Monday, 2 May 2022

History of Vukovar or History in Vukovar? No, Our Future Please

May 3, 2022 – Vukovar is indeed full of life. The 3rd of May is Vukovar Day, marking the day it became a free royal town in 1231, and the day of Saints Philip and James who became Vukovar’s patron saints when their church was built in 1723.

Traditionally, this day is a bank holiday in Vukovar, with celebrations and events in the city centre. With the Svi zaJedno Hrvatsko Naj festival leaning onto Vukovar Day, the city becomes the site of culture, sports, gastronomy, music, and more, for over a week. And if you take a closer look, you will see that it’s Vukovar’s youngest who make the city come alive. The little ones are jumping with joy and running between the stalls, the decorations, and the popcorn vendors, and our high schoolers are even here to teach us something. And if you listen closely, you can hear them speak both Croatian and Serbian.history vukovar.jpg

Courtesy of TZ Vukovar / Marko Balaži

This co-existence in Vukovar still sparks debate among those who know about its history, and curiosity among those who are yet to learn. On this Vukovar day, we decided to have a look at history in hopes of making a step in the right direction for our future. We went to schools in Vukovar, both primary and secondary, where we had a chance to speak to the headmasters and teachers. The guiding thought was the idea that the subject of history is a sensitive area, especially in Serbian minority classes. This question has been explored before, with varying conclusions, so we wanted to see where we stand in 2022. The outcome is interesting, but not surprising, refreshing, and yet completely normal.

The demography of Vukovar

Vukovar has historically been a diverse urban centre, whose population throughout the 20th century was made up of the Croatian, Serbian, Hungarian and German nationalities to varying extents, with the Serbian population steadily growing and reaching 25,5% in 1948 and 32,3% in 1990, whereas the German and Hungarian population significantly declined during the same period. In 1990, the Croatian population made 47,2% of its 44,639 inhabitants. It is important to note that the social structure of the city kept changing throughout the 20th century due to the Yugoslavian policies, as well as the fact that the socialist state discouraged expressing religious beliefs or national identity in everyday life. Our interlocutors who have lived all their lives in Vukovar shared that in pre-war Vukovar “you wouldn’t know other people’s nationalities or beliefs” (I.A., 68), “unless in a political situation, no one cared” (A.J., 63), “in everyday human lives it did not matter one bit, we all played together as kids, grew up together and watched our children grow up together” (J.G., 72). Their memories of the city make their faces light up and their eyes sparkle, and they happily share stories of life by the river, the best ice cream, friendship, and family. The things that mattered. Of course, the events of 1991 shattered that image of the city and it took decades to start even imagining something like that again.history of vukovar.png

"The Danube Bath", courtesy of Vukovar Municipal Museum

Model A for the education of national minorities

Like anywhere else, the rights of national minorities in Croatia are emphasized and respected in all aspects of life. One of the areas serving as a constant source of inspiration for debate in Vukovar is schooling. In Croatia, schools follow a three-model system (A, B, C) with several additional programs (such as summer school ). In model A, minority language and writing systems are fully adopted, with the Croatian language taking an equal amount of school hours as the minority language. Model B uses both Croatian and minority languages, with social subjects taught in the minority language. Model C teaches minority languages and cultures as an additional subject, with all other instruction and teaching done in Croatian.

In Vukovar, models A and C are most often chosen by minorities, with model A being the most likely choice of the Serbian national minority. What this means is that schools following model A will often have students of the same age group take separate classes based on the chosen model (i.e. if they are a member of the minority group or not). The purpose of the three models is the preservation of minority languages and cultures with enough flexibility to accommodate for integration.

Peaceful reintegration of the Danube Region and the history moratorium

One of the conditions of the Serbian representatives in the peace negotiations of 1997 was that there was a moratorium put on the teaching of Vukovar’s recent history in national minority classes. The moratorium lasted 5 years and officially ended in 2003. From 2003 to 2022 it has been a rocky road, and there were numerous attempts to have a peek behind the scenes and see if the sensitive parts of history are being taught in minority classrooms. Sensationalist headlines would appear, stating that Croatian history is only taught over something like 3 pages in the Serbian textbook written in Serbian using the Cyrillic writing, that teachers deliberately skip and ignore the whole section, that they twist it, etc. Having spoken to headmasters, teachers, parents, and students, the truth is simple – it is highly individual, and if teachers feel strongly about the topic, they might be inclined to adapt their way of teaching. The opinions of parents are varying, some feel strongly, and some don’t, depending mostly on the generation they belong to. What probably sums it up best, are the words of the mother of a second-grader, stating that “we cannot avoid the topic, certainly not in 2022. No matter which classroom my children attend, they will learn about the events and hopefully, they will be able to form their own opinions. What we want for them is to live a normal life and grow up in a society of equal opportunity”. (S.G.)

