Friday, February 3, 2012

Music Falls Silent in Kosova's Schools

I was a bit dismayed to read this important posting on BIRN ( about the poor condition of music schools in Kosova and would be willing to serve on a committee to help raise funds and, especially, musical instruments, for Kosova's schools.

Please help if you can!

Van Christo 


Music Falls Silent in Kosovo’s Schools Chronic shortages of cash and instruments have left Kosovo’s few dedicated music schools in a semi-ruined state, while music classes of any type at all in many ordinary schools are just a memory. Besiana Xharra BIRN Pristina Primary schools in Kosovo have a legal requirement to provide music lessons to pupils, but a chronic lack of space and equipment means that most of these lessons involve nothing more practical than reading a textbook. In Pristina municipality, 90 per cent of primary schools teach pupils without a dedicated music room and without musical instruments. Even specialist music students, according to our research, are taught in buildings with little equipment and in poor condition.

Professor Ahmet Derguti, who teaches singing in Pristina, said lack of investment in music in schools was stunting the development of musical talent in Kosovo.“Starting from the primary schools up to the top, music schools are in a terrible condition,” he said. “Classes take place in facilities that do not have even the most basic conditions for work and which have received no investment for decades.“This situation will remain as it is while we have leaders who do not value art or know what music is,” he added. “All they know is how to get rich.” Smashes windows in elite academy: Built after the Second World War, the Prenk Jakova Music School in Pristina started life as a carpet factory, then was used as a hospital, and today is the capital’s only professional, publicly funded music school. Despite that, it has a chronic lack of facilities. 

Some 550 students of secondary school age are taught by 70 professors in rooms with smashed windows, broken floorboards and no insulation. Teachers and students have pleaded with the Municipality of Pristina and with the Ministry of Education for funds, but have yet to see any cash. “We made requests, we have protested, we have tried all options, but we have not managed to convince Pristina to invest,” former school director Elizabeta Musliu said. M.K, a professor at the school who asked not to be named, said they had received promises from the Ministry of Education to build a new school this year, but says this “remains just a hope, until we see the project realised”. The situation is no better for music lessons in the city’s primary schools where some 90 per cent lack dedicated music rooms. “Even schools that once had music rooms, in the absence of space in recent years have turned them into common classrooms,” 

Muhamet Gashi, spokesperson at Pristina municipality, said.“It has been calculated that around 90 per cent of elementary schools have no music rooms,” he added. “We know this is not okay, but schools are lacking other rooms too, and not only for music,” he continued. The Faik Konica elementary school, one of the most popular schools in Pristina, is one of the few to have such a space. It even has a piano.But no other instruments are available for pupils even here, so most of the tuition takes place through textbooks.“We only have a piano; as for other instruments, the students just learn the theory,” the deputy director of school,

Arsim Gashi, said. “But we hope that with a help of Ministry of Education, or through a donation in future, we will be supplied with other instruments.” Problems across Kosovo: Kosovo has a total of only six professional music schools and conditions in all but one of them are just as poor as they are in Pristina.Nexhat Cocaj, director of education in Prizren municipality, said that the city’s Lorenc Antoni professional music school, which has 150 students, lacks decent facilities.“There is no equipment, the building is old, there is no space – they don’t have even basic conditions,” he said. As for the presence of dedicated music rooms in primary schools, he believes the situation in the city is “alarming”. In Gjilan, Gezim Pirraj, a professor at the town’s professional music school, said their conditions were also poor. Mitrovica’s director of education told Balkan Insight that there were virtually no dedicated music rooms in this northern town.“I can say that hardly any elementary schools in Mitrovica have music rooms,” 

Ali Bejta said. Gjakova hits right note: While just three primary schools in the western town of Gjakova have dedicated rooms, the town’s one professional music school is well equipped following major investment.After 40 years of neglect, the Prenk Jakova school received a major facelift from the Ministry of Education with the help from Swiss funds in 2010. The school has produced some internationally well-known musician, some of whom have played with the Vienna Philharmonic, such as Shkelzen Doli and Rrauf Dhomi.“We are the only school in Kosovo to have a music building that offers all the necessary features,” the director, Astrit Pallaska, said.The school covers 1,420 square meters, has nine classrooms, a room for listening to music and a concert hall with 270 seats.

Ragip Gjoshi, spokesperson at the Ministry of Education, said that in their 2012 budget they come up with funds to construct a new facility for the Prenk Jakova school in Pristina, but there was no money as yet for any equipment.He said around 120,000 euro has been allocated for the building, and they were now looking for a site in the municipality for the new school.But this sum is well below the amount dedicated to its counterpart in Gjakova, which received 1 million euro. Gjoshi said that they would consider co-financing with Pristina municipality or were looking for donor funds to make up the rest.“Besides this investment, there were none [in musical education] during 2012,” Gjoshi said. 

As for the lack of music rooms in primary schools in Kosovo, he said that professors have to “compensate for the lack of rooms, as almost every school in Kosovo possesses at least one musical instrument through which music teachers can teach lessons in class”. Better back in the 1970s: Professor Derguti, a singing teacher in Prishtina, disagrees with this assessment. He says very few instruments of any type are available in schools. “Music, schools and opera indicate a civilized state, and every emancipated state invests in this direction, except Kosovo,” he said.“Music in Kosovo is the last thing that our institutions deal with. Kosovo is the only country in the region that does not have even an opera house,” 

Derguti said.“Conditions in Kosovo for students learn are so tough that I deeply regret that talented students here don’t have the opportunity to be educated properly,” he added. Derguti recalled that matters were better in the 1970s when Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia and when he studied in Belgrade.“At that time, Yugoslavia invested in this field. Although the music schools were in Serbian, Albanians were able to study there and the staff at that time were of a high standard.” He said that each municipality then provided scholarships to good students, which is how he was able to study in Belgrade, and completed a master degree in Sarajevo. He was the first Kosovo Albanian professor of music with a masters degree, he noted.

The situation had deteriorated markedly in the 1990s under the grim regime of Slobodan Milosevic, and has yet to recover.“Politics destroys everything, like music and many other fields,” he said. “From the time that Milosevic took away Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989 and destroyed the school system, removing Albanians from jobs, the professors had to hold classes in their own homes,” he recalled.“I taught students in my apartment for six years. This situation continued for 10 years until the war began in 1998,” he said.“But since we returned after the war in Kosovo, the teaching has continued in difficult conditions.” While schools received funding, he said, music did not. “Music has remained the same as before the war, stuck in the worst buildings which don’t offer basic conditions.“This situation will not change until our leaders are changed for other leaders who know what culture, art, music and opera are,” he concluded. 

This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.


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