Students Bemoan Kosovo Education

Politicians' claims they want to reform Kosovo's education system have so far sounded rather hollow.

Students Bemoan Kosovo Education

Politicians' claims they want to reform Kosovo's education system have so far sounded rather hollow.

Tuesday, 6 September, 2005

The cabinets at the Sami Frasheri school in Pristina are well stocked with computers and software, yet students have to learn how to use the equipment on the blackboard. "Imagine this is your screen," the teacher said as his classroom filled with laughter.

"The teachers won't send us to the computer room because they're afraid we'll damage the computers," complained Gëzim shortly after class.

He and his classmates wonder how they're supposed to learn about software programs without seeing or using them. They see this attitude, and the whole education system in Kosovo, as a reflection of the communist past and the totalitarian attitude inherited by the older generation of teachers and educators.

During these pre-election days, Kosovar youth are more concerned about the quality of teaching in their classrooms than the scant supplies of electricity and water to the province's towns and villages.

Many young people feel they're unlikely to get a good education in Kosovo, and are tempted to try to get into schools and colleges abroad. Unless its education system is dramatically modernised Kosovo will lose its greatest resource - its youth.

"There is really no way of getting a good education here," said Dardan, sitting in a café after basketball practice. "Schools work the same way as they did after the Second World War."

Education, however, does not seem a high priority among any of the political parties running in the elections this weekend. While they have acknowledged the need for reform, none of them have offered concrete plans or ideas about how they intend to achieve it.

"The big political parties only talk about big goals like independence, things that are really not in their hands," said Milot, a high-school student. "They should come down to the ground and tell us what they're going to do for our generation. I may not be able to vote, but aren't my parents potential voters?"

At a round-table discussion broadcast on Radio Television Kosova most of the political party representatives agreed that educational reform should wait until parliamentary elections planned for next year.

The only education issue given any weight by the candidates was teachers' meagre pay. Kosovars still have great respect for teachers who taught under harsh conditions during eight years of Serbian repression.

By 1995 there were about 400,000 students at all levels of education, who were taught by some 20,000 teachers in private houses. The system being self financed by the "Kosovar Government" in exile under control of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo.

Those funds which were collected for education and social welfare have now turned into an election issue with the main rival parties each charging the other with corruption.

Students blame teacher intolerance, poor schools, scarce materials, and the outdated education system on the lingering communist mentality of both teachers and politicians.

The education department of the Kosovo Transitional Council, which governs Kosovo at the moment, has made tentative attempts to reform the educational system. But teachers have been reluctant to accept their proposals.

"The system blocks good teachers from using more interactive and modern teaching methods," said Dardan.

One of the few positive developments for the education system over the last year has been the influence of Kosovo-based foreign NGOs who've helped local teachers learn new teaching methods. "The presence of foreigners is the only thing that will convince the teachers and the politicians that they're way of working is wrong," said Dardan.

Agon Maliqi is a high school student in Pristina.

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