Riikka Karttunen and Lara Savenije (UWCiM 08-10)
December started with a huge shock; our whole school was in disbelief. After our Monday morning assembly, some students walked out with tears in their eyes and others could not get a word out of their mouths for the whole day. In the corridors, the most common sentence heard was “This can’t happen.”
That morning, we, the students at UWC in Mostar, were told that our school had very serious financial problems and that the Executive Board had decided not to enroll a new generation of students for the next school year. Under the circumstances, the board had to choose between the four following models: a complete closure of the school; continuing but losing our status as a UWC; continuing but decreasing the number of first-years, with the possibility of still not having enough funds; or lastly, taking a generation gap while a more sustainable financial model for the school is developed. Since closure is rather undesirable and the amount of money needed for a new generation was seemingly out of reach, the last option was chosen.
As you can imagine, we as students were shocked by this. With all due respect, we can comprehend the board’s decision in light of the financial crisis; however, we feel that we cannot accept it without trying our utmost to find the required funds needed for a new generation.
We feel that UWC in Mostar is so unique that it genuinely deserves the chance to continue. In the world we live in now, UWC is needed in post conflict places like Bosnia-Herzegovina. Isn’t the UWC mission statement to unite people, nations and cultures through education? UWC’s mission is precisely fulfilled within the walls of UWCiM. “This school does not only provide students from the Balkans a chance to make direct contact with other cultures, but also an opportunity for a better further education, something very difficult to come by,” says Milana Kuzmonovic, a Serbian Bosnian. Under normal circumstances, Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are seperated into different educational systems. The fact that these three ethnic groups go to the same classes, live in the same rooms and become the best of friends, is a big step for Bosnia and Herzegovina and a realistic sumbol of hope for their future. Furthermore, UWC in Mostar is the only school in Bosnia Herzegovina where this happens. Also, local teachers are supported by the existence of UWCiM as they too are being integrated in the school, improving their own methods through the IB program. In addition to school, just by living in a city like Mostar, we make daily changes in the lives of Mostar’s residents. Not only through our CAS-activities are we a part of the city’s every day life, but we also integrate with the students in our shared Gymnasia building, as our school is just one of three different schools using the same facility. We invite them to activities which we organize and give them the chance to be in a multicultural surrounding in a city and a country that is based on ethnic and cultural divisions.
For us students, closure of the school is not an option, and a generation gap feels like a step backward. UWCiM is a young school, existing for only two and a half years. All the activities created, all the traditions instilled and hard work done, suddenly feel useless when we realize that we won’t be able to pass on that experience to a new generation of our own first years. We would love to teach them all about our school and its challenges, as well as help them to be inspired and educated by these experiences as we have been. This second stage of the UWC experience is crucial if we are to reach our potential and continue to heal the ethnic wounds so engrained in this country.
Already, several student meetings concerning the school’s future have been held and throughout our Winter Break we have been working on a portfolio which contains information about student life, CAS activities, and other important successes which can be distributed to potential donors. We’re working on press releases, letters to National Committees, and supporting the Development Task Force which is being formed to determine how the school will function financially in the future.
We know there are no easy solutions for our situation, but we hope that as a fellow member of our UWC family, you too feel the necessity of UWCiM’s continuance and success. No matter what happens, we feel the spirit in our school and we do not want to give up. If you feel you are in a place to help out in some way, please contact us. Visit our website http://www.uwc-ibo.org for more information or send an email Lara Savenije, a students from the Netherlands (firstname.lastname@example.org) and also our Head Teacher Paul Regan is willing to answer all your questions (email@example.com). We are thankful for any support you can give us.
– United World College Student Magazine –