A strange, confusing and disturbing publication of about seventy pages appeared on the Ministry of Education of Sarajevo Canton’s website at the beginning of the last week of 2023. It is entitled Toward SAFER learning: Reforming Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary education in Sarajevo Canton.
Due to the lack of transparency and the quality of the content, citizens should be worried – and the University of Sarajevo should ask why it was humiliated in this way.
The publication is a collective act of violence against language and transparency, in which the following people are implicated: three Western “wise men,” the Mulalić Foundation – whose role and motives are unclear – and an NIP (1) minister, Naida Hota-Muminović. (To use the term “three wise men" is a nice joke, because the release of the publication coincided with Christmas. The citizens of Sarajevo would better understand what it’s about if they imagine three Mekki Torabis (2) who claim to cure our deathly sick education.)
The publication, released in Bosnian by the Ministry, is an unsigned translation of the original publication by Christopher Jones, Ziauddin Sardar and Scott Jordan. The editor's note wasn’t signed either, so it’s impossible to determine responsibility for the content without more details.
The publishers of the English version are the Mulalić Foundation for Excellence in Education, Entrepreneurship and Social Activism (founded in 2022), and the Center for Post-Normal Studies and Studies of the Future, which are not mentioned in the publication.
Why and how this cooperation came about is unknown to the public. We might at some point get the answers to why the NIP minister decided to entrust the education strategy to the foundation of a domestic construction company (Mulalić Foundation), and not to the University of Sarajevo. How did that decision and cooperation come about, who concluded that the cure for the abnormal is post-normal – and all during an aggressive campaign that the minister is announcing? (By the way, teachers and media, beware, you will be responsible if anything goes wrong!)
In short, the authors are renowned futurists, proponents of the so-called study of the future, born from the solid and healthy tree of postmodern relativism. Therefore, they think of science charlatanically – sometimes with respect and sometimes with suspicion – mixing in the concepts of (non)linearity, chaos, center... The style of the entire publication is saturated with phraseology that impresses only mediocrity. Truth be told, the discussion with professors Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar (hereinafter MCB), based only on this translation, is not fair. It’s difficult to distinguish what’s the original fog and what’s the translation smoke. When you read in spite of increasings ignorance (instead of in spite of increasing ignorance), you suspect that Srećko Šojić did the proofreading. Is education really written in lower case in the title of the English original, or is it God's hand that intervened here, to show how much the Ministry of Education values education on a symbolic level?
Anyway, the main theses can in fact be reconstructed.
The publication begins by sowing fear and panic. The future is uncertain, the world is a threat, it’s necessary to secure yourself, and this can only be done with SAFER education. We are threatened by “gray slime – chaos multiplies and contradictions abound, sophisticated bullying is the cause of an increasing number of teenage suicides, and the current education system does not adequately serve our students, leaving them unprepared for the challenges of the twenty-first century.”
For now, let it be noted that as an illustration of the threat, examples are used only from the so-called Western world (USA, EU), where ethics is a victim of industrialization, while the feudal side of the world is not mentioned.
The authors then describe the educational strategy for the 21st century developed by UNESCO, which is nothing to criticize. But then with one magic trick (the magic of SAFER learning, is actually used as a description in the publication), UNESCO's serious and complex content is summarized and combined into five words that give the acronym SAFER: sustainability, awareness, future literacy, ethics and resilience. Whether the representatives of UNESCO in Bosnia and Herzegovina, when they return from vacation, will react to this summarization and takeover – which resembles leaving a cuckoo's egg in someone else's nest – remains to be seen.
Since “this post-normal situation is still maintained, while the present stretches into the future, and the waves of change wash over us, without an adequate substitute for what follows, followed by tsunamis, storms, earthquakes,” we have no choice but to accept SAFER, with whose help we will “navigate towards the desired future.”
One would expect to read somewhere in the publication where in the world is SAFER actually accepted and incorporated into the law (which is expected here!), and with what results it’s being recommended to us. But that cannot be known, because the futures are numerous. In other words, whether SAFER works or not we can only know in the future.
For Torabi, a couple of years after he left with 100,000 BAM in profit from the tickets he sold (we don’t know how much money he made selling water), we were able to establish how many terminally ill people he really cured. But this future with tsunamis and gray slime and the covid virus that still “inhabits animal reservoirs” is a little more than a few years away. In a few words: there are no guarantees. But that's why we read the following in the publication:
In order to overcome difficult-to-reconcile aspects of action and perception, the educational system of Canton Sarajevo may have to take a step into the unknown as a way towards the desired transformation.
Why do we need futurists and magic to take a step into the unknown?!
But the matter seems to be settled.
For kindergarten, primary and secondary education in Sarajevo Canton, the way forward is to accept the vision and framework of the SAFER learning policy.
Who claims that? MCB, or NiP (and the partnering Naša Stranka and SDP), or Minister Hota-Muminović on behalf of the Mulalić Foundation?
We invite all actors to join us in implementing the elements and values of SAFER learning in society.
Can we not join?
Can we instead look for answers to the question of how and where this bleakness appeared in the first place?
Why should a conversation about the future be more important than a conversation about the present – when it’s possible for a one-year-old construction company foundation to design education reform instead of a seventy-year-old university?
Why should it be completely natural for students in the final grades in Sarajevo to care about taigas and rainforests, but not to care about Bjelašnica mountain, out of which apartment sewage is draining into the shrinking water protection zone of the city? Why should they compost in the schoolyard while there are hectares of arable land being turned into construction sites, and city lawns and parks into P+100 commercial-residential buildings?
How does Minister Hota-Muminović envision education based on the SAFER principle of polylogy (be it via more equal participants, multiculturalism, etc.) if it extends to only one nation, one language, one religion? What kind of inclusion are we talking about, when all but a dozen elected people were excluded from this enthronement of SAFER, and thanked at the end of the publication (by the Mulalić Foundation?)
Will the prime minister of the cantonal government publicly ask his minister of education how strategic documents are adopted without a public debate, or will securing the future of party seats continue to be the duo’s priority in education policy?
Who will explain to the dozens of teachers engaged in the current so-called curricular reform exactly for whose benefit they’ve been working for in the past few years?
Will the Rector and the Senate of the University of Sarajevo speak out about this, and how many of the at least fifty full-time professors who are experts in the field of education will ask aloud what they receive over 2 million BAM annually for? Meanwhile, the quality of life and the future of the city and its citizens are decided by the members of society gathered around a crystal ball.
(1) Narod i Pravda (People and Justice), BH political party
(2) Mekki Torabi is a self proclaimed healer who asserts that he can emit energy into water to cure the majority of diseases. He visited Sarajevo in 2010. Tens of thousands of people bought tickets to see him, bringing gallons of water to be blessed.