Timely and comprehensive – these words can describe the Programme for Dialogue and Reconciliation, which played a key role in restoring trust and coexistence between the Macedonian and Albanian ethnic communities in the Municipality of Jegunovce – area that was affected by the 2001-armed conflict.
The Nansen Dialogue Centre Skopje (NDC) started the Programme in 2005 when the division became more pronounced, and the primary school in Shemshevo was divided in two buildings for the two ethnic communities.
The NDC team began a mission to enable “two divided worlds” to regain the lost mutual trust, especially among young people who have to build a common future.
Representatives of NDC held meetings with local residents, school staff, and local self-government. They managed to establish a working group that hosted several seminars in Struga and Ohrid, which, among other things, mostly discussed the everyday challenges of municipality residents. The residents concluded that, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, they all face the same challenges – lack of water supply and sewerage, underdeveloped road infrastructure, poor conditions in schools, etc.
NDC first provided funds to improve conditions in schools. Investments were made in most of them in all settlements of the Municipality of Jegunovce, where it was most needed – in some of them, sanitary facilities were repaired, in some – classrooms, in others yards and playgrounds.
English language and computer science courses were started, and the groups of students who attended lectures for the first time are of mixed ethnic composition. Interest in attending these courses soon increased, and English language and computer science classrooms were opened in almost all schools. Besides the students, this brought together the parents who started to participate in the Parents’ Club and the Mediation Club.
NDC also provided funds for construction of a new water supply system in the Municipality of Jegunovce. Many domestic and foreign delegations came to the municipality to witness the process of solving local issues.
The negative image of interethnic relations in the Municipality has completely changed. This positive course of events created a good climate for establishing of the first integrated bilingual schools in North Macedonia, in the village of Preljubishte in 2008 and 2010.
This would not have been possible without the support of the main donor – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway.