News 18 Feb 16

Albanians in Serbia Rally for Kosovo Textbooks

Ethnic Albanians from southern Serbia staged a protest over Kosovo Albanian schoolbooks that have been held up at a customs terminal for months amid a row over alleged political bias.

Ivana Nikolic
Presevo, the southernmost town and municipality in Serbia. Photo: Beta.

Protesters rallied in Presevo on Thursday under the slogan “We love textbooks in Albanian”, calling for the release of the school textbooks from Kosovo which have been held at a customs terminal in the municipality for the past six months.

“We are asking for the textbooks to go to children, not to the terminal,” Jonuz Musliu, head of the National Council of Albanians, told BIRN

Musliu said he has written to the Serbian government and the education ministry about the textbooks – intended for primary schools in Serbia’s Presevo Valley with a large ethnic Albanian population – but has received no answer so far.

The rally came after Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said the textbooks are politically unacceptable.

“You want textbooks from Kosovo or Albania to be used in Serbia, and you want [pupils in Serbia] to be taught that Kosovo is independent… That will not be possible,” Dacic told parliament in December.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has also said that textbooks describing late Kosovo Liberation Army fighter Adem Jashari as a national hero cannot be used in Serbian schools.

Jonuz argued however that “if pupils in Serbia want to read about Adem Jashari, they can do it over the Internet and Serbia cannot prevent that”.

“They [Belgrade authorities] are doing that [banning the use of the textbooks] out of spite. That is primitivism,” he added.

Vucic has said that “the relevant school inspectors” are to decide on whether the textbooks can be used in Serbia or not.

BIRN asked the education ministry whether the textbooks are being analysed, but did not receive an answer by the time of publication.

According to a deal reached in September last year, Pristina was supposed to supply school textbooks to Albanian communities in Serbia while Belgrade was supposed to do the same for Serbs in Kosovo - the first time that the two sides had come to such an agreement since the war ended in 1999.

However trucks that were transporting around 100,000 elementary school textbooks from Kosovo to the Presevo Valley were then held up by the Serbian authorities at a customs terminal.

Since the beginning of the school year, ethnic Albanian pupils in the Presevo Valley have been without textbooks, which is seriously impairing pupils' education, the National Council of Albanians argued.

According to Serbia’s 2002 census, 61,467 Albanians lived in Serbia. Most Albanians boycotted the 2011 census, so the current number is unknown.

A significant number are thought to have emigrated to Kosovo or to Western Europe in recent years, but they still make up the overwhelming majority of the population of Presevo.

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