An OSCE-supported effort to expand the base of qualified university lecturers in Bosnian language and help preserve Bosnian language education and culture in Kosovo is beginning to bear fruit.
Muljaim Kaćka is the new lecturer of Bosnian literature at the Faculty of Education located in Prizren. He assumed the post in February 2012 following his graduation from the Masters programme in the Bosnian language and literature at Tuzla University in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Scholarships for Kaćka and two other Kosovo-Bosniak students were sponsored by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo and Prishtinë/Pristina University.
The OSCE Mission started to tackle the issue of higher education in the Bosnian language in 2008, when the first major gaps were identified. These included a lack of qualified permanent lecturers, teaching assistants and support staff, and outdated teaching methods.
Francesco Bigagli, the Head of the OSCE Mission’s Youth and Higher Education Unit, says that as the second biggest non-Albanian community, the Kosovo Bosniaks have had only negligible external support in the area of education – a situation that is now changing.
Initially the assistance included developing links between the faculties in Prizren and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and providing advice on how to modernize the existing programmes.
In late 2009, the Mission purchased video conferencing equipment and a wide range of university books and literature that have enabled students in Prizren to follow lectures provided by the universities of Sarajevo, Tuzla and Mostar, while facilitating lectures by visiting professors from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
More importantly the Mission provided Kaćka with the education that now allows him to teach, while the other two candidates will likely get the opportunity to follow suit.
Alem Šukurija is one of 250 Kosovo-Bosniak students who attends classes in five university departments in Prizren. He is a regular student, although he needs to travel from Pejë/Peć to Prizren and back, which makes for a 150-kilometre round trip.
“I think we now have better conditions than before. We have more teachers from here as well as visiting professors from Bosnia and Herzegovina and online lectures. We are not missing classes anymore,” Šukurija says.
Kaćka thinks the faculty where he is teaching represents a pillar for the future of education for the Bosnian community in Kosovo. “Being part of this pillar is a great responsibility,” he says.
In addition to helping the faculty of education in Prizren improve its staff structure, the Mission is also helping the faculty to provide training for the primary and secondary school teachers who deliver their classes in the Bosnian language.
“The Mission's adoption of a train-the-trainer approach is more effective when dealing with large number of teachers and when trying to ensure the long-term sustainability of developmental efforts,” Bigagli says.
According to Bigagli, the challenges of Bosnian language education are far from over. He says that pre-school and primary school programs in Bosnian language are not yet sustainable due to the high rate of reliance on external staff, and a lack of postgraduate programs in teacher education in non-Albanian languages.
But he adds that the OSCE plans to continue supporting teacher education with an emphasis on programs for non-Albanian communities.
Kaćka believes that by helping him improve education in the Bosnian language, the OSCE and the University of Prishtinë/Priština will help hundreds of current and future students.
However, he does not want to be the last Kosovo-Bosniaks to benefit from this assistance. “My community needs this support to continue,” he says.