Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Education in a Recovering Nation: Renewing Special Education in Kosovo

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Education in a Recovering Nation: Renewing Special Education in Kosovo

Article excerpt

In recent years, a number of nations have had their education services and schools disturbed by internal dissension and/or war. Therefore, there is increasing professional and public interest in the redevelopment of education in such nations and in ways through which stability may be restored to schools, schooling, and the administration of education services. Examples of successful restoration can provide insights into how this can be done. The state of special education in Kosovo after the establishment of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) as an interim administration is described as an example of how this was attempted in one "recovering nation." (We use the official UNMIK spelling of place-names throughout this article.)

Specifically, the roles of its Department of Education and Science (DES), its international and Kosovar staff, and Kosovar school personnel in re-establishing education for children who are deaf and vision impaired are described as examples of how this was attempted in Kosovo.

KOSOVO IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Kosovo is a rich, fertile tableland of 11,000 km in the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. Its rich (agriculture, minerals, and forests have made it a contested territory throughout its long history Malcolm, 1999). For centuries, war and conflict have been endemic throughout the area. During the late Roman Empire, it was part of the province of Dardania. Invaded by Slavs from the northern Caucasus in the 6th and 7th Centuries, it became part of the Serbian states of Zeta and Raska. Following the defeat of the Serbs at the battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, it was swept into the Ottoman Empire. It remained an Ottoman possession for 500 years until the Turks were overthrown in a popular uprising at the end of the 19th Century.

The Treaty of London of 1913 determined that Serbia should administer Kosovo, and an independent state was created in and around the current nation of Albania. The formality of this administration tightened in 1918 after the Treaty of Versailles mandated that Kosovo be part of the "Kingdom of the Seths, Croats and Slovenes" (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929). Soon after Communist Yugoslavia was established in 1943, Kosovo became an "autonomous province" of Serbia within the Yugoslavian confederation.

Across the centuries, the mix of Albanian and Serbian residents had shifted toward an Albanian majority. The mix had not developed happily, and Albanian sources indicate that in the second half of the 20th Century, Albanian Kosovars were subjected to systematic repression, especially after the ideological dissociation within the Communist bloc in 1948 (Malcolm, 1999). Since the First World War, Albanian Kosovars had identified increasingly with fellow Muslims and had been encouraged by an essentially Serbian administration to move out of Kosovo. Approximately 100,000 did so in the interwar period, moving mainly to Turkey and Albania (Malcolm). The important role that formal education plays in social cohesion had begun its dreadful disintegration decades before the hostilities between Serbs and Albanians broke out into the atrocities of systematic murder, rape, and ethnic cleansing that filled our television and Internet screens in 1998.

KOSOVO AND THE UNITED NATIONS ADMINISTRATION AFTER NATO

Following the NATO intervention in 1999 and the Yugoslav Army's withdrawal, UNMIK was set up to provide an interim operational government. An armed United Nation's peacekeeping force, the Kosovo Force (KFOR), was established alongside this civil administration. UNMIK's mandate was very specific. It included seeking autonomous self-government for and by all the people of Kosovo, and the first UNMIK Secretary-General, Bernard Kushner, set an ambitious timeframe to accomplish this within 5 years. The major part of UNMIK's civilian budget in 1999-2000 was committed to education. There was much to be done to reconstruct buildings, provide infrastructure, and re-establish a professional body of teachers following the civil dislocation and devastation associated with the Seth and Albanian conflict. …

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