The Croatian student Duško Kostić was awarded The Student Peace Prize of 2011 for his work concerning the Roma people’s rights.

Through education and educational work Kostic tries to build bridges and understanding between the different ethnic groups in a country, which was formerly devastated by war. People look at him as a representative for the Roma people in his village Beli Manastir.

Duško Kostić works and lives in Croatia. The country still struggles from the consequences of the conflict between Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s. In 2008, the population of Croatia consisted of 89 % Croatians, 4.5 % Serbs and the remaining 6.5 % of Bosnians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and the Roma. The relationship between the different ethnic groups is still highly influenced by the mentality and prejudices that were formed during the war. Members of ethnic groups often experience stigmatization because of their ethnicity, especially in the educational system. The Roma people in the rest of Europe are often met with the same problems as the Roma in Croatia. Stereotyping and prejudice by the majority complicate their situation, and this makes the integration of the Roma with the rest of the society very difficult. Duško Kostić thinks it is essential to build trust among the groups and thereby improving their situation.

His work concerning the Roma

Duško Kostić’s aim is to tear down the prejudices against the Roma. He works actively to get a larger percentage of Roma children to complete their primary education and enter higher studies. He visits Roma families to tell them about the importance of education and encourages parents to send their children to school. Duško is also engaged in speaking about the Roma people’s culture and tradition to school administrations so that the schools can become an arena for peaceful co-existence. He tries to be a role model for his community, as he is an active student himself.

Duško often acts as a communicator between the Roma, the police, local social welfare centers, health centers and registry offices. He is the founder of the organization Association of Roma Friendship (Luna), which organizes seminars, lectures and workshops about topics such as conflict negotiation and women and children’s rights. Luna also organizes traditional dance courses with Roma music for children as a way of preserving the culture of the Roma. Luna aims to build knowledge so that the stereotypes associated with the Roma can fade and thereby build self-respect and better relations between different ethnic groups. By focusing on education, Duško Kostić takes one step to enable the Roma to live in peaceful co-existence with the rest of the society.

Follow- up area

This summer ISFiT Peace Project travelled to Croatia to visit the winner of the Student Peace Prize in 2011, Duško Kostic. ISFIT achieved a great insight into Kostic and their needs to continue the commitment and work. They assisted him with potential challenges he had and helped him with future development. You can read the article about ISFiTs