War still a puzzle in Bosnias divided schools
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.Despite the enormous significance of the war that ended less than two decades ago, pupils in secondary schools in Sarajevo do not learn about it from textbooks. Instead they have to rely on teachers, parents, the media or the Internet.Using these various sources of information, the pupils, unsurprisingly, reach different conclusions.
Some believe that one ethnic group were the sole victims, while others see the same ethnic group as perpetrators of grave crimes. They also think differently about who or what started the 1992-5 war. Some blame the great powers that allegedly opposed the former Yugoslavias existence, while others are convinced that Serbia was mainly to blame.Besides the pupils, the teachers in the same schools, working with different curricula, also have very different attitudes to wartime events. They may not be treated in textbooks, but teachers still discuss them with pupils in class.While one blames the declining economy for the war, saying it made it easy to manipulate people, another argues that the war started with an army coming from Serbia, which then committed aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina.Opinions about the trials for war crimes taking place before The Hague Tribunal and the courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina also differ wildly. Some teachers argue that the verdicts reflect the negative politicization of justice, while others defend the record of the trials and say they will be of great use to historians.All agree on one thing alone: decades will have to pass before there is any truly objective analysis of the not so distant past in Bosnia and Herzegovina.So close but so far:BIRN-Justice Report visited three secondary schools, Prva Gimnazija [First Secondary School], Katolicki skolski centar [Catholic School Centre] in Sarajevo, and the Gimnazija [Secondary School] in East Sarajevo.
Although they are only about 10 kilometres from each other, or less, students of the same age, from 17 to 18, have very different views of Bosnias fairly recent past.Wartime events are not described in the history textbooks used in any of the three schools. What is commonly known is the date of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which all agree stopped the war.During history classes, however, pupils sometimes talk with teachers about the war. Although teachers usually refer them to a variety of sources about these events, they admit they share their own opinions with them.The children are mature enough to know true from false. They have information from officials and the Hague Tribunal, where it is exactly known that there was aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jasminka Filipovic, a history teacher at Prva gimnazija, said.The arrival of the army from Serbia to Bosnia and Herzegovina is established, as is the goal of its aggression, the creation of Greater Serbia, she added. But East Sarajevo history teacher Sena Markovic tells her pupils that Yugoslavias economic troubles were the real factor behind the start of the conflict in Bosnia.In early 1990 and 1991, salary payments became irregular, the standard of living fell and people felt more insecure. And fear is great for manipulation, Markovic said.Dejan Garic, a teacher in Katolicki skolski centar, notes that in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina the war is usually blamed on Serbian aggression, while in Bosnias mainly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, the blame is put on the other two nations, Bosniaks and Croats.Children are curious, and as a teacher, I am obliged to offer them a variety of sources by which they can find out that the same things are not interpreted in the same way, he said. We have three truths, Garic added, noting that a lot of children inherit their prejudices from their families.
Zerina Tomic, a fourth-grade pupil in the same school, says her parents rarely talk about the war in front of her, but court verdicts sometimes draw them into a discussion.I remember when Batko was sentenced. I think he committed terrible