Monday, 6 September 2021

New School Year Begins for 460,000 Students, Including 37,000 First Graders

ZAGREB, 6 Sept 2021 - The new school year 2021-22 begins on Monday for almost 460,000 elementary and secondary school students across Croatia, including about 37,000 first graders, and all will have face-to-face classes.

This year again HRK 158 million was earmarked in the state budget for free textbooks for elementary school students.

Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said on Sunday that elementary school students in grades five to eight and secondary school students would have to wear masks if the distance between them in classrooms was less than 1.5 to 2 meters.

However, masks are mandatory in hallways, outside classrooms, and in school transport.

Teachers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to wear masks in classrooms, while those who have not been do, Fuchs said on RTL television.

The ministry has issued epidemiological recommendations based on research, the experience of epidemiologists, all stakeholders in the education system and other EU countries as well as in line with those of relevant European and international organizations, notably the World Health Organization.

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

Friday, 3 September 2021

Everything Ready for Start of New School Year

ZAGREB, 3 Sept 2021 - Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said on Friday that everything was ready for the beginning of the new school year, that all children would be attending face-to-face classes and that clear epidemiological rules for schools had been made known.

Students who test positive for the virus will have to stay at home until they recover, while others will go to school normally, keeping a physical distance from each other and not having to wear face masks, the minister said ahead of the start of the new school year on 6 September.

As for school halls, school buses and other means of public transportation, students will have to wear protective masks.

Speaking of the vaccination of employees in the education system, Fuchs called on those who had not been vaccinated to do so.

As for the vaccination rate, he said that it was around 60% in high schools, around 72% at universities and close to 80% in research institutions.

He said that efforts would be made to keep the vaccination rate in the education sector above the vaccination rate in the general population.

That is the only way to keep schools open, he said.

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Thursday, 20 May 2021

BREAKING FREE NEWS: Incredible Freddie Mercury Tribute by Čakovec Students

May 20, 2021 – Brilliant Queen and Freddie Mercury Tribute by Čakovec students boldly challenges prejudice, oppression and expectations.

When people think of Čakovec in northern Croatia, usually they're not thinking of a shockingly, progressive place. But, perhaps that's just why high school students of Josip Slavenski Gymnasium decided on this move. Certainly, the graduation photo of the school's 4 E class boldly counters all expectations.

Instead of the usual fun, frivolity and throwing of hats, the students decided for their end-of-term picture to challenge, provoke and confound everyone. The result is absolutely fantastic, 'breaking free' of all conformity.

In the Freddie Mercury tribute photo, the Čakovec students are all dressed as the iconic Queen frontman, as seen in the video to the band's unforgettable 'I Want To Break Free' single. In 1984, when the song was originally released, it caused quite the controversy.

Queen and Freddie Mercury 'I Want to Break Free'

In Europe, the release was well-received, the video adored and the song went to the top of the charts. But, in the USA, it was a different story.

Queen had not considerably troubled the charts in America since their breakthrough 1970s single 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. But, in 1984, the band released in the U.S. the American version of their multi-platinum 'Greatest Hits' album. A hit! Then, they followed it with a new single, 'Radio Gaga'. Again, a hit! After over a decade of releasing music, Queen were finally on the brink of breaking the most lucrative music market in the world.

So, what did they do? For their next song, 'I Want To Break Free', the band decided to appear entirely 'in drag', as women, in the video. Although transvestitism is completely unrelated to homosexuality, perhaps the least intelligent members of society presumed this to be the idea of the band's singer, Freddie Mercury, who was gay. Not so. The idea for the video actually came from Queen drummer Roger Taylor.

American music television simply didn't understand the video. They refused to screen it. When they did, American audiences were either mystified or horrified. Well, this is a country that once elected Donald Trump for president. The response to this brilliant Freddie Mercury Tribute photo from the students of Čakovec might be comparable, in the least progressive sections of society. You know, the places where people still point to the sky when a plane passes. Or where the music of Queen is considered 'new'. As, perhaps, is electricity.

4 E Josip Slavenski Gymnasium, Čakovec, Freddie Mercury tribute

And yet, with this outrageous Freddie Mercury Tribute, these Čakovec students have proved themselves to be the best of the future generation. Bold, confrontational, committed and outright funny. In the Freddie Mercury tribute, they stand in front of the banner for the Festival of Alternative Čakovec. It's a deliberately inclusive event, intended to draw all sections of society. Anyone challenging their sense of fun must simply be regarded as the most miserable, moany and backward of all among us.

