news 11 Sep 17

Bosnian Law Banning Segregated Schooling Faces Obstacles

The government in Bosnia’s Federation entity is supporting legislation to ban the segregated ‘two schools under one roof’ system, but there are doubts whether the entity parliament will pass the law.

Igor Spaic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Bosnian pupils. Photo: UNICEF BiH/Facebook.

Bosnian Federation parliamentarian Dennis Gratz from the Nasa Stranka opposition party, who submitted the draft law to parliament, told BIRN that he welcomed the fact that the Federation government decided last week to support legislation banning segregation in education in the entity.

“With this law we are trying to get the government to take on a proactive role in preventing such [discriminatory] occurrences,” Gratz said, adding he was positively surprised that the government supported a draft coming from the opposition.

Gratz added that he doubted that any responsible parliamentarian would vote against the law - but experts believe that it may face serious obstacles from ethnically-based political parties in parliament.

“Whether it will pass or not, who knows?” political analyst Adnan Huskic told BIRN.

Bosnia’s segregated schooling system is a result of the 1992-95 war, and Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks each have their own ‘national curriculum’.

Apart from separate religion and language classes, subjects like history and geography are also taught separately, and each ethnic group has its own interpretation of the subject.

In many schools, pupils are also kept separated physically, and classes for students of one ethnicity begin at a different time than for students of another, so they don’t meet.

Gratz submitted the draft law to end the practice to parliament on July 20, when around 100 pupils from various schools in the Federation staged a protest against segregation in education.

Bosnia and its two entities already have a law banning discrimination, but Gratz said the legislation “did not fulfil its purpose”.

Analyst Huskic predicted however that the proposed new law banning segregation is likely to face political opposition among some ethnic parties.

“Some of those opposing it could cite protection of ethnic cultural rights or say the students’ parents oppose it,” he said.

Huskic said that international bodies such as the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, which have spoken out against discrimination within Bosnia’s education system, should now get involved in the process.

“This is an issue of elementary civilisational values which the European Union states it stands for and it should be presented as an issue within Bosnia’s path towards the EU,” he said.

In July, the deputy head of the Council of Europe in Sarajevo, Toni Pavlovski, condemned the slow process to resolve the issue.

Pavlovski said that maintaining the ‘two schools under one roof’ system was “indefensible”.

Such a system “runs directly counter to the development of the spirit of tolerance, mutual understanding and co-operation” that is central to the European Convention on Human Rights, he added.

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