Bosnia and Herzegovina: Overview of the Education Sector, Technical Report 2

Review of the education system in the Republika Srpska

Bosnia and Herzegovina



2.1 Political Context

(15) The present constitution of the country has as its origin Annex IV of the Dayton Agreement, which ended the war in BiH (see OHR, 1996). Under the constitution, Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two "Entities", the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. The central Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina retains only those functions that enable it to act as the Government of the internationally recognized State of Bosnia and Herzegovina; other functions, including education, science and culture, are transferred to the Fed.BiH and RS. For Fed.BiH, the Agreement further provides for a high degree of autonomy at the local level, to be exercised by cantonal government, which assume responsibility for educational policy, legislation, and content. The Peace Accords do not impose any similar measures of decentralization on RS, whose authorities have tended to opt for greater degrees of centralization than were prevalent before the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

(16) In spite of a difficult situation, the implementation of the Dayton Agreement has occurred progressively. Progress has been made to create central organs of Government, which are responsible for foreign affairs, foreign trade, customs policy, some legislation matters, monetary policy, common communication facilities, inter-entity transportation, air-traffic control and common financial obligations. General elections were held under the supervision of the OSCE and the protection of IFOR troops and concluded on 14 September 1996 with the election of the new collective presidency of the central BiH government. The presidency consists of three co-presidents representing the three principal ethnic groups: Mr. Alija Izetbegovic (Bosnian Muslim), Mr. Momcilo Krajisnik (Bosnian Serb) and Mr. Kresimir Zubak (Bosnian Croat). The proposed Constitution foresees a rotating post of "APresident of the Presidency" but, as a transition measure for the first two years (until the next elections in 1998), the senior post will be held by Mr. Izetbegovic. Central legislative responsibility is exercised by the Parliamentary Assembly, comprising two chambers. The House of Peoples consists of fifteen delegates, two-thirds from the Federation (five Bosnian Croats and five Bosnian Muslims) and one-third Serb from Republika Srpska. The House of Representatives consists of forty-two members, one-third from Republika Srpska and the rest from the Federation. The presidency members decided on 30 November 1996 to establish a State Government, called the Council of Ministers, to be headed by two co-chairmen, a Bosnian Muslim and a Bosnian Serb, who alternate in the job of chairman on a weekly basis, and one vice-chairman, a Bosnian Croat. Three ministries have been created: Foreign Affairs; Civil affairs and Communications; and Foreign Trade and Economic Affairs. Each minister has a vice-minister from the other two ethnic groups. (Cf. Annex 6.1.)

(17) Within BiH two different forms of organization for education currently exist. Under the Dayton Agreement, cantonal authorities are being organized in ten cantons of Fed. BiH. Each canton is to contain several municipalities. Each canton elects its own legislature and sets up a cantonal government with persons occupying posts of cantonal ministers. By contrast, the RS has adopted a political and administrative structure that is more centralized. The main political organs of government for the entity are concentrated at Pale; most of the major administrative organizations are based at Banja Luka, a larger city that served as an administrative centre prior to independence and the outbreak of hostilities. Instead of a cantonal structure, local government is in the hands of municipalities [which may include various villages or settlements] that report directly to the central authorities.

(18) Officially 64 municipalities exist in RS, but not all have an operating administration at present. According to information given to the mission by Mr. Ostojic, the philosophy of governmental organization adopted by the RS is based in large measure upon having a small central organization of political governance which acts primarily through "republic institutions" in dealing with matters at the local levels. The mission visited one such institution, the Republic Pedagogical Institute, whose structure and organization are described below. The mission also visited a few municipal governments, which exercised certain responsibilities with respect to education up to secondary level, such as providing for student transport and paying for school maintenance and heating. Universities have a status at the entity-wide level and report through other mechanisms to the Government, also described below.

(19) The RS Government is still in the process of developing and implementing new administrative systems for the entity. For this reason, the description of administrative structures given in this report should be treated as provisional in many respects.

