Reflection of the migrant crisis in Una-Sana Canton
Inclusion of migrant and refugee children in the education system of Bihać

by Vildana Pečenković, Nermina Delić

Since the end of 2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina has become the most important transit route for migrants and refugees to European Union countries. In that context, a very significant area is the Una-Sana Canton, since it is a borderline with Croatia, moreover, it is an area where the largest number of migrants and refugees have resided in the last three years. Since 2018, the Faculty of Pedagogy at the University of Bihać has implemented several projects aimed at educating migrant and refugee children in Latin script and Bosnian language. The first project was implemented from September to December 2018 in cooperation with the Open Society Foundation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In January 2019, the Faculty of Pedagogy organized an advanced course of Bosnian language. ”Learning BSC Language (education of children located in the centers Sedra and Bira, Bihać)” with the support of UNICEF, was conducted at the Pedagogical Faculty of the University of Bihac, where, with the support of IOM, the children attended Bosnian language classes every day. In addition to education, one group of activities was aimed at facilitating the socialization and integration of refugee / migrant children in the new school environment. Beside 6 teachers, over 50 students were involved in working with children. For students, this was an opportunity to get acquainted with the practical work from the lower years of study, which includes, among other things, the education of children from vulnerable groups, which always brings special challenges and difficulties.

The cooperation between the Faculty of Pedagogy and UNICEF continued on the third project “Learning BCS Language (education of children located in elementary schools in Bihać: Baksais; Prekounje, Harmani II and Brekovica” which was conducted in the period from April to July 2019 in primary schools in Bihać where children from the migration centers” Sedra “, “Bira” and “Borići” attended classes or were involved in preparatory classes.
With this project, after regular classes, or work in preparatory classes, the children attended additional Bosnian language classes every day and were divided into three groups depending on their knowledge of the Bosnian language and Latin script.

Inclusion of migrant children in regular classes from the academic year 2018/19 year in Una-Sana Canton was a challenge faced by schools, teachers and migrants primarily because of the language barrier. Then there is the gap in the continuity of education, given that some children finished two or three grades of primary school and have not been in school for several years, and long-term migrations have led to social deprivation in some. Also, one of the serious difficulties in teaching migrant children and the refugee is that most of these children have been on the road for years, some were born on the road and have not mastered a single script, they use the basics of several languages in oral communication, but they do not have literacy and language skills in any language. Therefore, special attention is paid to the fact that children in school or courses master the Latin alphabet and master the usefulness of the Bosnian language in language activities of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and interaction that enables the development of basic communicative language competence in standard Bosnian.

Education for migrant and refugee children not only provides them with the opportunity to continue learning and develop new capacities and skills but also enables them to receive psychosocial support from teachers, educators, and peer friends. Education in schools is a way to give children a sense of routine and normalcy in everyday life, and the childhood that every child deserves and is entitled to. Even during the pandemic, there was an insistence on exercising this right, so refugee and migrant children housed in temporary reception centers in Una-Sana Canton followed classes online like their peers.