The headmasters of primary schools and secondary schools all agree that they are currently facing much bigger issues, some caused by the pandemic, some by the modern way of life, but that history on this or that side has become a rather dry topic which is not in their control anyway. They emphasize that having started from completely separate classrooms, teachers, subjects, and extracurricular activities, students these days all play together, attend workshops and sports clubs, take part in competitions and plays, and even go on excursions, exchanges, and cultural events together, forming separate groups around things like celebrity crushes, candy or games, and not nationality.

Like it or not, Vukovar is healing as nature always finds a way

The honest truth is it has been 30 years and time and nature have started doing their thing. A change of generations has happened. Make no mistake, what happened in Vukovar in 1991 were inhuman atrocities that can never be denied, and there is a lot of injustice still making it that much harder even after 30 years. Unfortunately, those who deserve punishment might never be punished for the crimes they committed but let us not punish those who had nothing to do with it, those who are at the same time the future of our city. Children are children, they might grow up to become assholes or they might go on to save the world. They might learn history in Croatian written in Latin writing, or that could be Serbian in Cyrillic writing. Chances are, they will find it equally boring and would much rather play than study. Some might be fascinated by it. They are all different. We are all different. Maybe it’s time to start learning from the young ones and celebrate diversity while working together for a better future for all of us. history of vukovar 2.jpg

 National day against peer violence, courtesy of OŠ Siniše Glavaševića

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Nearly 1,000 Ukraine Pupils in Croatian Schools Mastering Biggest Hurdle, Language

ZAGREB, 17 April 2022 - Almost 1,000 Ukrainian children have been enrolled in Croatian kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and their biggest problem is the language, but they are mastering Croatian quickly so as to integrate into the new environment as well as possible

Of the 983 children who have arrived in Croatia due to the war in Ukraine, 838 have been enrolled in primary, 64 in secondary schools, and 80 in kindergartens.

To date, 116 elementary school pupils have been enrolled in 42 Zagreb schools, 91 in 30 schools in Split-Dalmatia County, 81 in schools in Lika-Senj County, 73 in 22 schools in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, and 67 in schools Varaždin County.

Speaking to Hina, Dražena Aračić, headmistress of a primary school in Korenica, Lika-Senj County where 55 Ukrainian children have been enrolled, said everything was being done so they could fit as well as possible in curricular and extracurricular activities and feel welcome first and foremost.

She said they were traumatised by war and separated from their families, so the education ministry approved the school's request to hire a counsellor.

Goranka Štefančić, headmistress of a primary school in Varaždinske Toplice, Varaždin County with 20 Ukrainian pupils, said they had assimilated very well and that one could not see that they came from a war zone.

The school's teachers have taken a free online course in Ukrainian, she told Hina, adding that as of 16 March the Ukrainian pupils are fully included in regular classes, and that numerous donors have provided them with the things they need for school.

Davor Juriša, headmaster of a primary school in Kraljevica, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County which has nine Ukrainian pupils, said that in preparing for their arrival, the school consulted with representatives of the Red Cross and other relevant institutions so that integration could be as simple as possible.

Other pupils have welcomed them very well, he told Hina.

All three principals said the biggest barrier in the integration of Ukrainian pupils was the Croatian language. Aračić said it was a little easier for those who spoke English, but added that they were learning Croatian pretty quickly.

Štefanić said learning Croatian was held every day for two hours at her school and that the pupils were making quick progress.

Due to the situation, the school allows pupils to use mobile phones during classes so they can use translation apps in order to communicate, she added.

At the Kraljevica school, Ukrainian pupils learn Croatian twice a week.

In order to further their integration, Ukrainian children are included in extracurricular activities, from art workshops and learning other languages to sports.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Monday, 11 April 2022

10 Croatian Secondary Schools Chosen for Participation in EU Youth Project

11 April 2022 - The secondary school in Vela Luka on the southern island of Korčula has been chosen along with another nine Croatian secondary schools for participation in a European Union youth project.

The project, called "The Future of Europe: the European Year of Youth", was launched by Croatian member of the European Parliament Predrag Fred Matić and lasts until the end of this year. It involves over 4,300 Croatian secondary school students, who will raise key issues faced by their communities and propose solutions.

In addition to Vela Luka, secondary schools in Vukovar, Čakovec, Velika Gorica, Split, Slavonski Brod, Konjščina, Pula, Petrinja and Krk also participate in the project.

