President Pavel and His Wife Receive Roma Students at Prague Castle

The meeting took place to mark International Roma Day, which fell on 8 April. Photo: Petr Pavel via Facebook.

Prague, 14 April (CTK) – Czech President Petr Pavel and his wife Eva welcomed a group of Roma secondary school and university students at Prague Castle yesterday. At the beginning of the meeting, Pavel described the students as an example of overcoming prejudices, both for the Roma community and the rest of society, and called prejudice the major danger of the present times.

The Roma students were accompanied by Government Commissioner for Roma Affairs Lucie Fukova. She said that through education, the Roma as well as other ethnic groups can succeed, and coexistence can improve.

Pavel said that prejudices often stemmed from stereotypes, a lack of information, and a lack of willingness to listen to each other and to understand each other’s arguments.

He added that the Roma students represented an opportunity to point out good examples not only for their community, but especially to the rest of society, as they proved that it was possible to break the cycle of prejudice.

The meeting took place to mark International Roma Day, which fell on 8 April.

The Roma people are the largest minority in the Czech Republic, with a population of around 250,000. Roughly half of them live in “ghettos,” separated from the majority community. Roma schoolchildren often end up in schools where they comprise the majority of pupils. According to experts, this blocks their educational success and their future ability to find jobs.

Fukova said the Roma students’ visit to Prague Castle and their meeting with the president was a symbolic moment. She noted the history of the Roma people in the Czech lands and their marginalisation, and said there was still a long way ahead to improve mutual coexistence and the status of the minority.

“Education is important as the means for the Roma and other ethnic groups to succeed. Education makes sense. It can improve the lives of the Roma,” Fukova said.

Pavel met Roma schoolchildren during his visit to the Usti Region shortly after his election in late January. He visited the Mojzir primary school in Usti nad Labem, attended by a significant number of Roma pupils from an excluded locality.

A Roma flag was raised in the hall at the Castle where the meeting took place yesterday, and Ivan Herak’s band played the Roma anthem.

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