North Macedonian Equality Body Finds Discrimination & Segregation of Roma in Prilep School

North Macedonia’s Equality Body, the Commission for Prevention and Protection from Discrimination, has issued an opinion against a primary school in Prilep for the “indirect, continued discrimination leading to segregation” of Romani pupils.

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The opinion, issued on 18th January, was the result of a complaint filed by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) on behalf of Romani parents in September 2023 against Dobri Jovanovski primary school. It is the third such decision against a North Macedonian school in recent years after schools in Štip and Bitola were condemned for segregation of Romani children in February and August 2022. 

“Romani children have a right to learn in an integrated environment. They have a right to attend their local school without being told that they must go to the “Roma school” down the road” said the ERRC’s President, Ðorđe Jovanović. “It is the responsibility of local authorities to ensure that de facto segregation does not develop in their schools. That’s not just the ERRC saying so, the European Court of Human Rights says this and now also the Commission for Prevention and Protection from Discrimination too.”

The Commission issued several recommendations to different authorities which including urging Dobri Jovanovski municipal primary school to cease forming classes based on ethnicity and encouraging the Municipality of Prilep to observe catchment area regulations to promote desegregation. Other recommendations involve increasing the number of pedagogical assistants in schools, fostering cooperation between municipal authorities and civil society organisations, and implementing stricter criteria for child enrolment in different regions by the Ministry of Education and Science. The indicated institutions must implement these recommendations within six months of receiving the Commission’s Opinion. If the recommendations are not implemented, the Commission (according to Article 27, paragraph 4 of the Law on Prevention and Protection from Discrimination) can open a misdemeanour proceeding before court against the school and competent authorities.

Background to the case

Romani parents opposed the school’s segregation practices in Dobri Jovanovski municipal primary school and sought assistance from the ERRC in filing the complaint. The ERRC organized a meeting with the parents to obtain data and support the allegations of segregation. the organisation submitted freedom of information requests to Dobri Jovanovski and Kire Gavriloski-Jane primary schools, both located in the Roma-majority area of Trizla in Prilep. Romani parents explained to ERRC lawyers that Dobri Jovanovski remains a predominantly Roma-attended school because when Romani parents living in the catchment area of Kire Gavriloski-Jane primary school attempt to enrol their children there, they are orally rejected and directed to Dobri Jovanovski with the explanation that that is a “Roma school.” Additionally, due to the disproportionately high number of Romani students at Dobri Jovanovski primary school, non-Romani parents often request the school administration not to mix their children with Roma when forming classes, resulting in the formation of Roma-only classes in several grades. 

Statistical data confirmed that the schools are divided along ethnic lines, with segregated Roma-only classes Dobri Jovanovski primary school. While Kire Gavriloski-Jane had barely any Romani students enrolled over the last two school years (8 Roma in 2022/2023 and 9 Roma in 2023/2024), the opposite was true of Dobri Jovanovski (1713 Roma in 2022/2023 and 1701 in 2023/2024). The high number of Roma-only classes in Dobri Jovanovski school suggested that the school is fast becoming a Roma-only school (29 Roma-only classes formed in 2022/2023 school year and 27 Roma-only classes formed in 2023/2024).

On 13th October 2023 a representative of Dobri Jovanovski primary school made a submission to the Commission explaining that the school is located in the Roma-majority Trizla neighbourhood, meaning that the number of Romani students is higher. The ERRC reminds the Government and local authorities of their duties to effectively implement the European Court’s 2022 judgment of Elmazova and Others v. North Macedonia (11811/20 and 13550/20) regarding school segregation in the country. Prevention of new school segregation cases is part of the government’s general measures for successfully executing this judgment. As stated in the judgment, under “article 46, the Court considered that measures to be taken in the context of the present case must ensure the end of the segregation of Roma pupils in the impugned State-run primary schools, as recommended by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the National Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, and the Ombudsman (§89)”.

This press release is also available in Macedonian.

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