Citizenship Education in Post-Conflict BiH

As will be discussed in Chap. 6, efforts to teach the form and function of democracy, along with many other education reforms in BiH, have been promoted by the IC. ‘Internationals organized different projects, workshops, and so on. I believe that a lot of people now have a good knowledge about that now. I think we have in our conscience what is democracy and what means democratic society’ (Zoric). This push toward democracy education has been multifaceted, ‘The NGOs really created the environment and showed us the models and prove that this is a possibility that you can have a fully democratic classroom’ (Berovic). Although all of the educators interviewed fully supported BiH’s transition to democracy, many noted that the initial push for democratic citizenship education came from the outside: ‘It wasn’t our idea, it was an external idea from foreign countries’ (Cehic). The initial push and materials for democratic citizenship education were sent as aid from the US government. ‘We sent it all as part of a whole model of democracy and governance toolkit. When I say “we”, I mean USAID development agencies worldwide have this democratization package’ (Elizabeth). The materials sent by the US government are still in use, but have not been adapted to the BiH context. ‘They should adjust examples to our situation. You can’t put in a book one Black and one White guy and talk about racism. Our racism is to be against other people mainly because of religious beliefs’ (Zoric). During the entire postwar era, the US government has continued to support democratic citizenship education.

We work with the American Embassy to develop the outcomes for the subject of civics education. We have the promise of the American Embassy that after they will help us in developing the learning outcomes for the subject of history in high school. (Coric)

This involvement has led to the introduction of democracy and human rights as a school subject in high schools and the utilization of

Civitas-created ‘Foundations of Democracy’ materials at other levels (Krogh, 2008). ‘From 1998 they (teachers) attended sessions from Civitas and then we introduced the subject of democracy and human rights’ (Cehic). This approach to post-war democratization is well worn: ‘This is a classical approach. Classes in democracy and human rights. I remember it even from my post-Cold War Germany experience. That is the typical approach we’ve seen in other post-war democratization and reconstruction efforts’ (Liesenfeld). Although all the external efforts supporting democratic citizenship education have been welcomed, some Bosnian educators have voiced frustration with the delivery of some programs and materials:

You bring education for democracy from whatever country with the best possible intentions. Coming to my school, where I struggle every day, after my own war experience, when I am frustrated not knowing what to do and I am more aware of the problems maybe than you are, if you come and tell me, ‘I am going to teach you about education for democracy and peace’, you can imagine my frustration. (Berovic)

To better understand democratic citizenship education in BiH, it is important to know what came before during the Yugoslav period and the realities of a post-civil war society. Not surprisingly the strongest comments on the socialist era education came from Bosnian educators who lived during the era and who are now teaching. First and foremost, the notion that Yugoslavia was an overtly repressive regime was dismissed: ‘I know teachers who actually had all the freedom to express their opinions during socialism and they were not imprisoned for that’ (Saric). Some of the educators voiced beliefs that education was more socially just than contemporary education in BiH. ‘We had 100 percent [of the] children included in elementary school and everybody had the chance to go to school. The child of illiterate parents could become a medical doctor. It was really possible’ (Zoric). In addition, ‘social justice was much better performed, I think before the war. Everybody was more equal’ (Saric). Although possibly more socially just, it was not a democratic education. ‘It was not democratic teaching, from the perspective of a student who went through primary and secondary education. It was missing in terms of developing ourselves as responsible citizens. It was very much based on memorizing facts and information’ (Daric). Furthermore, students and parents were perceived to be different during the socialist era. ‘Before the war parents cared a lot about children and they pay attention how their child behaved out of the home because it reflected on the home atmosphere, but now they are not so caring about that’ (Zoric). Moreover, ‘I think that students before war had more motivation and knowledge if we compare with the students in post-conflict times. Now some have psychological, emotional damage and psychological and emotional problems from the war experiences’ (Malic). Despite the positives of education in the socialist era, there is no desire to return to the old system. ‘There is always something positive and something negative with a system but it’s not applicable anymore for this new situation. Almost 20 years now, we have different circumstances and everything’ (Zoric).

 
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