Just as the band Queen confounded some with their 1984 release, so too today will these Čakovec students with their Freddie Mercury Tribute. Luckily, there are many more young progressive people in Čakovec and Croatia - and Queen fans - than there are miserable, moany voices. Bravo class 4 E Josip Slavenski Gymnasium, Čakovec!

Friday, 9 April 2021

Four Schools Combating Period Poverty in Croatia

April 9, 2021 - Following Scotland's policy and relevant scientific research on period poverty in Croatia, four schools in Croatia want to help female pupils in their struggles of womanhood.

10% of women in Croatia can't afford menstrual pads and tampons – showed the results of the first big research on period poverty in the country. Following these results, as reports, Machinery and Traffic School Varaždin was the first to secure free menstrual products for pupils, and three schools in Istria are on the same path.

As confirmed to Istra.In, Vladimir Gortan High School in Buje already secured free menstrual products, Pula Gymnasium's execution is coming soon, and Buzet High School is trying to find a way to implement it.

„Graduation pupils from 4.B, class of Hotel-tourist technicians came to the idea to place a pads dispenser in the girl's bathroom so that girls can take pads when needed“, said psychologist Petra Bošnjak for Istra.In.

She added that the pupils originally thought to finance this change by themselves, but the school decided they can cover the expenses, while the pupil's duty is to follow the development and fill the dispenser with new pads when needed.

„Their notion was immediately accepted and put in place“, concluded Bošnjak.

While Pula Gymnasium still hasn't put the free menstrual products scheme in practice, they announced it to start this Monday, April 12th. 

„Looking at the Varaždin school, we talked with the pedagogy service in school and decided to secure free menstrual products ourselves. I think it's a good approach to be more open towards women and as a school to send a message that we want a clear approach to topics we don't speak loud enough about and to more frequently talk about topics like equality which today is very very important“, said principal of Pula Gymnasium, Filip Zoričić. 

The school will finance menstrual products and which will be available to the pupils in the psychology and pedagogy office. 

As already mentioned, Buzet High School wants to implement the same help to girl pupils too, but the project is in the early stages, and the school vows to do everything in its power to make it a reality. Last week, they sent an inquiry to a drug store asking to sponsor free menstrual products for the girls at Buzet High School, but the drug store so far didn't respond.

„We still didn't get an answer, but we only sent it last week. We certainly want to make this idea a reality, and we won't give up until we find a sponsor for this action“, said principal Margareta Gumilar persistently.

With different stages of success in ensuring free menstrual products for their pupils, these schools are positioning themselves as champions of positive change for gender equality. They are fighting to remove one financial struggle for the pupils that certainly gives uneven position. The prices of menstrual products in Croatia range from 10 to over 20 kunas. 

For more about made in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Zagreb Primary School Named the Most Active School in Europe!

December 15, 2020 – Thanks to the project "A walk around the Earth" designed by professor Juraj Horžić, Zagreb Primary school "Petar Preradović" won the European Commission's #BeActive award for being the most active school in Europe.

As the Ministry of Tourism and Sports reports, today, Minister Nikolina Brnjac received representatives of the Zagreb Primary School "Petar Preradović", professor of physical education Juraj Horžić, and the school principal Denis Žvorac. Their school is the first Croatian winner of the #BeActive award given by the European Commission.

The title of the most active educational institution in Europe went to this Zagreb school thanks to the project "A walk around the Earth", designed by professor Horžić. In the spring, during limited activities due to the coronavirus pandemic, this project encouraged the physical activity of students, their parents, friends, relatives, and other acquaintances.

"I saw the news on the TV that a marathoner ran a marathon on his balcony. I immediately took the globe. I saw how far it is to make a circle around the Earth, for example, and I started to recalculate how many students would need to be included for us as a school to make a circle around the Earth," professor Juraj Horžić told RTL.

The project consisted of two challenges – a walk around the Earth along the meridians and parallels. In a total of 31 days in 1996, participants from 8 Zagreb primary schools covered more than 148,000 kilometers, made more than 222 million steps, and consumed more than 7.5 million calories.

"At a time when we need to adapt to new circumstances, professor Horžić accepted the challenge and, in a unique way, encouraged the physical activity of 2,000 people. He showed by example, how little is needed for motivation and how everyone in their own way, in their time and space, can engage in the activity they choose and do so much for their health. Congratulations to professor Horžić and the school on winning the award. I look forward to your future projects. Encouraging children to engage in physical activity is an important task, and the "Walk around the Earth "project has shown that we combine the most important thing with a creative approach – the acquisition of knowledge and physical activity," said Minister Brnjac.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Nikolina Brnjac with the Petar Preradović Primary School from Zagreb representatives, professor Juraj Horžić and the school principal Denis Žvorac / Photo: Ministry of Tourism and Sports

The educational component added value to this project, as the students learned about all the countries, cities, and other areas they passed on their way through the walk. Professor Horžić gathered kilometers of all participants and prepared interesting facts from the history, geography, celebrities, nature, sports, and culture of different countries on four continents.

As a reward for all the effort, the recognition of the European Commission arrived.

"The prize is 10,000 euros, which will certainly improve our school budget. We will invest in the school what we need for physical education, some props, and everything we need to make our physical and health culture richer in the future," said Denis Žvorc, the school principal.

And they seem to be just at the beginning of their journey. They are also planning a trip to the Moon and will virtually walk even to Jupiter.

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

Monday, 7 September 2020

New School Year Starts in Croatia Amid Strict Epidemiological Measures

ZAGREB, September 7, 2020 - The new school year 2020-2021 starts across Croatia on Monday with 460,000 students enrolled in primary and secondary schools that are implementing the epidemiological measures proposed by the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) due to the epidemic of COVID-19.

Classes in primary and secondary schools, higher education facilities and pre-school education facilities will be organised in accordance with three models due to the coronavirus epidemic circumstances.

Model A are classes conducted in school, Model B is blended learning, which combines classroom learning with online instruction, and Model C is distance learning.

According to Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs, in Model B, schools operating in a single shift, and there are 60% of those, can split their students in two shifts (morning and afternoon) to reduce the number of pupils in the building, and other schools in which maintaining physical distance and wearing masks is not possible can divide their pupils so that some have classes in school and some online.

The epidemic of COVID-19 is the reason why the uncertainty is lingering in the air, and eight schools are starting this new school year with distance learning, since some of their staff are positive for coronavirus and some are self-isolating.

Other schools are opening their doors to children, and strict epidemiological measures are being introduced in those buildings.

This past Friday, Education Minister Fuchs called on school workers to act responsibly even outside their working hours so that the virus would not spread to schools and prevent face-to-face classes.


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Friday, 28 August 2020

Teachers' Union Seeks Answers from Minister About New School Year

ZAGREB, August 28, 2020 - The Croatian Teachers' Union on Friday sent an open letter to Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs with the ten most frequent questions about the new school year coming from teachers in the field, with possible suggestions to resolve those issues.

The unions is seeking additional employment of assistant-technical personnel, who were in short supply even before the outbreak of the pandemic, saying that more than 48% of cleaners cleaned a much larger area than prescribed before the pandemic and that now they will be required to work even more to ensure compliance with epidemiological measures.

The teachers said that the issue of high-risk employees has also not been resolved nor is it clear if pupils who become infected will be excused and whether they will be required to attend online classes. They also want to know who will organise these classes.

The union has received a lot of enquiries from worried parents and employees regarding transport and it notes that it makes no sense for pupils from different grades to ride on the same bus, only to be later strictly separated according to classes when they arrive in school.


Delay in employment of additional IT teachers

Noting that a decision on ICT lessons in schools enters into force in the 2020/2021 school-year, the union warned that additional IT staff still had not been hired.

There are also delays in organising after-school day care in schools and the status of teachers in these classes has still not been resolved, it said.

Every teacher should be ensured with free Internet access or compensation for the related costs incurred and they should be equipped with a laptop, camera and applications in order to organise remote teaching, the union warns.

The union further notes that instructions are not clear for special schools either.

Teachers are want to know if and how often testing for the coronavirus will be organised for school staff, if they will be supplied with protective equipment, how classes will be covered should a teacher be compelled to go into self-isolation and so on, the union says in its letter to Minister Fuchs.


