Bosnia and Herzegovina is a nation divided by ethnicity and poverty. But the Dzemaludin Causevic Primary School in Sarajevo has an inclusive policy that is teaching a new generation how to grow together, rather than apart.
A Roma language and culture class. Lessons on how to identify deadly mines. A child with special needs mainstreamed in the first grade. This is Dzemaludin Causevic Primary School in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. More than a decade after the Bosnian War ended 1995, the school is helping to rebuild and reconcile a divided society. A 43-month siege of Sarajevo killed more than 10,000 people, 1,600 of them children. Schooling was driven underground into basements and shelters.
HASA ALBINOVIC [Principal, Dzemaludin Causevic Primary School]
It was very difficult with all the shelling and snipers shooting even to reach these places where we were teaching. It was very dangerous both for children and us, and there was this tragic incident in which one of my colleagues and her four students were killed by a grenade during class.
The reminders of war of everywhere in Sarajevo, from this new monument commemorating the children who lost their lives, to the plaques on the wall of the school, memorials to slain students and locals. Rebuilt by the Danish government and with help from UNICEF and its partners, the school has adopted a new model of inclusive child-centered education, known as "child-friendly schools." In a state with limited central powers, responsibility for education is fragmented among 14 ministries of education, each with different power and authority. While some schools are still divided by ethnic origin, this school brings children of all origins together, giving them equal opportunities to learn and thrive.
SELMA DZEMIOTZIC KRISTIANSEN [School Counselor]
Under our school roof you can find we are living together from different background. From Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, a Roma population, Albanian ...
It [child-friendly school] has an important role, because when you are raising children on the basis of principles of tolerance and equality, you are trying to help this young generation to live a life that is different from the life of adults now. By doing so we are also overcoming the difficulties of our time.
Poverty is one of the major challenges that affects many dimensions of children's rights in the country. Almost 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. In this school, 20 percent of students come from refugee families. More than 40 percent have a parent out of work. The school provides a safe haven for children, and looks after their health and wellbeing: free meals to those who need them, and even a dentist for regular checkups. It also actively seeks out children living in the neighborhood who are not attending school.
The starting point when I came to this school was to compile the list of children not attending school. The majority of those not attending school were Roma children and there is quite a large Roma community living in the area. We then organized ourselves and started visiting these families, together with the Roma association, and we brought their children to school.
Eldina Ismailij is 11 years old and a good student. She wants to be a nurse or a hairdresser when she grows up. She comes from a Roma family with seven children. The Roma, a minority group with their own languages and customs, face severe discrimination in Bosnia and neighboring countries. While many of these problems of exclusion existed prior to the war, they were exacerbated by the conflict.
DZEMILA BOSTANDZIJA [Eldina's mother]
Everyone here is trying hard to make ends meet. It has been difficult because many Roma do not go to school, they have no education or skills, and then the only thing they can do is go around and collect garbage.
Eldina and her twin sisters, Selma and Belma, take Roma dance and Roma language in culture classes at school.
I go to Roma language classes because I want to learn my language, and I go to dance classes because I like to dance. It is important because I will need it one day.
That is why I make such an effort to have them complete school.
These Roma families are just left on their own, the society is poor and unable to provide for them, so the school is a safe haven for children where they often find peace/quiet, food, clothing, shoes, and sometimes can receive scholarships from the local community. So we are doing all we can to help them overcome their difficulties.
To foster a sense of social cohesion among the children and communities, the school encourages students to help one another. The student council runs projects in the neighborhood to assist families with limited means.
We collected some food and some clothes. Everyone brought something. I had the honor to deliver the food that my class collected.
I think it would be better if we visited the homes and gave it to them there rather than in school because they might feel shamed.
Dzemila, this is what the children have collected through the Student Council, some food, clothes, and shoes for you.
Parents and members of the local community have started a class at the school to teach students how to stay safe outside of the classroom. This father clears mines that are still found around the city.
GORAN CRNOJA [father]
This one is the most dangerous because it is still active. Even 15 years after the war, people are still getting killed by this one.
Danijel Jevtovic is in first grade. He has special needs: difficulty speaking and writing. But the school is giving him new opportunities.
I turn the computer on and then I write names.
MIRA JEVTOVIC [Danijel's mother]
He is doing fine. I am satisfied and his teacher is satisfied, too. I am delighted now but when he enrolled in the school, I was worried since he was supposed to go to the special school. Since they practice inclusive education in this school, we decided to try it.
We respect the right of children to be just what they are. We are adjusting the teaching process to their needs, their culture, their tradition. We respect diversity, equality, the right of everyone to his or her own culture and tradition, no matter where he or she comes from. And this here is a truly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural school.
In Sarajevo, coming together for the next generation.