2.2 Economic and Social Context

2.2.1 Pre-war period: Overview of BiH economic situation

(20) The population of BiH before the war was 4.4 million, with annual demographic growth of less than 1 % and a dependency rate of 55 %. About 1,050,000 persons, or 24 % of the total population, were employed in non-agricultural sectors of the economy. Of these, some 480,000 were engaged in the industrial, mining and energy sectors, which consisted of 1,550 enterprises. The most important branches in terms of employment were mining (31,000 employees), hydro-electric (20,000), non-ferrous metal (6,600) and oil refining (3,300). The remaining sectors employed something less than 600,000 persons.

(21) The main characteristics of the industrial sector were intensive capital investment, specialization in the first stages of processing mineral resources (e.g. coal, aluminum-oxide, chemical products and steel) and a high level of depreciation (65 %).

(22) The breakdown in 1991 of the total active population according to educational qualifications was:

13 % university or other higher education
20 % secondary school
5 % primary school
7 % highly skilled workers or technicians
40 % skilled and semi-skilled workers
15 % unskilled workers

(23) In the pre-war period and particularly in the 1980s, unemployment caused by a growing surplus of manpower in relation to the economy's absorption capacity was a serious problem. According to the last existing pre-war data (1991) and in spite of constant emigration from BiH, approximately 27 % of the non-agricultural labour force was unemployed. It is estimated that during the same period more than a third (approximately 14,000) of secondary-school graduates and a higher percentage of university graduates faced unemployment upon completion of their studies. No estimates exist for the underemployment of persons holding jobs in inefficient and marginal enterprises of the socialist economy.

(24) The break-up of the former Yugoslavia led to the loss of BiH's traditional markets and consequently to a dramatic drop in the output of its main export-oriented sectors, such as metallurgy, coal and aluminium. A new economic development policy for the industrial sector was developed in order to address over-capacity in certain basic industries and under-capacity in production of consumer goods. The implementation of this policy was interrupted by the war.

2.2.2 Current economic situation: BiH as a whole

(25) Major international sources provide economic information on BiH as a whole with only very rare mentions of data separately for the Republika Srpska. Although the UNESCO mission was not in a position to gather economic data systematically, the backdrop of current major trends for the whole country makes it possible to comment on the general structure of socio-economic needs in RS and their likely impact upon education. [Those requiring detailed economic data should consult the major international donor agency publications cited in this report.]

(26) A recent report by the European Commission and the Central Europe Department of the World Bank provides an overview for the whole country that bears the subtitle "From Emergency to Sustainability". The following extract from the executive summary sets the tone :

A year after Dayton, the first results of peace and reconstruction, and return to normal life are beginning to emerge, especially in the Federation....reconstruction needs remain vast and economic activity remains at low levels. Industrial production is still only at 10-15% of its pre-war level, half of the labour force is unemployed, incomes are low, and the social safety net that exists is almost entirely dependent on donor support. ...Although war damage was less in Republika Srpska, sanctions and resulting lack of donor assistance have meant costly delays in much-needed reconstruction. (EC & IBRD, 1996)

2.2.3 Human dimensions of the current crisis in BiH

Pre-war population


Estimated dead


Of whom children killed


Disabled from war injuries


Survivors of war


Of whom refugees and internally displaced persons


refugees currently in other countries


Persons receiving emergency food from UNHCR & WFP


Persons still internally displaced in BiH 1997


total now in BiH who have suffered displacement


(27) The whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a humanitarian disaster area where the toll in human suffering will last for many years after economic conditions begin to show signs of sustained recovery. The human losses and misery are symbolized by a few estimates on the current situation in BiH:


(28) Out of the original population of BiH, approximately 3.9 million survived the war. Of the survivors, 2.5 million or nearly 65 % were driven out of, or fled from, their homes. Of the latter, one million left the country. Of those remaining in BiH, it is estimated that 50% suffered displacement at one time or another. Even today, one out of every three inhabitants is still living as a displaced person. (See also Annex 6.7).

(29) The personal implications of displacement of populations combined with economic paralysis can be seen in the fact that nearly two-thirds of the population has been receiving emergency food aid from UNHCR. The gradual revival of economic life is expected to reduce the rate of dependency on food aid, but the anticipated return of refugees from abroad (and the possibility of arrival of refugees from other troubled areas) will add new persons in need of special assistance for transition.

