Albanian control of faculties restored

March 5, 1999

As the Kosovo peace talks in Rambouillet, France, dragged on, Serbian authorities last month handed back three more faculties - law, economics and arts - of the University of Pristina to Albanian-speaking staff and students.

The transfer is part of an agreement signed by the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia in September 1996 that re-recognised the Albanian language and agreed to the university's return.

Serbs had taken over Pristina, a bilingual university (80 per cent Albanian, 20 per cent Serbian), in 1991 forcing Albanians to found their own "underground" university in its place.

But the first three faculties re-occupied under the agreement last June are still operating under difficult conditions.

Ilir Limani, dean of the electrical engineering faculty, said: "The building was severely damaged when we took over electrical engineering, architecture and civil engineering last year."

"Everything had been taken by the Serbs - all the laboratory equipment, for example. There was broken glass everywhere (subsequently the Serbs did agree to repair the windows), files and books were strewn all over the floor in the library. All the technical manuals and many books and journals were stolen. Now we just have a few journals subscribed to privately by lecturers.

"There is no telephone in the building. We ordered phones to be installed in June, but, as we are not in the Serbian university system, we are not considered Serb subjects and our application was refused," said the dean.

"Compared to learning in the private houses, as we were before, of course, we now have much more space, and conditions are better, but we are still semi-legal. "Our faculty has 800 students and 60 lecturers but we still have no laboratories and are learning just from books."

Fear of violence has meant that Pristina's once-thriving student cafe culture, once a crucial means of letting off steam, is on hold. After 6pm the streets are deserted and most cafes empty because of the recent spate of bomb and grenade attacks. "We have TV parties now instead," joked one student. "We go to each other's homes in the evening to watch the news and discuss the war. We don't listen to music any more."

The Serbs have yet to allow Albanian-speaking students back into the faculties of medicine, philology, philosophy, mathematical and natural sciences, agriculture, physical culture, mining and metallurgy. Students are also barred from colleges of higher education in six towns.

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