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Tuesday, 18 August 2020

HZJZ Head Says Task Force to Give Detailed Instructions for Start of School Year

ZAGREB, Aug 17, 2020 - Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) head Krunoslav Capak, who is a member of the national COVID-19 response team, said on Monday that a Science and Education Ministry task force would define detailed measures for the start of the new school year and that he did not expect any major changes in that regard.

"I have to say that we are actually not late because after the lockdown was lifted we defined measures for the continuation of the school year and there won't be any major changes in that regard as nothing has changed significantly," he said.

"Both the task force and the people we have talked to believe that children should go to school and that the measures will be adjusted subsequently, if necessary," he said.

"Of course we should have a fallback option, if someone contracts the disease and has to self-isolate, they will switch to online or video classes, we have to be prepared for all possible scenarios," said Capak.

He could not say if children would have to wear masks in school and who would have to buy them.

"I cannot say who will buy masks. Smaller children and children in the age group from the first to fourth grade will most certainly not be wearing masks because that is not appropriate to their age and they will be in close contact with one another anyway, whether they wear masks or not. As for other age groups, the matter should be discussed to see what other countries have done in that regard. We will see. We are closely following the relevant literature as well as information from the World Health Organisation," said Capak.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Epidemiologist Capak: Children Will Go To School!

ZAGREB, Aug 10, 2020 - Children will go to school, Croatian Publich Health Institute head Krunoslav Capak said on Monday, underscoring that the current epidemiological situation with a smaller number of infections indicates that children should normally start attending classes.

"Children will go to school. We have a good epidemiological situation, our case numbers are low with a declining trend and now children should, could and must go to school," Capak said for RTL Danas newscast.

He said that the national coronavirus response team had held a meeting with the Education Ministry, which had formed an advisory task force which includes members of the coronavirus response team, epidemiologists and the ministry's experts, who will decide on those matters.

He expects that the advisory task force would have its first meeting next week and start making decisions on the beginning of the school year.

No confirmation of Czech or German reports about their citizens' becoming infected in Croatia

As for reports by some countries, such as the Czech Republic and Germany, that their citizens became infected on holiday in Croatia, he said that local epidemiologists had checked the information they had read in the papers but had not, he underscored, received confirmation "that that really is the case."

He noted that the EU had an early warning and response system for communicable diseases, which can be used to notify the country where someone became infected.

In that case, Capak said, Croatian epidemiologists need to investigate where those people were, whether they contracted the disease there, if measures should be adopted in the facility where they were etc.

We have received official reports of several cases of infection in tourists

"We only react to official reports, not to what is read in the papers or on portals. For us that is not an official report," he said, adding that they had received official reports for some countries with "several reported cases".

Cruise ships should be allowed to dock in Dubrovnik

Capak said cruise boats, when they request it, should be allowed to dock in Dubrovnik, underscoring that the coronavirus response team had carefully analysed measures by two Italian cruise ships cruising the Mediterranean.

"The measures they introduced always look good on paper and they are really good, so we think that if they really are complying with them, it is possible and they should be allowed to dock," he said.

The team, he added, are still in a little dilemma over what would happen if there is an infected person on the ship, in which direction the person would be evacuated, whether they would return to their home country, to Italy or request that from us, "which I think should not be an option".

Friday, 29 March 2019

Language, School and Friends - What Life is Like for Teen Expats in Zagreb

It's true Croatia may not pose the most favourable conditions for young adults looking to get out into the world and establish themselves.

As funny or unusual as my story may seem, it's met with confusion and shock for good reason. On the other hand, families and younger teens and children who move over here are generally supported and understood. It’s not so out of the blue or strange to want to bring and raise your family in Croatia, with playgrounds and green spaces a mass, low crime and a good school system. In an effort to combat the mass exodus of Croatian citizens, the Croatian government even grants allowances per newborn to encourage families which, in the town of Sali for example, can reach up to 10.000kn per newborn (feel free to read more here).

The short version is simply the fact that Croatia places a high priority on family life, but has this translated into the lives of the expats kids who move here with their family?  

Before me, my younger brother (we’ll call him Filip) was the first to move here. Plucked out of school in England at the start of Year 8, Filip had just begun high-school in the UK. After a difficult time and a lot of change since then, he now finds himself studying and socialising at a local Croatian school in a small town not far from my parents village. Here is what he has to say about the experience...

