Community officials accuse Skopje of using children as political tools.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Struga -- 17/09/12
Children from the Macedonian village of Podgorci will not have their educations recognised by the government because they were illegally taught in small Albanian-language classes. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
A disagreement over what language should be used in a school in southwestern Macedonia is causing parents of 20 children to demand that their elementary education be completed in Albania or Kosovo.
The dispute at the Goce Delchev School in Struga involves children from the nearby village of Podgorci. They have been studying in mixed classes from first to fourth grade in Albanian.
The classes are considered illegal by the state because Struga officials formed them without approval of the ministry of education. A law requires elementary classes to have at least 24 students.
Struga officials funded the classes out of the municipal budget for the last three years while promising parents a resolution to the problem, some parents said. But the state announced the students will not receive diplomas at the end of the school year.
The parents protested this month, blocking the entrance to the government building in Struga.
"I have a nephew who is supposed to attend fifth grade, but he just stays at home, because we don't know what to do." Nedzmedin Dervishovski told SETimes.
Parents say if the problem is not going to be solved, they will ask the governments in Pristina and Tirana if their children can continue their schooling there.
"We are Albanians and that is the reason why we let our children to study in Albanian," parent Emir Zuberi told SETimes.
"We call upon the government of Albania and Kosovo, as well as all the relevant institutions in Macedonia, to engage themselves to solve this problem, in order three studying years to not be lost," parent Semrije Murtazoska told SETimes.
Murtazovska also said that they are disappointed by the mayor of Struga, by the former and present ministers, and vice ministers of education for what they called false promises to solve the issue years ago.
Struga Mayor Ramiz Merko denied the accusations of the parents.
"Although first we got an approval from the Ministry of Education, then the politicians got involved, the previous consent was withdrawn," Merko said. "Then all the problems started. I will ask the politicians not to get involved in this. Behind the parents' protest, political parties are hidden, which don't want the children to study in Albanian."
Macedonia's vice minister of education, Safet Neziri, told SETimes that officials are trying to find a solution.
"The reality is that although these children went to school for the past few years, they were out of the education system of Macedonia," he said. "We are trying to put them in the educational system by giving them documents for finished school, from the school where the lectures are already being held in Albanian."
"And I would ask all of the ones who work in the educational system, to not abuse these children on a daily basis, for political purposes," Neziri said.
Vedat Kolonja, 55, of Struga, told SETimes that the children are victims of politics and politicians.
"If I want to learn German, who is there to ban me that right?" she asked. "They should leave the children study in a language they want. In the 21st century not to respect the fundamental natural rights of citizens is inhuman."
The parents said they will submit a complaint to the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Macedonia officials, meanwhile, are threatening to fine the parents up to 2,000 for allowing their children to take classes deemed illegal by the state.