Rights of Roma children

Montenegro, as one of the signatories of UN Convention on Children’s Rights, has more than 60% of Roma children out of school system currently. Education is guaranteed by the Constitution to all children in Montenegro. Different assessments show that there are more than 70% of them who are not vaccinated regularly, and more than 60% live in conditions of extreme poverty.

There are about 440 Roma children living in Niksic and thus make approximately 52% of entire Roma population in our municipality. They spend the childhood in ghettoized and dusty parts of city, next to busy and dangerous roads. Between four and ten children live in dilapidated, cramped shacks. The parents are illiterate, mostly unemployed or they work hard, underpaid jobs (waste disposal, digging channels), and they can barely provide bread for their family. More than 80% of families are without regular monthly income that as a direct consequence, results that three –quarters of families can not provide to their children those groceries that are essential for a healthy and normal growth and development.

Life on the verge of survival mobilizes entire family to find any kind of food for the following day. Therefore, the data that every fourth Roma child works on collecting the waste (cans, steel, old paper) or begs does not come as a surprise, which breaches their right on a careless and safe childhood most drastically, ahead of entire local community. Parents are focused on bare survival so hungry neglected children grow up socially vulnerable and defenseless. Inclusion in regular formal education is formally guaranteed by the Constitution. However, the research on inclusion of Roma children in educational system, which SOS Hotline conducted in four cities of Montenegro (Niksic, Podgorica, Berane and Rozaje), showed that more than half of Roma children never enroll elementary school. Less than 10% of those children that enroll the first grade reach eight grade. Every fifth Roma child had a traumatic experience in school, and most often it was national based insulting and bullying from the children of majority population. Such conditions and social disinterest resulted in the fact that half of Roma children in Niksic, aged 6-14 are out of schools, in spite of all laws and agreements.

Growing up on dumpsites and settlements without sanitary or canalization infrastructure represents constant risk of contagious diseases. Parents are not aware of importance of regular preventive check-ups for children, nor do they take children to Hospital for obligatory vaccination. Health institutions, if dealing with these issues at all, do it as a quick fix, unplanned and under pressure of international factors. In the end of 2001, there were about 72% of irregularly vaccinated Roma children. Currently, five years later, it is estimated that that percentage is about 2, thanks to regular annual vaccinations that SOS Hotline Niksic conducts with Children’s Health Center. Efforts, devotion, and enthusiasm to achieve these results, might become worthless if the society does not make efforts to make innovative sustainable access to this issue, the one that would respect the economic particulars that this population live with.

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