Ukraine: “Children who belong to the Roma community in Ukraine are especially affected by war and expulsion. Before the war, the Roma were already the poorest population group – with low educational opportunities. However, the Russian war or aggression and the expulsions have exacerbated their situation,” stated Sarah Reinke, STP expert on Eastern Europe. “Many Ukrainian children in Ukraine and in other countries are able to take part in online lessons regularly – but a study showed that Roma often lack the necessary devices, especially if several siblings are supposed to learn at the same time. Also, the housing situation is often so bad that it is not possible to learn.” Thus, the war exacerbates the cycle of poverty and poor educational, vocational, and income opportunities. Before the war, Ukraine had made efforts to improve the Roma people’s access to education. Thanks to a special education program, more Roma have recently been able to study at a university. However, the war has also hindered the implementation of the Ukrainian “Roma Strategy 2030”.
Because of the war, nearly half of the Roma population in Ukraine was displaced, and their social status has become even more precarious than it already was. In a survey by the Youth Organisation for the Advocacy of Roma Culture (ARCA), 65 percent of the Roma stated to be dependent on support. “However, the Roma often have no personal papers and, thus, no access to vital social services,” Reinke explained. “For these reasons, Ukraine’s accession to the EU should be seen as an opportunity to improve the legal and social situation of the Roma, especially in terms of access to education for Roma children.“ On paper, Ukraine has ratified all relevant laws and regulations. However, implementation is extremely difficult under wartime conditions. The EU and its member states will have to provide political and financial support.
Before the war, there were between 200,000 and 400,000 members of the Roma community living in Ukraine. Most of them lived in Zakarpatia, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Poltava, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kyiv. Their living conditions varied significantly depending on the region.
The ARCA report on the implementation of the right of access to education for Roma youth in Ukraine can be found here in Ukrainian and as an unedited machine translation into German here.