The Education Department of the City of Helsinki is currently looking into whether or not mandatory education is being implemented in the case of the children of foreign Roma beggars in the city. Finnish law makes it the responsibility of local authorities to monitor the implementation of mandatory education for children who reside in the municipality.
Marjo KyllÃƒÂ¶nen, head of education at the Education Department, notes that mandatory education does not mean that there would be a legal obligation to attend a school. However, officials are required to oversee the implementation of education if the children do not go to a regular school.
KyllÃƒÂ¶nen says that the cityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawyers have been examining whether or not the supervisory obligation is being fulfilled with respect to the Roma children.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are in a grey area here. There is no clear interpretation of what constitutes a permanent residence. What is decisive is how long they have been here.Ã¢â‚¬Â
KylllÃƒÂ¶nen feels that the matter should be examined at the national level, at the National Board of Education, and the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education knows of a few cases in which children who have come to Finland as asylum seekers have been denied a place in a school because they have not been seen to be subject to mandatory education.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They have been individual casesÃ¢â‚¬Â, says Maria Biskop, a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Education.
She notes that mandatory education applies to all children who live in Finland on a permanent basis.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“According to this, the children of Roma beggars would not be subject to mandatory education if they are not registered as residents of the municipalityÃ¢â‚¬Â, Biskop says.
If mandatory education is seen to apply, the children should be allocated a spot in a nearby school. KyllÃƒÂ¶nen says that because of the lack of knowledge of Finnish, the children would probably be placed in preparatory classes.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“At present there is plenty of space in such classes. Pupils could be taken there now, if anyone were to registerÃ¢â‚¬Â, KyllÃƒÂ¶nen says.
However, she adds that she does not know of any foreign Roma children in Helsinki who would be of school age.
Mandatory education for children living in Finland begins in the year that the child turns seven years old.
It continues until the child has passed the comprehensive school level, or when ten years have elapsed Ã¢â‚¬â€œ whichever comes first.