Photo: BIRN.

Concerns Arise Over Recruitment of Minority Children by Serbian Schools in Obiliq

BIRN's investigation has brought to light suspicions that Serbian schools in the municipality of Obiliq are recruiting children from minority communities.

At least two children from the minority community in Obiliq have stopped attending their Albanian-language school and switched to the Serbian language system.

Footage filmed on September 21 by BIRN reveals how these students were persuaded to transition to the parallel Serbian language system.

BIRN interviewed three mothers who claimed that they enrolled their children in the Serbian school because they believed it offered better conditions for their children. Additionally, these mothers assert that their families also receive material benefits.

They claim that each of their children receives 50 euros per month, along with free books, meals, and transportation to school, in exchange for choosing the Serbian school. They allege that these benefits originate from Belgrade.

All of this transpired after representatives of the Serbian school visited the homes of Roma community members and inquired if they were interested in enrolling their children in the Serbian school.

“They told us, ‘You can bring your kids if you want, but if not, we cannot take them against your will.’ A month or two passed since we sent the kids there. They saw our conditions, and then they came to us again and said, ‘It is our wish that until your kids turn 18, they will receive money, clothing, and free bus rides,'” said a mother of two children.

They claimed that each of their children receives 50 euros per month, free books, food and transport at school, in exchange for choosing the Serbian school. They claim that these benefits have its origin from Belgrade.

In response to this issue, BIRN reached out to the Directorate of Education in the Municipality of Obiliq.

The Directorate has called upon state authorities to address this matter. Rexhep Zeka, the head of the Directorate of Education in Obiliq, stated that the Director would request reports from the school director and the dropout prevention and response team in order to facilitate the return of the children to their previous school.

However, Zeka mentioned that they do not possess any information regarding the claim made by these mothers about receiving 50 euros per month for each of their children from the Serbian school they currently attend.

“As long as the parent clearly accepts such an arrangement, and if it turns out that the parent is participating in smuggling their child, there are other state bodies that should deal with this issue,” Zeka remarked.

According to Zeka, the recruitment of students from Serbian schools is not solely a municipal problem but rather a national one. He asserted that there is no discrimination against students from the minority community in Albanian schools. The challenge, according to him, lies in ensuring the attendance of minority community students in the educational process.

He also revealed that schools operating in parallel structures do not report directly to the Directorate of Education. Nevertheless, he clarified that this does not imply a complete lack of contact with these schools.

In the meantime, on Thursday, he mentioned that they held a meeting with the council for communities to address the challenges posed by the presence of minority communities in schools.

“Approximately 95 per cent of the Roma community currently pursue their education in parallel structures in the Serbian language, which is neither fair nor permissible. Parents are the ones approaching these schools to address their personal issues,” Zeka emphasized.

and 22/09/2023 - 16:32

22 September 2023 - 16:32

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.