Divided by Time: Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Student protesters against religious segregation

Imagine going to school everyday and meeting your best friend in the metal detector line. You say “Hi,” ask how their day is going, and then go in the completely opposite direction, not seeing them for the rest of the day. You both take the same classes and have lunch at the same time, so why don’t you see them? It’s because your school is religiously segregated and while you are Christian, your best friend is Muslim, so you cannot go to school with them. Some might wonder, “Does this even happen in today’s society?” The answer is yes. In the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, although a civil war ended 22 years ago, students continue to be segregated by their religion in school.

Despite the fact that legislation was passed in 2014 banning this type of segregation, many schools find systematic loopholes to separate students. Rather than being separated by space, students are now being separated by time. Now the school day takes place in shifts. The morning shift might be occupied by Christian students and the afternoon shift taken by Muslim students, and vice versa. I interviewed a Muslim student who lives in Stolac, Bosnia to get a firsthand glimpse into this segregation. She said that “Well, in my high school [we have] been [in a] similar situation when we talk about segregation… I don’t know if you ever heard of the term ‘two schools under one roof,’ so in my school [it] has been that students were separated into two shifts. One shift Croatian, Catholic students and they have their school plan and program, and one shift Bosnian, Muslim students with a different plan and program. We were separated, one religion didn’t interact with the other one.”

This religious animosity began in 1992 when the Serbs(a majority Orthodox Christian country) infiltrated Bosnia (a majority Muslim country) and began the Bosnian war. The Serbian soldiers committed terrible acts of ethnic cleansing and at one point murdered 7,000-8,000 Muslim men and boys. Although tensions have calmed down since the war ended in 1995, in the smaller communities of Bosnia many families still segregate themselves from others based on religion. According to a study done by Pew Research Center, “Among Bosnian Muslims, 93% say most, if not all, of their close friends are Muslim.”  Clearly, religious segregation continues among Bosnians, even twenty years after the Balkan War.