United World College in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Written by the participants of the TIPSY field study trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina

TIPSY goes Bosnia October 14 – 21, 2018

In October 2018, nine students of TIPSY – Tampere International Global Society Students travelled to Sarajevo for a week-long excursion. The trip was organised with the intent to provide students the opportunity to experience and learn about the post-war reconstruction and democratization efforts of the Western Balkans. We met with local as well as international institutions responsible for the development in the region and visited places of uttermost importance such as Mostar and Srebrenica. The complex and frustrating situation in the country gave us a lot of food for thought and reflection. For the following week, we will publish short reports written by the participants. The students will present a few of the impressions and thoughts that developed during and after the trip. This will include reflections on visits to some local as well as international organisations and historically highly important places or thoughts on other aspects of present-day Bosnia.

The United World College in Mostar

In our last field trip in Bosnia we visited the city of Mostar.  This beautiful city is well known
around the world for its idyllic panoramas of the Neretva river surrounded by mountains and
Ottoman architecture. Another iconic point of Mostar is the Stari Most or Old bridge, which was
destroyed in 1993 during the Croat-Bosnian war and reconstructed in 2004 as a sign of
reconciliation between Croats and Bosniaks.
However, the reconciliation in the city of Mostar has been slow and the resentment and
confrontation are present in the political atmosphere. Mostar is the only city in Bosnia and
Herzegovina not to organize elections since 2012 due to an impasse between the two biggest
political parties and ethnic representatives in the city (Balkan Insight, 2018).

 

The constant presence of division led the United World Colleges (UWC) to establish in 2006 one of
their international high schools in Mostar. The UWC is an international education movement with
17 schools around the world. Their main objective is “to use education as a force to unite people,
nations and cultures for peace and sustainable future” (UWC.org). In that sense, their campus in
Mostar has the commitment not just to educate but being a mediator and a reconciliatory institution.
In our visit to the UWC Mostar, we had the opportunity to see their facilities which they share with
the public high school from Mostar. However, the UWC Mostar is the only school in B&H where
students from different ethnic background (Serbs, Bosnians and Croats) can study together in the
same classrooms. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a detrimental school system named “Two schools
under one roof”. This system allowed children with different ethnic background to go to the same
school but they take classes in separate classrooms. This system disunified the curriculum, and
teaching history of the country is a complicated task. Separating the students according their
religion or ethnic background keep the divisions created after the war alive, nourishing the
nationalism and hate discourses.

UWC Mostar is happy to provide an opportunity to teach Bosnian society the benefits of an
integrative education, where all ethnicities and other international students can coexist and learn
from each other. We listened to Finnish students attending UWC Mostar who told us that it is an
amazing experience for everybody to study in such an environment. They explained that the
students from Bosnia were really happy to have such an opportunity and that many times the
experience is an eye opener from all the social biases in which they grow up.
The work of the UWC Mostar doesn’t stop inside the school. As a part of their reconciliatory duties,
the UWC organizes several events in order to bring the Mostar society together. According to their
public relations representative, the activities organized by the institution are well received by the
local community and usually have a big number of participants. This can happen because the UWC
is seen by Mostar citizens as a neutral organization which they can trust, and at the same time avoid
any political discussion or mistrust among them.

 

For more information you can read their report on the impact of the UWC in Mostar here:
http://uwcmostar.ba/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/KnjigaStudijaUtjecajaENG_SPREADS.pdf

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