High school students from the Municipality of Jajce in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were selected as the winner of the 2018 Max van der Stoel Award. The award is given in recognition of their outstanding courage and inspirational activism, which led to the prevention of further segregation in schools in Jajce as well as throughout the country.
In the summer of 2016, high school students in Jajce stood up against a cantonal decision to establish a new school solely for Bosniak students. The implementation of this decision would have continued the “two schools under one roof” practice of ethnically segregated schools in the country, further deepening the estrangement between the communities. The Jury made the unanimous decision to reward the students from Jajce, represented by the Student Council of the Secondary Vocational School Jajce, with the 2018 Max van der Stoel Award. The members of the jury acknowledged the tenacity, moral authority and bravery of the students and recognized the need to nurture their quest for inclusive and better quality education.
Commenting on its decision, the international Jury, chaired by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Lamberto Zannier, stated:
“These students from Jajce had the courage to define their own needs and priorities. They are best placed to identify and advocate for ways to create a more harmonious environment for themselves as they prepare for their future. Their achievement followed a year-long battle against further segregation to divide them along ethnic lines. It is an unprecedented victory and deserves to be widely promoted as a positive example of how non-formal groups with limited resources can achieve progress where formal channels failed. While it is the responsibility of the state to ensure inclusive and high-quality education with respect to diversity, combating segregation and discrimination must be an imperative for all of us in order to build sustainable peace. The achievement of the high school students in Jajce serves as an inspirational example.”
The Award – named after the distinguished Dutch statesman and first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, – in the amount of 50,000 euros was established by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001. It is awarded biennially to an individual, group or institution in recognition of extraordinary and outstanding achievements aimed at promoting integration and social cohesion in the OSCE participating States.
The Award ceremony will take place in The Hague on 9 November 2018.