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Working in a war zone.

American educators lay foundation for democracy with Bosnian teachers.

Sarajevo. Tuzla. Bihac. In these war-ravaged Bosnian cities, seven NEA members recently helped establish the groundwork for democracy, conducting training sessions for Bosnian teachers on civic education.

The two-week courses ran a nonstop six hours a day this past summer. A total of 14 educators covered the philosophical foundations of democracy, modern policy evaluation, policy formation skills, and more.

"This program has given some of the Bosnian teachers the courage to go to their officials and make their voices heard," says Susan Roe, an American history teacher at C.E. Jordan High School in Durham. North Carolina.

"These are the same people who, while under Communist rule, saw those who dared to speak out simply disappear," Roe adds. "I think this program is empowering for them."

Alongside high praise for the program, sponsored by the United States Information Agency and the Center for Civic Education, many team members also acknowledge the tense times during their stay.

"It--the destruction--began as soon as we crossed the Croatian border," says Sharon Moran, who teaches political science at South Windsor High School in Connecticut.

"From Mostar to Sarajevo, all I saw were miles of new graves lining the road," she reports. "Whole villages were destroyed. I couldn't believe it."

Besides the stress of being surrounded by the remnants of a recent war, the American teachers also faced less visible obstacles.

"Our first day with the Bosnian teachers wasn't easy," recalls Joan Beaver, an American history teacher at Minnesota's Stillwater Area High School. "We were worried about saying the wrong thing. They were wary of us, not knowing what we are all about. We were all pretty apprehensive."

But both sides opened up.

"Teachers are teachers," says Beaver. "And no matter where you are, they share one common concern: the well-being of their students."

It's this same concern, says Roe, that drove Bosnian teachers to keep their schools operating for their own students during the course of the war.

"They cut their school year in half," she notes, "but they continued to have classes. Essentially, they crammed more material into less time and worked around the bombs. In those places where the shelling knocked out the electricity, they worked by candlelight."

For Roe, that sort of dedication to education fills her with hope for the future of Bosnia.

"I think education has helped preserve our democracy," she concludes. "And I think it's going to start Bosnia's."

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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:teachers in Bosnia
Author:Cabrera, Alejandro
Publication:NEA Today
Date:Oct 1, 1996
Words:410
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