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Hundreds of Albanian children will not attend the new school year starting Monday as they hide at home from family blood feuds stretching back generations, a non-profit organisation said.
A total of 590 children, aged between three and 15, will miss out on classes due to a tradition from the Middle Ages that "blood can only be revenged with blood," said Gjin Marku of Albania's Organisation for Reconciliation.
According to the tradition dating back to the 15th century, all males from a family, including babies, can be killed in revenge for a death of a murdered rival family member.
The brutal rule is widely respected in the poor mountainous regions in the north of the country, but also in some villages and towns in other parts of Albania.
"Most of those children (staying at home) are deprived of any communication, they cannot attend school due to their isolation," Marku said.
The Balkan country's education authorities last year launched homeschooling projects for all children not attending school for fear of harm at the hands of their families' ancient grudges.
"We will continue to help those children, but our goal is that they go out so they can attend classes like all the others, at school," newly-appointed Education Minister Lindita Nikolli told journalists on Monday.
The new government of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, who was voted in on Sunday, plans to enforce existing laws and implement new policies aimed at puting an end to the situation, she added.