Learning in resistance and freedom

This demolished building, which has already been handed over to time, was once a building of resistance for learning in the Albanian language.

Like this, there are about 3 thousand others who in the 90s paved the way for a new chapter, that of stability in the face of assimilation efforts to alienate the history of Kosovo.

When a school closed, a house opened. Extraordinary conditions did not diminish the goal of education.

The Albanians were ready to respond to the students' desire for learning and the will of the teachers, regardless of the consequences.

Three decades later, when the difficulties for free education are a thing of the past, the challenge of the present is quality in education.

Ganimete Hyseni has been working as a teacher for over thirty years.

She began her profession as a teacher of Albanian language and literature at the time when the Serbian community in Kosovo began to oppose the medium in the Albanian language.

Her work in Plemetin village of Obiliq Municipality with Serbian students every day was challenging. Despite their objections that Albanian voices should not be heard, she did not back down.

"With various provocations, they provoked us. At that time it was also the time of poisonings and I remember many students whose conditions I still have in mind. We have not been good either emotionally, spiritually or physically, we have not been able to hold the lesson as we wanted in those conditions, and the provocations on the other side that made us all made it difficult", said Hyseni.

In 1989, with the removal of autonomy, Kosovo lost executive power over education.

Decisions on school curricula began to be made in Belgrade, while the actions of the Serbian government to prevent learning in the Albanian language intensified.

In order to resist the assimilationist actions of the occupier after a year's break without teaching in 1992, a parallel network of education was created.

About 3.000 private buildings, which were mainly residential houses, replaced the spaces of most high schools and the University of Pristina.

Although there was a notable lack of teaching materials and human resources and obstacles from the Serbian government, teachers and students did not lose their will to continue their mission so that learning in the Albanian language triumphs.

Violent expulsions of students and teachers from educational institutions also took place in the "Aleksandër Xhuvani" gymnasium in Podujevë.

But this did not scare the teachers to continue the learning process in home-schools. Bedri Nishevci, who still works as a teacher, has fresh memories of when he decided to join the resistance.

"We have many experiences, starting with the fact that we kept the diaries hidden, since they were like notebooks, sometimes we put them on our backs, sometimes in our pockets so they wouldn't be seen. How many times have we met with the police, and if the diaries were seized, something bad would have followed, but the will was too great. Truly, that generation of teachers are heroes to me. We worked in very difficult, very difficult conditions", said Nishevci.

Skender Halimi, who is now the director of the "Hilmi Rakovica" school in the capital, was part of the generations of the high school in Podujevë that developed the learning process in unusual conditions.

Despite the difficulties and the lack of conditions, he estimates that during that period he managed to acquire the knowledge and skills in his intellectual development.

"I remember very often we didn't have benches and chairs. We only had some boards, some pieces of concrete or block and we wrote since we didn't have texts, there were very few texts then. We took notes sitting on our knees, or we placed the notebook on each other's back. The one who was in front had to sit on his knees to write and we behind continued to write by placing the notebook on each other's backs", said Halimi.

The house of the Hertics in the neighborhood "Kodra e Trimave" in Pristina has now been transformed into a place for preserving the collective memory of that period.

This is the house that Azemine Ali's family opened its doors in the 90s for the students of the "Sami Frashëri" high school.

Two weeks before they could enjoy the new home they had eagerly awaited, Azemina's father decided to return her to the school premises.

"In the home-school, hours were kept as they are now in state schools with two shifts, from 7:00 to 6:30 the lesson was. There were 300 students in the first shift. Now in the second building there are 300 students. There have also been two economics school guides that my aunt and a cousin have given. However, the lesson continued very well", said Aliu.

Two other relatives acted the same as Azemina's family. However, evidence of the other two houses where the Economic and Technical School taught have remained only in photographs.

The houses have now been converted into living spaces.

Ali blames the institutions for lack of interest to take them under the care of the state and to promote the sacrifice that has been made to organize the parallel system of education.

"I have been a cicerone for 24 years, without any support I tell the story of the school-houses. Until today, we have not had any support in this home-school, no intervention has been made by the state or the municipality", said Aliu.

And the facilities, which served as a temple of knowledge for the high school students of Podujeva, have turned into private businesses.

There is no sign showing the history behind these objects.

Professor Nishevci, who is a sociologist by profession, shows the importance that such objects should be preserved and promoted to the new generations.

"Even the owner who released the object should not be allowed, the state should take measures, either in the form of payment, so that it will be preserved for a long time, so that the next generation can tell them at what levels, in what stories our people have passed. This can serve them as something positive, assess to forget things... Guess what it means if tomorrow the parent takes their children and visits the facilities for which he spent time and today he is a doctor science and academic, and this is a motivation for those children as well", said Nishevci.

In the absence of actions from the governing institutions, a team of students of that time have started the process of identifying and documenting the locations of "home-schools".

Through a project called SpaceSyntaKs, they have created a digital map of spaces that served the organization and development of learning in the home-school system during the 90s in Kosovo.

So far, they have identified 937 school houses, which they have published on the website, where they have also attached the history and some pictures of those spaces.

Now that 16 years have passed since Kosovo lived the dream of freedom, the educational system is faced with completely different challenges from that period, but just as difficult as at that time.

The quality of teaching is fragile, the textbooks have incorrect scientific content and are often inconsistent with the curriculum. And the classrooms continue to be poor with concrete tools for teaching and learning.

In the period of the digital explosion, Ganimete Hyseni continues that the learning process in the classroom takes place in a classical way.

Chalk is still the key tool of a lesson.

Educational institutions still suffer from a lack of technological tools, despite the fact that digitalization is one of the main points of the Education Strategy.

The number of computers that schools have is small per student. According to the data of the Information Management System in Education, one computer is for 35 students.

"As for the space infrastructure, few of us still work with tools that we had even before the war. I remember that we had the same ones, the blackboard, the chalk, the notebook and the book, and we didn't have anything else that motivated the student. Once the students are organized by holding a clock with a projector, the clock is completely different, the attention is different. However, in terms of the infrastructure in the schools, there have been developments, but as far as the teaching process is concerned, there is little, more needs to be done, I said before that we should prioritize education", said Hyseni.

The current state of public educational institutions is disappointing for Azemine Ali. She says that her house, which used to be a school, had a computer and was equipped with central heating, that now some schools lack these elements.

"I'm sorry that the conditions today are not good, those conditions are now like in my house where they used to be, that they learned in home-schools, these conditions are today and I don't see any change neither in the learning process nor in the maintenance not even for anything", said Aliu.

In the PISA test, which is organized every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, the shortcomings of the education system have been revealed.