School food is never a joke for Sarajevo's youngsters

CHILDREN OF WAR APPEAL

EMMA DALY

Sarajevo

School food, that butt of jokes the world over, is not only much sought- after in Sarajevo but is vital to many of the city's children, particularly the refugees whose families were forced to flee empty-handed and who survive on humanitarian hand-outs.

That is why the International Red Cross began an effort more than a year ago to provide all Sarajevo children aged 7-14 with a glass of milk and a sandwich every day during term time. It is one of the projects which the Independent Children of War appeal will support.

The sounds and sights of the Malta primary school in new Sarajevo are universal but the jarring notes remind you this is Bosnia: a large Unicef poster with the silhouette of two boys bending over the tail-fin of a rocket embedded in the ground with the warning, "Unexploded bombs. Don't go near and don't touch." And the children bundled up in scarves, gloves and bulky jackets inside the building - there is no heating, despite the bitter winter.

"Good morning," chorus the 30-odd eight-year-olds in Biljana Kostic's second-year class, one of the few English phrases she has taught her pupils. They sing "Frere Jacques", again in English, for us and giggle at the questions. "I like maths and Bosnian language lessons," said Nijaz, a thin, dark boy. "It used to be Serbo-Croat, now it's Bosnian," Ms Kostic explains.

The atmosphere is jolly and the children well behaved, but there is still a hint of anarchy unusual among a group so young, another effect of the years of war and the collapse of authority. "You can see that wildness in them, a kind of aggression," Ms Kostic said.

Arnel, who has placed his sandwich to one side and has no cup for his milk, is a refugee from Foca, a Muslim-majority town in south-eastern Bosnia viciously "cleansed" by Serb troops in 1992. "My house was destroyed. I was not upset. I remember Foca from before the war, my friends," Arnel says. Ms Kostic is worried about him; he cannot read or write well and should be in a lower class, but it is difficult to contact his parents to discuss the issue.

The school administrator, Rabija Softic, emphasises the importance of the daily hand-out. "There is often no milk in Sarajevo, or if there is many people cannot afford it, so these snacks are very important. We really want this project to continue for as long as possible."

It is not only needed on the government side of the line; the project benefits more than 47,000 school-children in 73 schools, 29 of them in Serb-held territory.

The German Red Cross, which administers the programme, distributes flour and milk powder to local bakeries and dairies, which in turn deliver to schools. The cost is 780,000 marks (pounds 356,000) per term, or about pounds 4,700 per school. The project was interrupted last March, when an increase in shelling and sniping forced the government to close schools, but with the hope of peace Malta reopened for the winter term on 15 September.

As break-time begins after a maths lesson, Ismar, who sits next to Arnel, asks if he can sing a song for us. He stands like a small but determined soldier, and sings of the wind rushing above the sea. Most of the children, who were four when the war began, know the seaside only from photographs, distant memories and Ismar's song.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?