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news 01 Sep 14

Hundreds of Bosnian Pupils Fail to Start School

Unresolved rows over school curriculums and unrepaired damage to buildings after major floods in May meant that hundreds of pupils missed the first day of the new school year.

Elvira M. Jukic

Several dozen children from Vrbanjci near Banja Luka in Republika Srpska did not start school on September 1 due to their parents' boycott of the school system which does not allow Bosniaks to have their own curriculum at the local school uses the Serbian-language teaching programme.

Republika Srpska’s Education Minister Goran Mutabdzija said that the issue was being politicised ahead of elections in October and was causing Bosniak children to miss out on vital education. 

"When the elections are over, these children will stay on the utter margins," Mutabdzija said.

The row began last year when a group of Bosniak parents from Konjevic Polje in eastern Bosnia protested that Republika Srpska did not allow Bosniak children to be taught under the Bosniak curriculum.

Even though they all speak essentially the same language, there are three different school curriculums in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Bosniak, Serb and Croat.

As Republika Srpska is dominated by Serbs, Bosniaks from places like Konjevic Polje and Vrbanjci decided to stop their children going to school until they are allowed to choose the Bosniak curriculum which differs in a few subjects such as history and language. 

One of the political problems behind the boycott is that Republika Srpska officially does not recognise the term 'Bosnian language' but refers to it as 'the language of the Bosniak people', while in the Federation entity, where most of citizens as Bosniak and Croat, the term is used.

Dozens of pupils from the Konjevic Polje primary school did not finish the last school year because of the row, but instead went to classes at an improvised school in nearby Nova Kasaba, where they were given lessons by teachers from Sarajevo.

Because their parents' demands were not resolved, the children went to school in the same alternative classrooms on Monday.

Meanwhile in the Zenica-Doboj Canton, several schools did not open on time because they were not rebuilt after the devastating floods and landslides that hit the region in May. 

Mirko Trifunovic, the Zenica-Doboj Cantonal Education Minister, said that ten schools in Maglaj were not ready to open on time because of the flood damage, as well as several other schools in the Zenica and Zepce area.

It is not yet clear when they will be able to begin lessons this term.

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