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UK BG: making a difference in the community

By Capt. Vance White
with files from Lt. Tom Edwards

First published in
SFOR Informerr#127, November 28, 2001

Teachers, students and parents in Bosanska Gradiska see the benefits of co-operation between the Municipality, Republika Srpska (RS) Government, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and SFOR as much needed renovations to Danilo Borkovic School nears completion.

Bosanska Gradiska - Sgt. Mike Ryan, the Project Officer at the UK BG Civilian-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) representative in Bosanska Gradiska, has been hard at work co-ordinating this project which has delivered significant building improvements for the school. They include repairing masonry, replacing external doors and windows, gutters and down pipes, painting and even installing a new fire alarm system.
A criterion of the CIDA programme is to encourage the local beneficiary to contribute monies as well. The RS Minister for Education committed more than 39,000 KM to paint and to improve classroom flooring, while the CIDA programme provided more than 68,000 KM.
With the work almost completed, teachers, student and parents are taking an active role in the school. In fact, in one grade 2 classroom, parents have agreed to provide their own money to purchase desks. The children will stay in the same classroom for at least two years, so the parents know that their children will continue to receive the benefits of their personal donations. Parents are also donating their time to paint murals on classroom walls, under the direction of the art teacher, to personalise areas of the school.
"A mutual trust is being built between the school and the parents," said the school's Headmaster, Mr. Milos Francuz, who agreed that Bosnia and Herzegovina will be rebuilt by its youth. "A lot can be achieved with this new relationship."
Such an initiative is very important, especially in this multi-ethnic school that has students and teachers from Bosnian-Serb, Bosnian-Croat and Bosniac backgrounds. About 75 of the 800 students (aged 7-15) are from ethnic minority families.
"It is very encouraging to see the school working for the future of the country by providing a nice school and good environment," said Maj. Gen. Tonie Van Diepenbrugge, Commander MND(SW), during a recent visit. "The school is making a difference by focusing on the youth in BiH, not on religious backgrounds."
The project has given the school a new lease on life. Staff and students alike are proud of the new school. With the improved facilities and as families return to the area, the school expects an increase in the number of enrolments for the next school year.
The current work continues, a refurbishment project previously undertaken with a 17,000 KM contribution from the municipality and local businesses. In past years, the school had suffered considerable deterioration due to a lack of maintenance. To ensure the school maintains its new look and that the work wasn't completed in vain, the next step is to replace the roof and take steps to control graffiti and vandalism of the school premises by the surrounding residents. That way the students will continue to receive education in an environment they are entitled to enjoy.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: UK