Monday, 15 November 2021

Istrian Town Holds Record For Number of Primary School Students

November the 15th, 2021 - One Istrian town has set the record for the most primary school children in the Republic of Croatia in spite of the demographic crisis which has plagued Croatia for many years now.

As Morski writes, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), last year, almost two thousand fewer students were enrolled in primary schools across the country's cities than were enrolled back in 2019 - 225,789 students, and the year before that there 227,547 students. For this school year, the CBS hasn't yet published the data, but according to what can be seen from the eRudnik application, the number of students has again been reduced by about 2,000. Over the past eight years, only the City of Zagreb and Istria County have had an increase in the number of students, and last year only 38 cities recorded a positive trend, as reported by the portal mayor.hr/gradonacelnik.hr

With an increase of 36 students in the school year 2020/2021. Compared to the year before, Poreč is the leading city in Croatia in terms of the number of enrolled primary school students, which is an increase of 2.81 percent compared to the year before.

Today, the popular Istrian town of Porec is one of only a few cities in the entire country that can boast of positive demographic trends - from 2018 until today, the number of students in primary schools in that particular Istrian town has increased from 1538 to 1635 students. Porec responded to such positive demographic movements in a timely manner with investments, in order to provide all of Porec's children with a proper high quality education. From 2017 until today, two new primary schools have been built for a total of 700 students, along with additional halls and all other necessary infrastructure. Thanks to these investments, all children from this Istrian town attend their classes in one morning shift.

In order for Porec to remain a desirable place to live, grow up and gain a good education, the City of Porec awards the largest scholarships in the country for their students, co-finances the purchase of textbooks and other educational materials for students, co-finances primary school programmes above the typical standard with more than six million kuna per year, co-finances the transport of students studying in secondary schools in Porec and neighbouring areas for about 180 students, encourages learning Italian in Porec's secondary schools by financing teachers' salaries, and additionally provides funds for salaries to assistants in schools for students with disabilities.

On top of all of the above, this Istrian town co-finances the activities of the Centre for Community Services, which has an array of programmes aimed at children, families, the elderly and particularly vulnerable groups of people with with the aim of providing psychosocial and health support, as well as numerous other social assistance and support measures and additional measures for single-parent families.

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

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Croatian Public Health Institute: Quarantine Shortened, New Rules for Students

October the 2nd, 2021 - The Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) has published a set of new recommendations on its website, in which quarantine periods have been shortened and there have been some new rules made for school children.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the duration of quarantine has now been shortened from 14 back down to 10 days again, and a new recommendation for Croatian students has been introduced. They must now be tested for the novel coronavirus after each absence from school before returning back to class.

Here are the new Croatian Public Health Institute recommendations in full:

- The duration of quarantine for close contacts of patients has been reduced to ten days

- Exemption from the need for testing for persons who have recovered from coronavirus or have been fully vaccinated and who have no symptoms of the disease and have not been in close contact with an infected person has been extended to twelve months

- Healthcare professionals and staff in other institutions who come into contact with vulnerable individuals (groups) who aren't subject to quarantine must be tested by PCR immediately after having close contact with the infected person, on the seventh day after contact and on the fourteenth day after contact, regardless of their vaccination status and whether or not they have previously recovered from an infection.

- Emphasis is now being placed on the need to confirm each rapid antigen test result by PCR test, for administrative reasons, ie obtaining a digital covid confirmation, which does not mean that a positive result of a rapid antigen test isn't considered sufficient to treat a person with COVID-19 in terms of putting them into isolation and processing their contacts.

- A PCR test is recommended as the first choice of diagnostic test if the testing capacities and the specificity of the situation allow for this testing method to be used.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Police File Reports Against Eight Anti-Maskers in Krapinske Toplice

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - Police in the northwestern Krapina-Zagorje County have filed misdemeanor charges against eight persons protesting outside a primary school in Krapinske Toplice against the obligation for children to wear face masks in school. 

The police have filed 26 reports and they refer to an attempt to disturb the public peace, unreported public assembly in a place where public assemblies are not allowed, refusal to wear a protective mask indoors, and refusal to show police one's ID card.

