SUN, 11 NOV 2001 23:31:46 GMT
AIM Mitrovica, November 3, 2001
In addition to the start of campaigning for upcoming general elections
in Kosovo, another issue dominated in the province in October --
education. The concrete issue was whether Serb students would continue
to study in Kosovo, or would continue to do what they have been doing
for the past two and a half years: pursue their degrees in various
universities elsewhere in Serbia, as students of Pristina University.
All the sides involved had their dilemmas, and the result is still
unclear. The Serb community spoke of the "University of Pristina,"
alluding to continuity with the time when the university was located in
Kosovo's capital, and mentioned the "return to Pristina University."
Kosovo Albanian representatives saw this as plans to form an underground
institution, in violation of U.N. Resolution 1244. International
administrators made contradictory moves: they initially allowed the
opening of a university in the northern part of Mitrovica, and then said
they would not support underground institutions...
Still, on Oct. 22, a ceremony marking the opening of the
Serbian-language educational facility in northern Mitrovica was held,
where courses at the School of Law, School of Philosophy, and School of
Art began. The School of Art is located in Zvecan, and the Schools of
Law and Philosophy in Mitrovica. On the occasion, freshmen were issued
their student booklets.
The possibility that university courses in Serbian would be organized in
Kosovo again was mentioned for the first time last April, but only as an
aside at press conferences. At the time, Serbs in Kosovo could hardly
believe that something like that was possible at all. Students from
elsewhere in Serbia enrolled at the "University of Pristina" and their
parents had a hard time accepting the aspirations of Kosovo's Serbs.
They were against having their schools transferred back to Kosovo,
stressing their point by organizing protests and blocking roads. They
did not want to go to Kosovo where they would feel unsafe. But their
slogans, "We aren't going to Kosovo," "Who will guarantee our safety,"
and others, only made Kosovo Serbs angry. In a poll taken in northern
Mitrovica they responded to a question asking them whether they believed
students in Serbia were right to protests by saying: "They should be
ashamed of themselves; what about us who remain here, are we not human?"
or, "It's a university that belongs to Kosovo, as its name says. If they
don't like it, they don't have to come here"; "I have a six-year old
child here, and I am not the only one with a child. Am I crazy? My
child's life is not important and their's is. They don't have to come
here, but our university should return." Certain professors, however,
joined the protest by signing a petition against the return of the three
schools to Kosovo.
Realizing the situation was getting out of control, a member of the
coordinating center for Kosovo, Marko Jaksic, told the press that "a
campaign is underway against the return of Pristina University to
northern Kosovo," and that "many lies have been told to prevent the
return." Ljubica Mandic, a professor at the Law School, which was
located in Vranje, expressed her outrage over what certain students and
professors were willing to do to keep the school in the southern Serbian
town. "Certain students forced their colleagues to sign a petition
against returning to northern Kosovo, and at a session of the teachers
council, 95 percent of those present were against this decision," Mandic
said. She added that those who opposed return were mostly people coming
from other regions, hired three to four years ago. On Aug. 30 the first
session of the council of Serb teachers at the School of Mining and
Metallurgy was held in northern Mitrovica, and it was decided that
courses in Serbian would begin in Mitrovica, Zvecan and Zubin Potok.
University president Gojko Savic said the university administration
office was being transferred to Mitrovica, that they would be ready in
two weeks, and that it was up to the Serbian government to give students
facilities that were part of the YU Program. He added that mobile
classrooms would also be installed. At the same meeting it was agreed
that next year the Schools of Medicine, Mathematics and Agriculture
would also reopen.
Representatives of the Student Union of the School of Law visited the
northern half of Mitrovica to check safety conditions and were pleased
with what they found. But a president of the students' alliance of the
School of Law, after the Serbian government's Oct. 15 decision that the
headquarters of Pristina University will be moved temporarily to
Kosovska Mitrovica, and that students who do not want to study in Kosovo
could transfer to other schools in Serbia, again organized a blockade of
roads. School of Law Student Union representatives accused the dean,
Slobodan Barac, of "exerting pressure on certain students to protest,
blackmailing them over exams," and said the president of the Law School
Student Alliance was the dean's "puppet." At the next session of the
teachers' council on Oct. 17, the beginning of the school year was
postponed for Oct. 22.
The same day the Student Union organized a rally in front of the School
of Mining and Metallurgy building, demanding an end to protests in
Serbia. The result was that classes finally began at the end of October.
Now it remains to be seen how the story will end, given the position of
international representatives in Kosovo. UNMIK head Hans Haekkerup said
the university will not be recognized by the U.N. administration, that
it was illegal and that UNMIK did not issue a permit for its operation.
Michael Daksner, international administrator of Pristina University,
said in and interview there was only one Pristina University and it was
the one he headed, and that everything else was a forgery. UNMIK
spokesperson in Kosovska Mitrovica Gjorgji Kakuk said no agreement on
Serbian-language courses had been reached, but that it was known the
university will be under UNMIK's patronage, that its diplomas will be
recognized in Europe, that UNMIK will finance it, that is, that it will
be funded by Kosovo's budget. Serb professors and their university
president say the opposite: that the university will be funded by the
Serbian Education Ministry, and that like in the case of all other
universities in Serbia, its diplomas will be recognized in Europe. UNMIK
spokeswoman Susan Manuel explained away Haekkerup's latest statement by
saying that no underground institutions will be tolerated in Kosovo as
due to the fact that negotiations on organizing a university in northern
Kosovo had not ended yet.
It is not known as yet whether the talks between Haekkerup and the
government in Belgrade aimed at convincing Kosovo Serbs to vote on Nov.
17, tackled the issue of education. The fact is that Serb students are
attending classes at the mentioned schools without any hindrance. They
are not bothered by the absence of an UNMIK permit, and that their
classes and facilities are considered illegal. One professor recently
said: "The most important thing is that courses have begun; whether they
are recognized by UNMIK or not is UNMIK's problem."