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The Court of Prešov found that the Slovak Republic violated the right to education and to non-discrimination of a Roma student and ordered the State to compensate her with €3,000.

During the pandemic (2020 – 2022), the Slovak Ministry of Education decided to suspend school lessons and replace them with distance learning. As a result, the claimant, a Roma child, was prevented from attending classes during several months of her first two years of primary school.

Indeed, the child was living in the outskirts of the municipality in a household without internet connection, computers or tablets. Moreover, her family had a low income and the adults taking care of her (mainly her grandmother) had no computer skills. Therefore, the only way for her to study was by completing worksheets every week, even if she did not receive any assistance or feedback from teachers.

According to the claimant, the State failed to take appropriate measures to ensure that she could attend online classes, such as providing access to the internet and digital technologies. Moreover, the State should have worked on the digitalisation of Roma communities. Indeed, the digital divide reinforces the already existing disparities between the Roma minority and the rest of the population. Thus, she argued the State discriminated against her and failed to comply with the principle of equal treatment.

On the contrary, the defendant argued that measures such as the extraordinary interruption of classes were not discriminatory, but legally necessary to protect the health and life of citizens during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Court of Prešov underlined that Slovakian institutions have a positive obligation to adopt measures to prevent and eliminate discriminatory treatment and to ensure the right to education. Therefore, the defendant should have acted proactively in taking effective measures to assure that all children – including those of poor or marginalised Roma communities – could fully realise their right to education during the pandemic.

The Court pointed out how disrupted continuity of education can limit intergenerational mobility, as it reduces the possibility of finding a job which can lead to overcoming their unsatisfactory living situation. Thus, the Court concluded that the State was liable for indirect discrimination against the student and condemned it to compensate her with €3,000.

Full text of the decision available at poradna-prava.sk sk
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