(30) Housing conditions are of particular importance to education because of the immediate impact on families, children, students, and educational personnel. Damage and destruction are particularly important in areas near front lines, but much additional deterioration has resulted from the combination between movement of populations and lack of maintenance of the building stocks. The figures currently available on housing damage are:

Fed.BiH Damaged




RS Damaged




(31) The disastrous cumulative effect of all these factors on families, children and youth, is best described by a survey conducted during the war under UNICEF sponsorship: over 65% of school children in Sarajevo indicated they had been in a situation where they were certain they would die. Such results can be extrapolated to most children living in or near any of the many war zones.

2.2.4 The social and human crisis in the Republika Srpska

(32) The situation in BiH as a whole, as just described, provides a nuanced vision of an extreme humanitarian crisis which has been reduced through diligent effort by many persons and organizations. The human suffering continues and the needs far outstrip available aid efforts, but there is a collective sense that years of effort are finally beginning to have a visible effect: in at least some respects, the situation is improving. The phrase "From Emergency to Sustainability" indicates a clear sense that a second phase is beginning.

(33) For a complex set of reasons, including international sanctions and the refusal of RS authorities to collaborate in certain international aid efforts, the situation in the Entity shows few signs of the modest amelioration described for the country as a whole. For much of the population of RS, the situation resembles closely that of the remainder of the country a year earlier.

(34) The very factors that have impeded recovery in RS also make it difficult to provide reliable quantitative indicators of the current social and economic situation. The following comments are subject to extreme caution but correspond to the situation as observed by those participating in the current review.

(35) The reported recovery of employment and of industrial activity in BiH appears to have occurred mainly in Fed. BiH. The near paralysis of most sectors of the economy of RS appears to be continuing almost unabated, i.e. at levels similar to those prevailing in all of BiH in 1994-95: unemployment around 90%, and industrial production almost non-existent. The implications of having only 10%-20% employment are best understood in terms of the estimated average monthly wage of about 120 dinars, roughly 35 DM, in mid-1996.

(36) Sources such as UNHCR Repatriation Information Reports from localities in RS tend to confirm this appreciation (see UNHCR, 1996). A report on Banja Luka, the main regional centre for a considerable portion of what is present-day Republika Srpska, indicates in late 1996 the following picture of economic activity in the largest urban centre of the entity:

Pre-war population


Pre-war employment


Present population


of whom
Refugees and displaced persons


Currently employed







(37) Population pressures on the job market are rapidly increasing. An anticipated 425,000 soldiers have been or are being demobilized across the country: 245,000 in Fed. BiH and 180,000 in RS. Large numbers of widows of soldiers killed during the war are also in search of employment to care for their families. The following table gives some figures of the population displacements in RS:

Population movements in the Republika Srpska

Population of RS (1991)


Population of RS (1993)


Resettled, displaced and refugees (1993)


Refugees and displaced in RS (1996)*


Refugees from RS registered in Serbia (1996)*


Estimated population if refugees in Serbia return to RS (1996)*

* Estimates for 1996-97

1,480,000- 1,650,000

Source: Basic Facts about Education System of Republic of Srpska. Banja Luka, July 1996.

(38) The direct and indirect consequences of the war are particularly difficult to estimate in rural areas because of sparse settlement patterns and problems of communication. During the field work in RS, members of the review team visited a war-damaged municipality (i.e. near the inter-entity demarcation lines) in a difficult mountain area. The majority of the population appeared to live in isolated farms and villages where they were dependent upon agricultural pursuits. The impact of war on a traditional way of life was overwhelming. In response to our questions, the municipal representatives said that farms in their administrative district had 11,000 head of cattle prior to the outbreak of war; the current figure was approximately 300. Of several thousand head of sheep, almost none survived the hostilities.

(39) In spite of a gradual decline in numbers, approximately 10,000 displaced persons and refugees still live in some 66-70 collective centres. The majority of those remaining are elderly, but younger persons (including some children) are still in such facilities. Most collective centres are located in school buildings, which reduces available classroom space and often requires schools to operate with two or three shifts. Events in nearby countries may result in sudden new surges. During the period when the mission was conducted, particular concern was expressed by UNHCR staff regarding the possibility that as many as 60,000 - 70,000 refugees might arrive in RS from Croatian Eastern Slavonia in late winter and early spring of 1997.