Bosnia Vows to End Ethnically Divided Schools

The Education Ministry in the larger of Bosnia’s two entities has unveiled a two-year plan to end the phenomenon of ‘two schools operating under one roof’ and unite children of different ethnic groups.The Education Ministry of the mainly Bosniak and Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has presented a solution to the phenomenon of “two schools under one roof”, a problem in three of the ten cantons in the entity.Education Minister Damir Masic said in Sarajevo on August 30 that the plan aims to end segregation and the division of structures in education in the entity.

Implementation of the plan will start from September and will take two years, depending on the readiness of schools to accept the suggested steps, which include administrative and legal acts to unite divided teaching institutions and creation of equal conditions for pupils.

Instead of divided schools, which in practice means one building with two entrances and divided playgrounds, the plan calls for the formation of multi-ethnic classes.

The plan follows the recommendations of a Mostar court, which has ruled that the “two schools under one roof” system in the towns of Stolac and Capljina violates Bosnian law against discrimination.

Masic added that the phenomenon is just one of the many violations of international agreements that Bosnia has signed up to.

Cantonal Education Ministers have supported the idea.

“The problem of ‘two schools under one roof’ was not made because children wanted it, or because of parents or teachers, but because politics demanded it,” Masic noted on Thursday.

“This is a chance to solve it…because Bosnia and Herzegovina was a multi-ethnic country for thousands of years and there is no reason why it should not continue being so,” he added.

The first step will consist of uniting schools under one administration, one name, one management and one teaching and parents council.

“That means establishing one school bell and one entrance, which is not the case now, when children do not even meet each other in the hallways,” Masic said.

He recalled cases of children commuting many miles to “their” schools, so as not to have to sit in the same class as those of a different ethnic, national or religious group.

“Joint school and after school activities will be planned after that,” Masic continued. “The last step will be establishing multi-ethnic classes… and unique books.”

The minister also cited the example of schools already operating in the District of Brcko,where all children attend the same schools and the same classes but follow some subjects differently.

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