Participation in this project is of special importance to a small island school such as the one in Vela Luka, which has about 120 students and 28 teachers.

"This project will give our students a chance to speak about their problems and get actively involved in EU decision making processes," the Head of Vela Luka Secondary School, Ofelija Dragojević, told Hina.

The school, established in 1952, provides four-year programs in humanities and social sciences and in economics, as well as three-year programs for chefs and ship engineers. In 2021, it was chosen for the fourth time as a European Parliament Ambassador School.

The participating students will work on topics relating to education, unemployment, culture, sports, politics, ecology and problems faced by vulnerable groups among young people. Each school will focus on a specific area, and the students in Vela Luka will deal with cultural and sports activities for young people. They will identify key problems and discuss them first with individuals, organisations and institutions in their local community and then with those at the EU level.

The students in Vela Luka will present specific problems faced by young people on their island, in particular the lack of cultural and sports amenities and activities with which they could fill their free time, as well as connectivity.

More information about the European Year of Youth is available at https://europa.eu/youth/year-of-youth_hr.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Croatian Schools Suggest Classes End Around June 15, Not June 21

March 26, 2022 - The Ministry of Education has released the calendar of the new school year for public discussion among Croatian schools. According to it, the next school year would start on September 5 and end on June 21.

The exception, as before, is the students of the final grades of high schools whose classes end on May 26, reports Jutarnji List. And this time the holidays are many: the autumn break begins on October 31 and classes are already on November 2; the winter holidays are in two parts - the first from 27 December to 5 January (with classes starting on 9 January) and the second part from 20 to 24 February (classes from 27 February). The spring break for students will follow from April 6 to 14, with classes starting on April 17.

Although the next school year is scheduled to end on a day like this (June 21), a public debate among Croatian schools is proposing a return to the old solution, when classes ended earlier, usually around June 15. "It would be good for students to start their summer vacation earlier, so corrections based on summer vacation are necessary for a complete calendar, and there is room for correction," the discussion proposal reads.

While it is praised that students have more short breaks during the year, the comments state that everything that enters the third week in June is not good. Students are overworked, teachers are burned out, and climatic conditions are often unbearable. In these conditions, it is extremely difficult to maintain the high level of concentration required by the end of the school year, the proponents of returning to an earlier summer vacation explain.

As an additional argument, they offer enrollment in high schools ending in the second half of July. "I think that classes should end earlier in June, as was the case until recently, so around mid-June. Classes until the second half of June, when it is already very hot, will be very uncomfortable. Most schools do not have air conditioning,", they said.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Student Self-testing in Croatia: Principals Receive Instructions

February 9, 2022 - Student self-testing in Croatia should begin soon as the Ministry of Science and Education has sent instructions to principals.

How will it look?
Index.hr reports that the procedure should be as follows: The Civil Protection Headquarters will deliver rapid antigen tests to schools. Schools will then distribute the tests to parents or guardians, or students. Testing is conducted once a week by a parent, guardian, or student. If the test result is positive, information about the positive test is reported to the educational institution's selected family doctor or pediatrician.

All students with a negative result continue to attend classes regularly, and if they test positive, they do not come to school.

Testing is repeated for the entire class in which positive test results are determined the first day after a student receives a positive Covid test.

What did Fuchs say about it today?
Minister of Science and Education Radovan Fuchs commented on student self-testing in an interview with HRT today, confirming that the distribution of tests has begun.

Fuchs called the process of rapid antigen testing "a de facto process of abolishing self-isolation for students so that all those who are not ill are in school." However, he also said that this was not a step towards mandatory testing or vaccination.

Fuchs said the first part of the tests, about 300,000, went to Dalmatia yesterday.

"At the end of this or the beginning of next week, all schools will have tests available."
"Of course, we are going to the islands as a priority, as it is a bit more difficult to distribute there, and that's why we went to the Dalmatian regions first.

The rest, up to a million, arrive maybe today in civil protection warehouses, and the moment these tests are received, they immediately move on to schools. So I think by the end of the week or early next week, all schools will have tests available," Fuchs said.

“We have said that this student testing is voluntary and that parents will declare in one piece of paper whether or not they will conduct testing of their child,” he said.

What if someone refuses?
"All those who refuse, de facto, nothing will happen to them, nor the children, of course, except that the moment a positive student appears in the class, or possibly someone from that child's environment becomes ill, that child will have to go into isolation," Fuchs said.

He also said that these tests are very similar to those that can be bought in pharmacies and that, unlike PCR, it is not inserted deep into the nose with a test cotton swab or stick. Still, a swab is taken from the front of the nasal cavity, and it is a straightforward procedure.

