One of the negative consequences of the wars in former Yugoslavia is increased ethnic division. Fear and distrust prevent people from engaging with people from other ethnic groups in their local communities. As a result, a system of mono-ethnic schools has evolved in the educational system. In most cases, parents move their children to schools where only children of their own ethnicity are being taught. In other communities, children belonging to different ethnic groups are taught in the same building, on different shifts. Thus, children grow up without contact with children from other ethnic groups than their own. In the long run, the ethnic divide can increase as a result of this practice.
Some of the municipalities where the Nansen Dialogue Centres are particularly involved in dialogue projects in the education system, are Vukovar in Croatia, Jegunovce in Macedonia, Srebrenica, Bratunac and Stolac in Bosnia-Herzegovi-na. Participants in these projects are: parents, children, teachers, local authorities and educational authorities on the state level.
The various villages and towns constituting the municipality of Jegunovce, were hard hit during the armed conflict in the Republic of Macedonial in 2001. As a consequence, the school system was divided, preventing children from contact with children of the other ethnic group. The Nansen Dialogue Centre in Skopje opened an integrated, bilingual primary school in September 2008, in cooperation with the local community and the educational authorities. The children are taught in the same school building, in both Albanian and Macedonian language. The school is the only one of its kind in Macedonia, and a ground breaking initiative in what was a deeply divided community. For more information, see the website of NDC Skopje and the Integrated, bilingual school.
The war in Croatia in 1991 left the town of Vukovar one of the most devastated in the region, with ethnic division between Serbs and Croats as the social consequence. NDC Osijek's effort to open a New School for all ethnic groups in Vukovar, has resulted in a Parent's Club: "For the Children of Vukovar" and a new subject: "Cultural and Spiritual Heritage of the Region", which is taught in several schools in other multi-ethnic parts of Croatia. The subject gives insight into the cultural traditions and history of all the different ethnic groups in Croatia, as an alternative to teaching children only the history and culture of their own ethnic group. The aim is to increase knowledge, pride in, and tolerance of the multi-cultural nature of Croatian society. For more information, see the website of NDC Osijek.
The neighbouring towns of Srebrenica and Bratunac in Bosnia-Herzegovina are sadly known for their particularly brutal war history. NDC Sarajevo has decided to consentrate its efforts in these two communities because that is where dialogue and reconciliation are most needed. In 2009, a series of seminars are organised in the High School Centre in Srebrenica, within the project: "Peace and Intercultural Education in the High School Srebrenica". Besides this, NDC Sarajevo runs several other extra-curricular joint activities for Bosniak and Serb pupils from Kravica and Konjevic Polje, offering an arena for interethnic dialogue and cooperation. For more information, visit the website of NDC Sarajevo.
In Stolac, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Nansen Dialogue Centre in Mostar have initiated a project that aims at increasing contact and interaction between Croat and Bosniak pupils in the local high school. The school is divided under the same roof, meaning that the pupils are being taught on different shifts. The high school is the focal point of NDC Mostar's involvement in the communitiy. It is believed that positive outcomes in the school will contribute positively to the local reconciliation process in Stolac. The project includes teachers, pupils and parents in dialogue about the challenges in the school system. A Nansen class room was opened in 2009, accesible to both Croat and Bosniak students. A joint editorial board on June 5th - 2009, issued the first edition of the joint school newspaper. For more information, see the website of NDC Mostar.
In Bujanovac, in Southern Serbia, the Nansen Centre is involved in a joint project with schools in Bujanovac and schools in Lillehammer, Norway. The objective is exchange of experience and mutual learning. Through widening horizons geograpically and pedagogically, teachers from Lillehammer and Bujanovac gain a wider perspective on learning. Several groups of teachers from Bujanovac have visited Lillehammer and taken part in classes local schools, while groups of teachers from Lillehammer have visited schools in Bujanovac. For more information, see the website of NDC Serbia.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Nansen Dialogue Network cooperated with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), on integrating human rights education and minority rights into the school system. The overall objective was to stimulate to minority return in war torn areas through preparing the school system for a multi-ethnic reality. For more information, see the websites of NDC Sarajevo and NDC Mostar.
In Montenegro, the Nansen Dialogue Centre has initiated two different educational projects, School of Democratic Leadership for politicians belonging to different political parties, and Nansen School of Dialogue for teachers of the social sciences. For more information, see the website of NDC Montenegro.
(NDN publications on education - please click here)