“It was a very stressful and difficult change to make, I had a little bit of excitement but was afraid of everything, of having to get to know this new country as I had no idea what to expect really”.

I asked him if he was most afraid of having to make new friends, “nope” he responded as if that was a dumb question to ask.

“Really?, not at all?”

“No, I mean you just get on with it, that wasn’t the scariest part”.

We continued our conversation about friendships and connected on the limitations of the language barrier. Understandably, his main advice for those deciding to move to Croatia would be to have some knowledge of the language beforehand, even if just basics.

“It’s easy to make friends, everyone is pretty open and friendly and there will always be those that are fluent in English, but not everyone speaks English well...without some Croatian, it limits who you can talk to and there’s not that same connection as you would have with people who speak your own language”.

We chuckled at this point, and I definitely agree with him. You can always have friends and be courteous with each other but making a real connection is the tricky part. The language barrier does end up limiting your social circles and what you can get up to no matter how outgoing or positive you might be. Sitting at a cafe table with a group of our Croatian colleagues one time, my expat friend from Australia joked that “we have that Western understanding” and it’s very true.

Don’t let that discourage you though. My brother, now coming to the end of his second year at a Croatian school, says he’s very happy and wouldn’t change how things are.

“While we’re in a small village there isn’t much to do except hang out at the cafe bars or at each other’s place, but we always find something to get up to. In Zagreb there’s a ton of things to do”.

From most of the kids I’ve spoken to language wasn’t a central issue. While daunting, they managed to pick up Croatian pretty quickly and the majority of their peers spoke decent to fluent English so communication wasn’t hard. The teachers were supportive and keeping up with the classes was a challenge but not impossible.

On the other side of the spectrum, I also spoke with two wonderful girls, Nina, 16 and Marica, 14 who moved here from Australia. They both arrived with some understanding of the Croatian language, so their experience settling in was a little different as well as their initial fears.

Before the move, Marica recalls worrying what the Croatian kids would think of her, if she’d be able to build friendships and easily fit in. While her older sister Nina, was excited for the move saying she was looking forward to something new and a totally different environment. Once here, their experience of adjusting to life in Croatia continued to be polar opposite, but not in the way anyone expected.

As she arrived aged 13, Marica was able to start a regular Croatian state school in their town just outside of Zagreb. She had a ton of support from the state and her school, spending the first semester entirely dedicated to getting adjusted to the new system and focusing on language learning - which amounts up to 70 hours of Croatian all funded by the state. Over time, Marica found herself settling in easily and starting up a new social life. I asked if she'd consider staying in Croatia or if she has any desires to move back to which she responded cheerfully that, she’ll give it a go [in Croatia].

Nina, being much older, found the move more challenging and was launched into the intense IB course at an International school in Zagreb. Nina found the support was much more limited compared to her younger sister, and has had a more challenging time connecting with her also foreign peers given the intense curriculum, competitive academics and social divides.

Overall, both sisters as well as parents can agree that school and life abroad can reap many universal benefits, from confidence to a well rounded worldview. But with regards to Croatia, both advised to not set high expectations on life here. Go with the flow, and adapt to the culture instead of trying to change it or comparing to life before was the takeaway.

It’s fair to say the benefits of studying and growing up in Croatia are no more apparent than doing so in another European city, however, families can rest assured there is a ton of support from other expat families, the government and schools if they do decide to come to Zagreb or Croatia in general (checkout the expat parents in Zagreb Facebook group for a start!).

It’s reassuring to know a stable social life is more or less easily attained as well. In line with my brother’s experience, I heard over and over that coming younger makes adapting, school and language learning easier. It also opens up more options, since particularly in Nina’s case she had to go to an International School to finish her studies as the Croatian system was too different for her to jump into.

At the end of the day, I can only commend my brother’s as well as Nina and Marica’s brave dive into a new culture and the way they've managed to transform the experience into something positive at such a younger age, and I can only hope the experience continues to shape them as well as encourage others to experience life in a totally new environment (whether in Zagreb or elsewhere!)

Please note that the names mentioned in this article have been changed for the sake of privacy

Interested in more about life in the capital? Give Total Zagreb a follow. For more from Mira and her experiences, follow her here.