The Realities of Life as a Rural Teacher in Baranja

By 23 August 2017

Ever wondered what it's like to be a school teacher in a place that is seeing less and less children each year? Meet Goran...

Ten years ago, I was so motivated to pass my final exams in time and to finally get that small, important piece of paper that would serve as my golden ticket to a job in a school. After four years of hard work, I still remember how happy and proud I was to be finally holding that diploma in my hands. There were so many offers for jobs in newspapers, so it wasn't hard to imagine myself standing in a classroom in front of my future students.
But after just two weeks, I realised getting a job in school wasn't really that simple. The same feeling was harboured by most of my friends from university. Directly from cloud nine, gravity threw us to the ground and we didn't like the reality of it all, at all.
At first, my daily routine during that summer was exciting to me - going to a library in Osijek, looking for jobs in newspapers, and writing letters. Then I got tired of it. I applied for around 100 jobs, mostly in Slavonia and Baranja, but I didn't even get offered the chance to show up in the offices of the headmasters to present myself. They just didn't invite me for an interview, and the same happend to my friends. The fact that most of them didn't even bother to send me a negative reply really disappointed me.
In October, when I least expected it, I finally got a call from a Headmistress named Jadranka Sabljak from Primary School Popovac, in Popovac. At that time, I was really shocked that someone had actually invited me to a job interview. I had heard about that village in Baranja before, but I had never been there before so I had no idea what to expect from a rural school. 

The next day I was already in the classroom teaching informatics. It wasn't a full-time job, but it was something and I was satisfied. At the time I didn't have a driving license, so I was waking up at 05:00 and coming back home at 20:00. 

Informatics was a facultative subject in school (and ten years later, it still is) so it meant I was working mostly in the afternoon and most of the rest of the time I spent waiting around and catching buses. I never really thought that I'd encounter problems with public transport – but just arriving to work and going back home was an adventure, and, to top it off, it was a 70km distance in both directions! It was hard until I managed to get a driving license, but giving up was never something that crossed my mind.

Despite the usual problems that all teachers have at work, I'm so thankful that I still do that I honestly love. If I had to do it all again, I'm not sure that I'd study to become a teacher if someone told me that first steps of my journey would look like they did, and I wish I'd have known that most of the schools around here aren't even bothered about inviting applicants in for interviews.

Reading all the comments on Facebook from my collegues, I have a feeling the future teachers will know all these things and will be much better prepared than I was.

The Internet connection was much slower in villages than in cities when I started work, but it didn't stop my students from winning an award for the best school website by CarNet (Croatian Academic and Research Network), nor did it stop them from participating in many projects that even brought them to the European parliament in 2009! We are a small school, but with all the activities and projects we have, we're the soul of our village. There aren't many activities out of school for kids and when you offer them something interesting to participate in, they are very motivated and always give their all.

Since 2010, I've had a full-time job and now I'm also working in Primary School Drenje, in Drenje.


It's nice when you're surrounded with creative colleagues who still believe that we can make a change in this world. And day by day, we do it together – giving our best efforts to create a better future for kids in villages. We are very successful and very proud of our work, but we don't know how long it can last. We need these students to stay here. The biggest problem is that all the other positive changes made by local authorities and the Government are at too much of a slow pace, so when the parents are unemployed, the normal thing is that they move on to another place in search of work.

I'm happy in both of my schools, but it is sad that every year I have to say goodbye to more and more students who are mostly leaving for Germany and Ireland. I'm not sure how many of them will be sitting in my classroom this September, but I know very well that I'll have to say my own goodbye sooner or later to my village, and start over looking for another job – I'll be lucky if a new opportunity presents itself in Slavonia and Baranja. These days, it's even harder to get a job in a school because the situation is not much better even in bigger cities.

Some of my colleagues already made a big step and moved onm while I'm still somehow in the same place hoping for a miracle which will bring more kids to my classroom. All the projections, at least for the next five years, say my hopes won't happen. The harsh reality is that there will be less and less kids in both Drenje and Popovac.

Should I stay or should I go? Until I make that decision, my collegues and I are finishing our projects to make our school a better place.