Madrid school swap plan prompts racism charges

14th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Foreign and Gypsy students may soon have to give up their modern school facilities for Spanish students.

14 August 2008

MADRID - In the Madrid suburb of Villaverde, two public schools sit 250 meters apart.

One, with modern classrooms and a spacious playground, is more than half empty, its students a mix of foreigners and Gypsies. A block away, the other school is bursting at the seams, providing classes to 400 mostly Spanish students in classrooms built for 300.

The enormous disparity between the semi-vacant San Roque school - with space for 700 students but only 210 in class - and its overflowing counterpart, the Cristóbal Colón, is a result of regional education laws that allow parents to pick which school their children attend.

The result is that Spanish parents in Villaverde have overwhelmingly tried to keep their children together in the belief that their foreign and Gypsy peers would hold them back.

The regional education department is now looking for a solution to the Cristóbal Colón's overcrowding.

But rather than trying to end the segregation, education officials have come up with a proposal that will perpetuate it: having students and teachers switch schools.

In the process, the department has angered parents of the foreign and Gypsy children currently going to San Roque, who would be turfed out of their modern installations for older, dilapidated ones.

"If our children weren't Gypsies they wouldn't do this," complains Liria de la Cruz, the head of the San Roque parents association. "They're stealing a nice big school from us to stick us where they don't want their children."

"Strange goings-on"
De la Cruz has filed a lawsuit against the education department's plan, which has also drawn the attention of Madrid's chief prosecutor, Eduardo Esteban Rincón. "There are some strange things going on that need to be investigated," Rincón said Tuesday.

While parents of students attending the Cristóbal Colón school voted in favour of the education department's plan, their counterparts in San Roque offered an alternative proposal: merging the two schools.

That problem in itself is the fault of education authorities, argues Amara Montoya, a representative of the Spanish Association of Gypsy Women.

"The standards in San Roque are low because education authorities haven't tried to solve the problem. The law says all children must be provided with basic education. Therefore this is a case of negligence," Montoya argues.

[El Pais / Elena G Sevillano / Expatica]

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