Bosnia soothes student fears

November 10, 1995

Bosnian students who fled the country to avoid the fighting will not be compelled to serve in the armed forces against their will, according to the Bosnian ministry of defence.

An official of the ministry announced that a new law on the demobilisation of students was being prepared as students met in Graz, Austria, to discuss their problems with representatives of the Bosnian government.

Minister of education Enes Karic told the meeting that it was vital for the future of Bosnia that students who fled abroad returned to participate in the country's reconstruction.

Dr Karic welcomed a resolution adopted at the congress to link up all students living abroad with the Student Union of Bosnia and Hercegovina, which is based in Sarajevo, to protect the interests of Bosnian students at home and abroad. It is hoped that the student union will improve the flow of information between students and the government, putting the latter in a better position to consider new proposals.

"Bosnian students and also academics are spread all over the world in a new form of diaspora," Wolfgang Benedek, chairman of World University Service Austria, told the meeting. "I would like to emphasise that, with a few exceptions, most have faced great difficulties continuing their studies, and there are still a considerable number of students who have not yet found a way to do so."

At least among Bosnians in Austria, the will to return appears to be strong. A study conducted among 158 Bosnian students at Austrian higher education institutions revealed that 93 per cent of them were considering returning. Forty-two per cent said that human rights and freedom were the chief requirements for their return, while one third of them referred to appropriate employment prospects as a precondition. The survey was conducted by WUS Austria together with Bosnian students in Graz. The information will be used to pinpoint requirements for assistance measures for students wishing to return.

WUS support for Bosnian students to continue their education abroad aims chiefly at helping their country by having educated academics when the war is over and reconstruction starts.

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