My last article concerned itself with ethnic and religious division in American schools, and how that division has been exploited by a political demagogue. It is, however, important to note that the United States isn’t alone in its unequal treatment of students. In the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia & Herzegovina, students of different religions are taught under the same roof, but with significantly divided curriculums.
The subject first came to my attention in the 2014 Boston Globe article, entitled “Bosnia’s Segregated Schools.” The article discussed the concept of “two schools one roof,” a very real segregation policy enacted after the vicious civil war between the three major ethnic groups (Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks, or Bosnian Muslims) in modern day Bosnia/Herzegovina. The Globe went on to discuss the implementation of integrated classes for the first time in some of these students lives. Many of the subjects taught in school would still be taught in the students’ mother tongues. But the integration program, sponsored by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, based off the contact theory of racial integration, hoped to use English as a middle ground to help students discuss difficult topics on an even playing field.
The Balkan Insight article, written in 2016, attests that the integration process hasn’t been successful, and the rights to learning ethnic history, religion, and language of all groups was not being successfully and adequately enforced. The article begins with a plea from local Bosniak groups, saying that their curriculum is being bulldozed by ethnic majorities, and requesting a new, dedicated Bosniak secondary school for their children. The insight that the BI article makes is the connection between political activism and the separate curriculums, as they pertain to student identity.
The political overtones of the ethnic and religious segregation of people within the same state is an eerie and extreme parallel to the difficulties experienced by minority students in our own country. The perceived inequality in both systems is troublesome, and leaves many questions about the political futures of Bosnia/Herzegovina and the United States.