Educators from Bosnia and Herzegovina ensure continuous learning despite the pandemic

Professor Edina Rizvic-Eminovic, PhD, an Associate Professor of English and Head of the Department of English Language and Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zenica and M.Sc. Branka Ljubojevic, a professor of Serbian language and literature at the Banja Luka High School, provided support for maintaining the continuity of the teaching process during the COVID-19 pandemic. This article is part of UN Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) campaign “Thank you, heroines”, aimed at raising awareness on numerous contributions of women during COVID-19 response.


Professor Edina Rizvic-Eminovic on the left, M.Sc. Branka Ljubojevic on the right. Photos: From personal archives
Professor Edina Rizvic-Eminovic on the left, M.Sc. Branka Ljubojevic on the right. Photos: From personal archives

The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has strongly affected education. Online teaching and non-traditional forms of learning have become a must, and the new situation required rapid adaptation of all participants in the educational process. Despite numerous challenges, both private and professional, finalizing the ongoing educational cycle was their priority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am primarily a mother of two children who are of kindergarten age. At the time of the implementation of the measures of limited movement and online teaching, it was extremely difficult to reconcile all obligations, both private and professional, week in and week out. While my husband worked full time, my mornings were reserved for childcare, and the afternoons and very often late evenings for professional commitments. My advantage was that I had a lot of experience in using online platforms, but it took a lot of time to prepare additional tasks to check and monitor the work of students, as well as to give feedback to students on each submitted task and homework. In addition, it was necessary to prepare and adjust the online conditions and the work of the sessions of the science and teaching council, because certain academic issues could not wait for the measures to end," explains Edina.

Branka adds that she tried to provide students with quality teaching in an extremely professional manner, even though she felt fear at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In the beginning, I must admit, everything that was happening in the first days of March in Banja Luka seemed excessive to me. As the days went by, fear came along. Fear for parents who are older and have risky diseases, fear for my husband who works in the media and who went to work without interruption, fear for relatives and friends. Fear from the sun, from the sky, from the air. Honestly, I think I coped pretty well with everything, at least in times of the greatest fear. As for work, I didn't have any major issues, because I've been using the Edmodo online platform for about four years now, so my students are already able to use all the tools. Perhaps the biggest challenge was to organize time, because when you work from home, and you love your job endlessly, then your working time is 24 hours," says Branka.

In addition to their professional engagement and family care, Edina and Branka were also engaged as volunteers.

"In addition to all-day care for two children and professional engagement, I also bought groceries and medicine for several families from the neighborhood, as well as family members who are over the age of 65," adds Edina.

"Since it was necessary to take care of parents who couldn’t leave the house, I helped them, but also elderly neighbors. In addition, with several colleagues from school, on two occasions I collected funds to help the humanitarian association 'Mosaic of Friendship', which has a soup kitchen and prepares meals for socially disadvantaged fellow citizens," explains Branka.

In their work experience, they have often had the opportunity to see that women plan their work far more thoroughly and for the long term, and that they think about their responsibilities.

"However, especially in my work environment, women are very underrepresented in management positions. Their foresight and initiatives for improvement and advancement are often ignored and neglected. Women should be supported in their initiatives and in the realization of good ideas," says Edina.

Branka believes that above all, women need to develop an awareness that they are the ones who carry a lot on their backs and that this is not something that should be taken for granted.

"Women must explain to themselves that they also have needs and that those needs deserve to be met. During the COVID-19 pandemic, women were mothers, housewives, cleaners, medical workers, teachers, beer buddies... And most of them have endured and continue to endure, without self-awareness and without the awareness of others about them. This has to be said out loud, so loud that it resonates in everyone's head. As for the work of educators, things are not the best there either. We hear all the time how public institutions have successfully responded to the enormous demands of the state of emergency and new formats of teaching. I think that is far from the truth. The needs were answered by small, ordinary teachers, professors, who were never taught how to work under these conditions," says Branka.

Edina says that the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet and that we must all collectively continue to be careful and responsible.

"Since the virus is here and will probably remain present in our environment, I sincerely hope that its effect will weaken and that a vaccine will be found soon. In the meantime, due to responsibility towards myself, my family members, colleagues and students, I adhere to the given recommendations, but I am very concerned about the limited access to health services, because COVID-19 is not the only serious disease that people face," Edina adds.

Branka adds that teaching is a lively process and a two-way street, if not a multi-way street, and that she can hardly wait for September to return to her classroom together with lively blue eyes, and not blue screens, if everything goes well.

This article is part of the UN Women in BiH campaign “Thank you, heroines”, that is aimed at raising awareness about the numerous contributions of women who are on the frontlines of response to the COVID-19 crisis. Follow UN Women in BiH social media, read stories about some of these amazing women, and thank the women you think are heroines by using the hashtag #ThankYouHeroines. Together let’s support the women who are contributing to a strong COVID-19 response! #HeroinesTellTheirStories