Kosovo Politicians Exploit Kids

Kosovo politicians are criticised for using children to bolster their electoral campaigns.

Kosovo Politicians Exploit Kids

Kosovo politicians are criticised for using children to bolster their electoral campaigns.

Tuesday, 6 September, 2005

Parents and teachers in Podujeve are concerned over the political exploitation of their children in the municipal election campaign.

They are also worried about the increasingly intrusive nature of political propaganda, which is finding its way into the town's schools.

The people in this little town, northeast of Pristina, want the politicians to leave their children alone in the run-up to the crucial local poll later this month.

Parents say they are against the practises of many political parties, which either pay children to put up their posters and attend their rallies or bully them into doing so.

One woman said that she had seen a man hit a young boy over a political squabble. "There was a disagreement about which politician to support, and the man got out of his car and slapped the child quite harshly," she said.

In another case, the woman said, a man told a child he would get 10 T-shirts if he gathered a group of his friends and took then to a party rally, "Of course, the T-shirts would have the party logo on them."

Another young boy said his two friends were paid 20 German marks each to paste up party posters and spray-paint slogans around town, including school walls.

These incidents have raised concern among parents and teachers, who would prefer to see the children focus more on school work than earning money for political canvassing.

"These posters should definitely not be allowed in the schools," said one young man. "Schools are places where children go to get an education and not a place to get involved in politics."

Qazim Toqani, director of the Ali Ajeti elementary school, said that his school, which was rebuilt after the war last year, was covered with political posters.

"This is absurd," he said. "There shouldn't be any political friction at school and children should not be manipulated by the parties."

There are even suggestions that teachers are trying to indoctrinate their pupils. "I am more concerned by the way that some teachers use their lessons as a platform for their favourite party and I object to the way that they praise those children who support their party," said one mother.

"It comes as no surprise when a child has problems at school if it turns out that he supports the opponent of the candidate supported by the teacher."

Many people in the town said they would prefer it if a particular place was designated where political posters could be displayed. They have even asked the parties to convene to resolve the issue.

While many people believe the parties are cynically exploiting children, some put it down to political naivety.

"Perhaps it is because this is the first time we've held proper elections - it may be different next time around - let's see," said one woman.

Certainly some local leaders agree the exploitation of youngsters has to stop.

Agim Veliu of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said youngsters "should be left out of the work of the parties." Naim Fetahu of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) attacked other parties for using kids to tear down their posters around town.

Refiqe Hamiti is an Albanian journalist in Podujeve.

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