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Refugees' courses to stay

Germany. Despite plans by the German government to start repatriating Bosnian refugees this summer, Bavaria has announced it will continue to offer Bosnian children special classes in their native language. Germany has taken in 320,000 refugees from the Balkans during the last three-and-a-half years, more than all the other European Union countries put together. The southern alpine state of Bavaria, in turn, has one of the highest concentrations of Bosnian war refugees.

The state education ministry says 5,878 Bosnian children are attending Bavarian schools this year, down nearly 10 per cent on 1995. Classes will continue to be offered in Serbo-Croat, Serb, Croatian and Bosnian, with the primary aim of helping pupils to deal with the psychological trauma of their war memories and experiences.

It is also hoped that the routine of going to school while in exile will help them to continue with their education once back in their homeland. To help them better integrate in their transitional home, the children are also offered intensive courses in speaking German.

Bavarian education minister Hans Zehetmair says the special classes will be retained as long as necessary. That means at least two more years, as the first refugees to be sent home between this July and July 1997 will be single people and childless couples. German schools will not notice any major impact until the second wave of repatriations begins.

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