Transformational Leadership Program - Scholarships and Partnerships

Scholar Presents Research On Kosovo Education at Conference in USA

Gjylbehare Llapi flipped through a thick volume of images and text, stopping at a photo of a large home. “My secondary school was in a school-house,” she said, “There were five or six students sitting on one wooden bench. We were sitting so tight, we couldn’t move.”

She continued to describe learning conditions in her school-house without proper facilities, textbooks, or pay for teachers. Such was the reality for Llapi and others from 1991 to 1999, when Albanians were deprived from their right to education, leading to expulsions from schools. Thus, they were forced to organize a parallel system of education in order to be educated in their native language.

As a graduate student in Educational Leadership at North Dakota State University (NDSU), with a scholarship from the Transformational Leadership Program - Scholarships and Partnerships, Llapi was asked by NDSU faculty to conduct research during her winter break last year. The research is focused on the effects of the Albanian-organized parallel education system.

She will present the research at a conference for the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education in the United States this week. The paper is entitled “Education Interrupted: Kosovo 1980-1999” because, as Llapi explains, “Life of young people was, in a way, interrupted. They were expelled from schools… they had to stop schooling for different reasons that were, of course, directly related to the political and economic developments at that time.”

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Llapi receiving her TLP-SP scholarship award last year.

Llapi said the idea developed out of class discussion on American and international developments in adult education. She was encouraged to share her experience as a student in the parallel system by her professor, Dr. Claudette Peterson, who also became Llapi’s co-author and fellow researcher.

Their paper relies on narratives from those directly influenced by the parallel system — students, teachers, educational professionals, parents, politicians, and those who offered their houses for schools — to detail, “How education survived during that time…how teachers, families, and parents sacrificed everything to educate their children in Albanian language.”

Llapi hopes presenting to an international audience of education professionals at the 2015 Pre-Conference of the Commission for International Adult Education (CIAE) this week will attract further attention to both the history of Albanians’ education in Kosovo and rights to education overall.

“That time serves me as the best example of how an educational professional should work for the education of new generations,” said Llapi, “That experience made me choose education as a field to which I will dedicate my career.”

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Llapi on the North Dakota State University campus.

Before leaving for NDSU, Llapi worked as the head of the division of National Academic Recognition and Information Center for the Kosovo Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. There, she saw firsthand the need for reform in Kosovo’s modern system of higher education. She already has ideas for improvement, thanks in part to her exposure abroad. This includes development of a legal policy in higher education, apart from the adult education equivalent of the General Education Development (GED) in Kosovo.

After graduating next May, Llapi will return to Kosovo to advance such reform with her colleagues, teach English Language, and pursue a PhD. Both Llapi’s current and future contributions are central components of the larger narrative of TLP-SP efforts in helping to improve higher education in Kosovo. A program supported by USAID and implemented by the World Learning, TLP-SP also spearheads development of partnerships between University of Prishtina faculties and American universities. The Partnership Program also works with the UP Office of the Rector in order to develop University capacity, specifically in improvement of facilities, teaching techniques, employment and library resources.

“It is important to know what is going on, regarding education around the world. Also, how educational professionals and organizations can work on improving education while promoting these fundamental human rights,” said Llapi. “This way, young people can have a proper education according to the needs of our country”.

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