A teenager with autism in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been allowed to return to high school.
Slavko Mršević, now 19, had been barred from taking classes for three years by both his school and by the country’s education ministry because of his disability.
Last April, Human Rights Watch interviewed Slavko’s lawyers and his father, Nenad Mršević, who said being kicked out of school had a devastating impact on Slavko’s emotional wellbeing. According to his father: “Slavko was a good student who, with support from a learning assistant, would have graduated high school.”
His family filed a lawsuit against the school, which is located in Rudo, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Basic Court in Višegrad ruled on March 25, 2019 that he should be re-admitted, but on April 4, 2019 the court was overruled by the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republika Srpska, one of the two political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Human Rights Watch joined local nongovernmental organizations, lawyers, activists, and the local media that were already fighting for Slavko’s right to education.
To build on the work already done by Slavko’s lawyers and those involved in his case, Human Rights Watch sent an open letter to the education minister, Natalija Trivić, on April 11, 2019, ahead of a meeting scheduled to discuss Slavko’s fate. The letter highlights that Bosnia and Herzegovina is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
These conventions guarantee children’s right to an education that is free from discrimination, and that children and adults with disabilities have the right to inclusive primary and secondary education in the communities where they live.
Although this is excellent news for Slavko and his family, that does not grant him access to a full education. For now, he can only sit in class with his peers and he doesn’t have access to a proper examination process that would allow him to graduate.
Slavko is also not the only child with a disability in Bosnia and Herzegovina deprived of his right to inclusive and quality education. Emir Dozo, a child with autism and epilepsy, made the news two weeks ago after he was denied a personal assistant which had tremendous effect on his right to attend classes on an equal basis with other children.
Human Rights Watch continues to advocate for full inclusion when it comes to children with disabilities, including their right to take part in classes, to have reasonable and necessary support, and to get accreditation. Slavko and all children with disabilities should be able to access mainstream schools that are accessible, free of violence, and receive a quality education that addresses and accommodates their needs. Despite the government amending the wrong done to both Slavko and Emir, pressure for change and accountability for exclusion of children with disabilities out of schools is still greatly needed. It shouldn’t depend on a child making the news and going public about wrong done to them.