“Dumber than the rest”

The director of the preschool in Farkaslyuk reported the president of the local Roma minority government for libel.

 “People who talk this way about our children are racist. If you talked this way, then you are too,” said the president of the local Roma minority government. It was in response to this comment that the director of the preschool reported him. The background of this issue was their meeting in December 2010, when, during their discussion of the Santa Claus celebration, the director straight out declared that almost all the Gypsy children attending the preschool are retarded. Csaba Harkály asked the director not to talk this way about their children, because this isn’t true. After that, the president of the minority local government brought up this incident at a board of representatives meeting in March 2011. Then he filed a petition at the local government office of Farkaslyuk. He asked them to replace the director of the preschool because of her statements about their children, which make her ineligible to run a preschool that only gipsy children attend. The only response to the petition was that the director of the preschool reported the president for libel.

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During the first hearing, on April 26th in Ózd, the judge asked the two parties to make up. They did make up, and the court ended the trial, but their compromise was in no way successful; the director only promised to call the children “dumber than the rest” rather than retarded.

 This is completely unacceptable, not just because it is disrespectful and degrading, but also because calling a child retarded can have consequences that go beyond the direct effect of such a comment. This becomes clear when we take a closer look at one of many factors that contributes to segregation in schools. In Hungarian public schools, financial and maintenance concerns come into play when determining which children are mentally retarded (requiring special education). To put it simply: if a public school takes on the education of larger numbers of mentally retarded children, then the school becomes eligible for more government funding. This system bases its payment off of the needs of the children (whether or not they need special education or care) and not to the existence or quality of the services. In other words the issue isn’t whether or not there are properly trained special education teachers or the appropriate infrastructure to take on such students. Therefore, it has been generally found that the children diagnosed with such needs do not receive special education, but rather worse than average quality, and often segregated education. All this occurs because of the increased funding, which often becomes indistinguishable from the general budget of the school, that they can receive, and because this way schools can segregate the disadvantaged, mostly Roma, students from their non-Roma peers.
A student’s preschool can already initiate his/her diagnosis of requiring special education. So when the director of the preschool made the generalization that the Roma children attending the preschool are mentally retarded, she didn’t just personally insult them, but also hindered their educational opportunities.


Most people hardly hear or know anything about the living conditions and everyday concerns of the Roma population living in extreme poverty, often in segregated settlements.

During their visits in North-Eastern Hungary, our colleagues interview locals about the issues they are currently most concerned with. The aim of our new series entitled “Make Your Voice Seen” is to deliver the messages of these people to a broader public.

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