There are no repressive measures.
Fuchs also said that parents who will not test their children and will say that they were negative will not be traced because they do not intend to apply any repressive measures.

“I hope the parents are responsible enough and won’t cheat because this is done so that the education system would virtually abolish self-isolation using a self-testing system,” he said. 

"These slogans, shouts and petitions 'We don't give our children' are quite incomprehensible; I don't understand them, no one touches children. In fact, after these two years of the pandemic, we are doing everything to give children a more normal life and attend school better," said Fuchs.

"Removing both testing and self-isolation if field data justify it."
Fuchs also said that if the number of positives dropped significantly, in February, they would switch to the testing variant only in those classes when it is ordered. It would be ordered when a positive case occurs.

"And after that, we would go for the complete abolition of both testing and self-isolation if the data from the field justify it," Fuchs said. He also said that they did not consider testing children in kindergartens.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Monday, 10 January 2022

2nd Semester of School Year Starts Mainly with Classroom Lessons

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 -  The second semester of the 2021-2022 school year began on Monday in Croatia, with face-to-face classes in most schools, however, online classes are being organized in 24 schools this week in eight out of 20 counties due to current epidemiological developments.

Of those 24 schools, seven are in Zadar County, five in Split-Dalmatia County, and four in Šibenik-Knin County and Vukovar-Srijem County each.

The Buje-based grammar school in the Italian language is organizing mixed-type lessons.

On 7 January, Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said that primary and secondary school students accounted for 8.7% of coronavirus cases and that this was an argument in favor of schools staying open, adding that no county had requested switching to online classes.

Speaking on Croatian Television, he said not even counties with very high COVID numbers had opted for closing schools, adding that the impact of online classes "is very hard" on students.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Krizevci Students Present Products and Entrepreneurial Ideas

January the 1st, 2022 - Krizevci students have showcased their ability to come up with innovative product ideas and enter into often challenging entrepreneurial waters.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ivan Tominac writes, with the cooperation of the Krizevci Secondary School of Economics and the Krizevci Entrepreneurship Centre, young people are also showcasing how they too can become entrepreneurs.

Investing in the applicable knowledge of young people is necessary for their growth, and this is exactly the approach taken when it comes to these talented Krizevci students.

They educate young people there for professions in the field of agriculture, and with the initiative of Professor Gorana Pavicic, the cooperation of the Krizevci Secondary School of Economics and the Krizevci Entrepreneurship Centre (KPC), young professionals are upping their chances of success in entrepreneurship.

Thanks to this initiative, fourth grade Krizevci students managed to combine their theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as improve their competencies and skills in terms of establishing and organising business and designing innovative types of agricultural products and services. The fact that these Krizevci students of this school really have entrepreneurial potential is also shown by their ideas, which are both varied and innovative.

In the second half of the year, they will continue their cooperation within the subject "Independent Management", where third grade students will independently develop business plans for the economy and the subject "The Organisation of Agricultural Production" through which they will learn the importance of different measures, incentives and tenders.

This approach, in addition to awakening entrepreneurial potential in young people, solves the big problem of financial literacy among them, too. In this way, young people gain knowledge about proper financial management, which could be a valuable input for them from the moment when they finish their high school education and get acquainted with the demanding labour market.

"If you don't have financial resources and some form of financial background, you don't have the opportunity to realise your business ideas and projects. As part of one of the courses, Krizevci students researched how to finance their business ideas, studied which banks offer which financing opportunities, whether there is any financial support or any measures that would be in line with their chosen economic activities, and there were also ideas floated about financial partnerships,'' Pavicic pointed out.

"This plan and programme exists and it should definitely be adhered to, but it's up to us professors to choose the way in which we'll implement that plan and programme. We want to bring knowledge as close as possible to the students themselves, and I think that the best way to do that is with practical classes, practical exercises and tasks, which is actually a characteristic of our school. Since we have a farming, gardening, fruit growing, cattle breeding, dairy and mechanical practicum in the school, we try to connect theory and practice as much as possible. The great thing in all this is the support of the director Toni Svoboda,'' said Pavicic.

"Expectations at the end of the high school year are certainly the ability and independence of students to start their own businesses, and judging by their dedicated, I believe that when it comes to these Krizevci students, if they decide to take on an entrepreneurial venture one day, they will certainly succeed,'' she concluded.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Huawei Technologies Donates 100 Tablets to Croatian School Children

December the 4th, 2021 - Huawei Technologies, in cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Education and the Croatian Academic and Research Network - CARNET, has donated 100 tablets to Croatian school children. More specifically, the devices have gone to five primary schools located around Vukovar.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, this donation is part of the global donation project "1000 Dreams", which Huawei is implementing across Croatia for the third year in a row. It was launched here in Croatia on the basis of signed Memoranda of Understanding between this gigantic tech company and the Central State Office of the Government of the Republic of Croatia for the Development of the Digital Society from 2019.

