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School Boycott Resumes in Bosnian Serb Entity

As the school year resumes, parents of Bosniak pupils in two schools in the mainly Serbian entity are continuing their boycott in a bitter dispute over language and curricula.

Around 300 Bosniak children in Bosnia’s mainly Serbian entity have not started the second part of the school year as a result of their parents’ demands for their children be taught in Bosnian, not Serbian.

Parents from Konjevic Polje in eastern Bosnia and from Vrbanjci in the northwest say their children wil not go to school if they cannot be taught so-called “national subjects” – geography, history, nature and society, religion and mother tongue and literature – under the Bosnian curriculum.

Muhizin Omerovic, representative of the parents from Konjevic Polje, told Balkan Insight on Monday that around 150 children in the Bosniak returnee village did not start the school year because the dispute remained unresolved.

“It is likely that the [Bosnian Serb] authorities in Banja Luka do not want to solve this problem,” he said. “They’ve had enough time so far.”

The school in Konjevic Polje is one of two branch schools of the main Petar Kocic school, located in the nearby Serbian village of Kravica.

Although all pupils at the school in Konjevic Polje are Bosniak, they are taught under the Serbian curriculum, as the entity authorities say the classes there are not large enough to warrant use of the Bosnian curriculum.

Omerovic told Balkan Insight on Monday that they now planned to take the issue to the Bosnian Constitutional Court.

Parents of around 140 children in Vrbanjci near Kotor Varos in the Banja Luka area are also boycotting their school for the same reason.

Protesters from Konjevic Polje have set up tents and held sleep-in protests in Sarajevo since last October, asking the Office of the High Representative, OHR, to judge their claim.

“We only ask for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to our question, about whether our rights are being violated, but so far nothing has come from the OHR,” Omerovic said.

There has also been no further communication between the parents and the Bosnian Serb education ministry or the Petar Kocic school.

Parents in Vrbanjci on Monday said they hoped the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, Zeljka Cvijanovic, would intervene.

She has said that she will work on finding a solution, so that the children do not lose out on a whole school year.

But Hava Varosic from Vrbanjci told Balkan Insight that the parents were fed up with waiting.

“For two years we have asked the same thing, and the authorities then told us to wait until after the elections. Now we can’t wait any longer,” she said.

The entity education minister, Goran Mutabdzija, on Monday criticised the parents of pupils from Konjevic Polje and Vrbanjci for continuing the boycott.

The OSCE in Bosnia meanwhile said it was continuing to advocate dialogue as the only way forward.

“In a situation like this, dialogue and communication are a necessary first step and we have supported various exchanges between the parties,” OSCE spokesperson Mersiha Causevic-Podzic said.