At a glance
When Fadija Huduti comes to work in the morning, she has to remind herself that she will not be teaching the subject she was trained to - Russian language. Huduti originally taught Russian courses from 1990-99, but now she teaches English to Bosnian-language students aged eight to fourteen in the village of Plananje near Prizren, southern Kosovo - not because she wants to but because there is no one else to do it.
Prior to the 1999 NATO intervention, there were two education systems in Kosovo: a formal one in Serbian and an informal one in the Albanian language. Shortly after the intervention a new education system was established under the UN administration and the provisional Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. In practice, formal education is now provided in Albanian, Bosnian and Turkish, while Serbian language education is delivered through a parallel education system provided by the Serbian Ministry of Education.
However, teacher education in languages other than Albanian is insufficient. As a result, there is a shortage of teaching staff and the quality of education is suffering.
Lack of qualified teachers
The example of Huduti and her school is a good illustration. The school she works in has some 218 Kosovo Bosniak students, but there are no qualified teachers for mathematics, biology, geography, history, civil education, arts, music and sports in the Bosnian language, so teachers who are not qualified to teach these subjects improvise to fill the gaps. "I have taken on teaching English language to give students at least some basis on which to continue their education, but I must admit that I have to try much harder than with teaching Russian or Bosnian," says Huduti.
Klemen Miklavic, an OSCE Mission in Kosovo advisor on higher education, says that the problem is acute. "With the diminishing quality of education, non-majority communities risk social exclusion and, ultimately, assimilation," he explains.
"The OSCE Mission started addressing this issue in early 2008. We have been focusing on the education of future primary and secondary school teachers in the Bosnian language."
In total, some 6,000 students, most of them Bosniak and a small number of Gorani, attend Bosnian-language primary and secondary schools throughout Kosovo.
OSCE assistance programme
The Mission is currently implementing an assistance programme at the Faculty of Education in Prizren, part of Prishtinë/Pristina University, one of the two faculties that provide higher education in the Bosnian language.
The Prizren facility lacks teaching staff and can barely secure lectures for the three existing programmes: primary school teaching; Bosnian language and literature; and technology and computer science for high school teachers.
Esad Kurjeshepi, assistant professor in Prizren, says that professors are being brought in from southern Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to teach courses, but often have to cancel their visits due to bad weather and poor road conditions.
To establish more sustainable co-operation between Prizren and faculties of education in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the OSCE Mission purchased video conferencing equipment in March 2009. With the Mission's help, Prishtinë/Pristina University signed collaboration agreements with Sarajevo University on 25 May and with the Universities of Mostar and Tuzla on 4 June.
"With the agreements signed, the curriculum in Prizren in the coming academic year will include teaching by distance learning and with the physical presence of teachers from Tuzla, Mostar and Sarajevo," says Miklavic. "Five additional courses will be available and more will follow. Already in 2009-10, students will be able to enrol in a new, fourth programme for high school teachers of mathematics."
Developing future teaching staff
Not all problems are solved yet, however. Programmes for future teachers of biology or chemistry, for example, are still outstanding. Miklavic says that the Mission is trying to help with that issue as well: "We are working to accelerate the launching of new teaching programmes and, even more importantly, to develop a pool of university teaching staff here in Kosovo."
In the coming academic year, the Mission will sponsor three masters-level students to attend one of the universities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to become university lecturers themselves. "We are expecting that the University of Prishtinë/Pristina will continue this practice," Miklavic notes.
"Developing a teacher pool will help further spread Bosnian-language education and preserve the culture of this particular community."
Huduti's expectations are more modest - she hopes that new, properly-qualified teachers will arrive soon. "My colleagues and I have been teaching subjects that are not our own for some time now. I think we owe it to these children to offer them a proper education," she concludes.