A School No Longer Divided: Ethnic Groups Overcome Decades of Segregation in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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In collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, American Councils for International Education just launched its newest program in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the purpose of bringing together high school students from the Croat and Bosniak ethnic groups to share a classroom for the first time in 20 years.

A student speaks to her classmates about the new course on English language and American culture.

This new program marks the first time students of different ethnic groups share a classroom and study together in a segregated school.

In collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, American Councils for International Education just launched its newest program in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the purpose of bringing together high school students from the Croat and Bosniak ethnic groups to share a classroom for the first time in 20 years.

Seven students from the Bosniak ethnic group and seven students from the Croat ethnic group are sharing a classroom and studying English language and American culture during this 27-week course. Bosniak and Croat teachers of English are working together to instruct the class for two hours per week using an “American-style” curriculum, which includes educational films, games, group activities, and individual presentations. American Councils is implementing this pilot project in two high schools in the town of Zepce, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

As a remnant of the Balkans Wars in the late 1990s, nearly 60 high schools in Bosnia-Herzegovina remain segregated along ethnic lines. Often referred to as “segregated schools” or “two schools under one roof,” these high schools hold separate classes for Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks. Students from different ethnic groups even enter the school through separate doors. This new program marks the first time students of different ethnic groups share a classroom and study together in a segregated school.

When asked about the anticipated effects of the new program, Lisa Fiala, American Councils’ Regional Director for Southeast Europe, explained, “the unique ability of this program to bring together students from different ethnic groups, otherwise educated in segregated classrooms, while incorporating American-style teaching and learning, will prove invaluable and will serve to promote cooperation, interaction, and understanding among participants.” After the successful implementation of the pilot project, there are plans are to expand the program to more schools and include other ethnic groups.

Click here to learn more about American Councils programs in Southeastern Europe.

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