Monday, July 25, 2011

Bosnia's failed policy of two schools under one roof

Two schools under one roof
Doris Dragic and Doris Raguz, both 16, attend high school in the town of Stolac in southern Herzegovina. Ironically, the two teenagers attend classes in the same building but they go to different schools.

Dragic studies in a school under the BiH school programme, while her namesake opted to attend a school under the educational programme of neighbouring Croatia. The latter conducts classes in, and studies about, the Croatian language and history.

Such "double schools" are an educational phenomenon that came about as a result of the unsettled political relations between Croats and Bosniaks in parts of the country with a significant Croat population.

The schools have two separate entrances, one for Bosniaks and the other for Croats, and classes are taught in separate shifts from one another.

Student presence in a school other than their own is not allowed and is a punishable offence. The same is true for socialising during class breaks.

However, many things do connect the two Dorises, least of which is the same preference in music, but given little or no interaction at school, they seem to barely know each other. In fact, they know each other only as passerbys and have no desire to socialise after school.

"She goes to a Bosniak school, has her own friends and they speak their own language, go out to different places so there is no reason to be friends. It is better this way, the less we socialize, the less problems we will have," Doris Raguz said.

Doris Dragic counters that students from different schools can spend time together, but rarely do it.

"Nobody forbids us from socialising, but [if we do] I don't know what we could talk about. I will go to the university in Sarajevo, and those from the Croat school go mostly to [universities in] Croatia," Dragic said.

There are 58 double schools throughout BiH, where a generation of students acquire an "us versus them" mentality.

"So much time and money was invested, but the division is getting worse. The new generations often do not know about the parts of the country in which others live," Schuler Helfen Leben Foundation representative Aida Vehabovic told SETimes.

The net result of the set up is that young people are brought up to be nationalist and chauvinist, Vehabovic explained.

The political parties are the main supporters of the educational separation and status quo, despite proclaiming publicly that such a state of affairs is undesirable. In fact, former Central Bosnia canton Education Minster Greta Kuna's statement that "apples and oranges should not be mixed and neither should Bosniak and Croat children" is still a current reference.

Sociologist Adnan Omerbasic warns that the goals of those who perpetuate the status quo are more sinister.

"The students will be voters in a few years. To manipulate somebody in their teenage years is not hard; in the long run you have created voters who will subconsciously support your political position that all who are different are enemies and should be avoided. That is fatal for the future," Omerbasic said.

There is no denying the system is feeding mistrust and hatred. It also makes fertile ground for future conflict.

"The politisation of the educational system is one of the key societal barriers ... But I am encouraged that the young people are overcoming the forced-upon barriers through their creativity and their desire to socialise, even though the [process] moves slowly," BiH Education Minster Damir Masic told.

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