Knowledge that enables you to compete in a free labour market for fair wages is a privilege you must be born into in Eastern Europe. Someone who was born the child of uneducated, perhaps Gypsy parents, will probably live in segregated neighbourhoods and will be directed into separate institutional structures. American and African visitors are taken aback to see the racial segregation of their own past. Indian guests are reminded of what the caste system was like 100 years ago. 5-10 % of the population of Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Roumania, and Bulgaria is Roma. These people can be distinguished by their skin colour. However you will very rarely meet darker skinned Roma students at the universities of Budapest, Bucharest, or Bratislava. The students of colour in higher education anywhere from Prague to Sofia are almost all foreigners.
In Eastern Europe, ethnic and social selection of children happens early, at the age of six. In Hungary for example most of the children belonging to higher ’castes’ gain admission to white Catholic or Protestant or private schools, and their parents are able to afford additional classes for them. After 12 years, they are assured of passing high school exit exams, or A levels, and many will go on to university.
Those who do not gain admittance to such privileged or less elite but still white establishments, will attend segregated schools to which only Gypsies go and can basically forget about ever learning multiplication tables and will never be able to understand an article from a newspaper. There is no way out. A large proportion of children educated in segregated schools will remain at the elementary level until the end of their compulsory school attendence at 16. They will never get any secondary education.
If a Roma child does however, continue to study past the age of fourteen, there will be even higher walls placed before them. For example, talented but disadvantaged students are effectively guided away from secondary schools by Hungarian educational policy using financial incentives.
The State promises a 100 euros per month scholarship to any youngster who chooses the dead end that is the vocational school,
where they will not learn any foreign language and very little of mathematics, science, or art.
This decides the question of further education for families living in deep poverty: nobody goes to grammar or high school because no such scholarship is offered for normal secondary education. This merely budgetary means in effect cleanses secondary education of Gypsies. By voting for casteist political parties at elections the population expresses its gratitude for ethnically pure secondary schools and generous scholarships for vocational students.
Ratio of disadvantaged students by type of school in 2013:
Ratio of multiply disadvantaged students by type of school in 2013:
Source: Berlinger Edina–Megyeri Krisztina: Mélyszegénységből a felsőoktatásba, Közgazdasági Szemle, LXII. évf., 2015. június (674–699. o.)