BiH's weak commitment to educating the disabled

At the beginning of 2018, parents and their disabled children may witness history repeat itself. Will they have nowhere to go and no one to turn to once again?

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
BiH's weak commitment to educating the disabled - NewsMavens
A class room. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

A month ago, we wrote about the admirable effort of a Sarajevo-based group of parents who fought for their children’s access to education.

It all began when the local authorities announced that educational programs for children with developmental disabilities would be discontinued. At first, the campaign the parents started was ignored. Finally, in September, the government of Sarajevo Canton decided to renew the contract with the organization EDUS that provides unique learning programs for preschoolers and young students with cognitive disabilities. 

Turns out, the parents' victory was both temporary and incomplete. Not all children were encompassed by the renewed program, as the allocated resources weren’t sufficient to hire enough staff. Additionally, even for the children who did get in, it was only a temporary solution: the program was supposed to last only three months.

Faced with growing public pressure, the cantonal minister of education recommitted to his previous promise. He claimed he would provide a permanent solution by turning an abandoned school building into a learning facility for children with cognitive disabilities. In his statement, he gave it a month before the school would be ready to welcome the children enrolled in the existing temporary program, as well as those who were still on the waiting list.

A month has passed but the ministry is still unable to say when the new school will be opened. Asked for comment, they stated that “administrative and legal processes are underway”. No schedule, no details. The authorities also remain silent about the fact that the existing contract, which enables part-time schooling for a limited number of children, is close to its expiration date.

At the beginning of 2018, parents and their disabled children may witness history repeat itself. Will they have nowhere to go and no one to turn to once again?

Details from the story:

  • In 2015, the cantonal ministry of education provided financial support and learning opportunity for a limited number of children with cognitive disabilities. They attended educational programs for early development in a special school “Mjedenica”.
  • In 2016, the contract was renewed for another year, and the programs were expanded to another educational facility, the elementary school “Vladislav Skarić” in Sarajevo.
  • In the summer of 2017, after parents were notified that the program would be discontinued, they started an ongoing campaign. As a result, they managed to pressure local authorities into renewing the contract.
  • Schooling in “Mjedenica” and “Vladislav Skarić” started again in October 2017. It is carried out in three shifts, to enable the limited number of staff to teach more children.
  • On October 3, the cantonal minister of education publicly acknowledged that the solution is temporary. He promised to transform an old school building, offered by a local municipal mayor, into a permanent institution where the children could learn. 
  • The contract with "Mjedenica" and "Vladislav Skarić" expires on December 31. None of the institutions have guaranteed that it will be renewed for the rest of the school year.
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