As part of the “1000 Dreams” project back in 2019, 200 books, picture books and 200 educational toys of various kinds were donated to the users of the Zamisli (Imagine) association, while at the beginning of this year, 320 STEM books and 80 tablets were provided for primary schools in Glina, Petrinja and the surrounding areas.

"CARNET has been working for many years on the digital transformation of the educational system and the equipment of Croatian schools with modern technology through numerous projects. Therefore, we're very happy to respond to Huawei's invitation to participate in the ''1000 Dreams'' project, which will enable students and teachers to take advantage of the benefits of information and communication technology and gain new knowledge and skills,'' said Hrvoje Puljiz, Director of CARNET.

Representatives of Huawei visited schools and Croatian school children and handed over the tablets to the principals of the schools.

"Children and young people are the most important social group that we at Huawei are particularly focused on. We believe that in today's world, access to digital technology is a prerequisite for their development and we're extremely pleased that through such donations we can contribute to building a better future. In addition to raising the quality of teaching, we hope that our tablets will have a positive impact on directing young people towards the further discovery of modern digital technologies and opportunities that open up to us,'' added Kevin Zhang Qiming, the CEO of Huawei Technologies Croatia.

The "1000 Dreams" project is otherwise a five-year cooperation programme during which Huawei will continuously work to improve the digital skills of young people in Central and Eastern Europe and encourage them to find a passion for science and engage in research.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Covid Certificate Related Dismissals in Croatian Education System to Come

November the 25th, 2021 - With stories now becoming more and more common in which people are dismissed or suspended without payment due to not presenting a valid covid certificate or refusing to regularly test, are covid certificate related dismissals set to come to the Croatian education system as well? It seems so.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at the beginning of December this year, the first extraordinary dismissals can be expected in the Croatian education system for those employees who haven't been vaccinated and are refusing coronavirus testing, announced the president of the union Zeljko Stipic, emphasising that this week, the first warnings were handed out to teachers without covid certificates.

"The first warnings have been issued. There haven't been too many of them, and we'll know how many exactly there have been when we collect all the data. What we currently know is that there are about fifty of our members who didn't want to be vaccinated or get tested, but this doesn't represent the number of those people who received warnings, because in the meantime there were those who changed their minds. Either they got vaccinated, or they agreed to be tested,'' Stipic said.

There are also those, he added, who asked for unpaid leave due to their decision not to be tested or vaccinated, and the school principals approved it, there are also those who decided to use their sick leave.

"According to the proposal of the competent Ministry, an employee who doesn't present the a covid certificate is issued with a warning first, and then comes the second warning. The second warning comes after an employee fails to present a covid certificate or test result within a period of seven days, and if they've failed to justify their absence from the classroom in another acceptable way. In that same second warning, the school principal issues a warning before initiating the procedure of extraordinary termination of that person's employment contract,'' explained Stipic.

The fact that the first warnings began to be handed out to those working within the Croatian education system has also been confirmed by the president of the Association of High School Principals, Suzana Hitrec, as Novi list reported.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Croatian Covid Certificates Needed by Parents Attending Parents' Evenings

November the 14th, 2021 - As the scope of the use of Croatian covid certificates gradually begins to widen, parents visiting their childrens' schools for parents' evenings will also need to be in possession of Croatian covid certificates.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, all public sector employees, as well as all people who need their services for whatever reason, will need to have proof of them having previously contrated and recovered from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 or a recently obtained negative test result as of next week.

The decision on the measure should be published, after which - in the case of the system of education and science - the competent ministry will send out a decision to all kindergartens, schools, faculties and scientific institutes with additional clarifications and information for those in charge. The responsibility for organising everything to be in line with these new epidemiological measures will have to be taken over by the heads of the institutions, directors, or deans.

As Jutarnji list has since unofficially found out, parents will not be exempted from the need to present Croatian covid certificates or a negative test result upon arrival at school. Although it was previously announced that parents of students will not be covered by the measure, the new plan - as advocated by school staff - is that in case of coming to school for information, parents' evenings or any other long stay inside the school, parents or guardians must present evidence of their recovery, full vaccination, or a negative test result.

In the case of a short stay at school, for example, due to the accompaniment of a child with disabilities, they will not need to present Croatian covid certificates.

The exception will be parents who are bringing and taking their children out of kindergarten. According to current announcements, they will not have to have Croatian covid certificates either.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

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