The dispute has kept students out of school in two municipalities since September.
By Mladen Dragojlovic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka -- 10/10/2013
Ethnic Bosniak parents protest in front of the Vrbanjci elementary school in demanding a national curriculum for their children. [Mladen Dragojlovic/SETimes]
A dispute between the parents of Bosniak children and the Republika Srpska (RS) ministry of education is keeping children out of school in the village of Vrbanjci, near Banja Luka, and in Konjevic Polje in Bratunac municipality.
Parents of Bosniak students are not allowing their children to attend school due to the lack of the so-called "national group of school subjects," which includes Bosnian language and history. The schools offer Serbian language and history.
"I don't want to let my kids attend a school where they are not offered Bosniak language classes, classes on Islam and other school subjects according to the Serbian curriculum. It is our right to demand these subjects in school in the RS," said Nedzad Smailovic, a parent in Vrbanjci.
He and other parents are demanding that the RS education ministry fulfill the obligations from the interim agreement on special needs and rights of returnee children that was signed in Banja Luka in 2002.
The Vrbanjci elementary school last year had 280 students, of which 150 were Bosniaks. The Konjevic Polje school was comprised entirely of 148 ethnic Bosniak students.
The education ministry said there is no money to hire more teachers at the Vrbanjci school and there are too few students at Konjevic Polje to create a new curriculum.
Branka Rogac, the RS ministry of education spokeswoman, told SETimes that the ministry requires at least 18 pupils per class as a pre-condition for a national-based curriculum and the Konjevic Polje school does not fulfill that condition.
"We organised this kind of education in 20 RS schools, where the students are attending subjects in accord with the educational plan of one of the BiH Federation," Rogac said.
Smailovic's three children have not attended classes at the Vrbanjci school since the school year began on September 2nd. He said the parents will be patient and work with the RS authorities on a solution, but if the situation yields no results, the parents will enroll their children in the nearest Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation (FBiH) school, which is kilometres away.
"It's against the children's rights to ban them to learn their language and history. The ministry said there is no one to teach them, but this is not true because we have educated teachers for these subjects," Smailovic said
Smailovic emphasised that parents are ready to negotiate and find a compromise that will satisfy both sides, but he said the education ministry officials are urging parents to send their children to school before discussions begin.
"For us it is not acceptable because we had same problem for years and at the beginning of every academic year the story goes again. This time we want to solve problem forever," Smailovic said.
How should the RS education ministry handle the parents' demands and meet the rights of ethnic minorities? Give your suggestion below.