Police also reported that a child's parents were reported for offences against the Identification Card Act and the Act on the Protection of the Population against Infectious Diseases, and that the competent social welfare service had been informed accordingly.

Police said that over the past few days, several people had continued rallying outside the school in Krapinske Toplice in violation of the Public Assembly Act, which was why police presence there was required.

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

 

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Croatian Teachers Under Pressure: Angry Parents Behind Straight A Pupil Epidemic?

September 8, 2021 - The flood of straight-A pupils in Croatian elementary schools sadly isn't a sign of brilliance but of Croatian teachers being put under pressure by parents who want their kids to go to the best high schools in the country. The newly launched Facebook group wants to get to the bottom of fake A's, offering Croatian teachers a place for anonymous confessions.

Parents naturally want their best for their children and want to see them succeed and have the best life possible. The smarter the child, the better things will be for them, many would conclude. If a child is like that middle child from the show ''Malcolm in the Middle'', bright enough to be the master of everything you throw at him, be it maths, language, physics, or history, he should be able to sail through life worry-free, right? Well, maybe.

In reality, such gifted individuals, if actually real, are truly rare. However, you wouldn't think that if you were to see the grades of some Croatian pupils, with a large number of them getting straight A's. Unfortunately, this is a distorted picture of reality.

''I teach the youngest kids, and the criteria is owed to the parental pressure. I'm there just to hand out A's. Nothing else is good enough. I was even reported to the inspection because I gave one pupil a B (she was a C, but I knew there would be a problem so I gave her a B, and then chaos began). I justified giving her that grade for weeks with the threat of inspections hanging over my head. The grades are perfect, the knowledge not so much, the kid and their parents are happy, and the teachers crapped all over,'' reads a thread from one of the increasingly pressured Croatian teachers on the recently launched Facebook group ''Why Does it Itch When it's Not 5.0?'' (Zašto žulja kad nije 5.0?).

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FB thread translated above, screenshot / Zašto žulja kad nije 5.0?

The flood of straight-A students (or, in Croatian terms, those kids with an average of 5.0, meaning they passed all subjects with a 5, Croatian for A), has been sporadically addressed in the Croatian media over the past few months as elementary school pupils were heading off to their high schools. So many straight A pupils have their results rated as unrealistic and the parental pressure placed on Croatian teachers and professors is seen as what's to blame.

A grades given as a gift and not as a true measure of a child's knowledge was something that was even addressed in the curriculum reform and is waiting to be fully implemented. With high school admissions coming to a close, the situation has since gone rather quiet.

But, then, famous Croatian investigative journalist Ivana Paradžiković published a Facebook thread expressing dissatisfaction that her ''4.8 son'' didn't managed to get accepted into high school in any of the six gymnasiums he applied for, as they were accepting only those kids with a grade of 5.0 in the new school year. She stated that her son was good enough for the European Film Academy but apparently not for the Croatian education system.

''He had the misfortune of going to a school where an A grade wasn't given away, and it was important to the professors that instead, they actually teach kids something. Over there, 4.4 is a B and not an A, and to me, that was always normal and acceptable (...) several classes with 30 pupils each with a straight A grade and nobody finds that unusual nor alarming... The education system is the foundation of the society,'' wrote the rightfully unhappy Paradžiković, as reported by Jutarnji List.

Paradžiković's thread, as well as the previous media coverage of the straight A epidemic across many Croatian schools, triggered freelance journalist Matina Tenžera to start a Facebook group which discusses the matter. The group consists of 249 members at the time of writing this article.

''I want to survey public opinion about this issue. Some say it's the fault of the system, but that's a bit too abstract. I want to find out how much parents really do push their children, is it truly such a big issue or maybe it's blown out of proportion?''  Tenžera said to TCN.

The group invites Croatian teachers to share their inside stories on parental pressure and generally what stands behind this unrealistic picture of the success of Croatian pupils on paper. The response so far is small, but Tenžera hopes that interest will grow. As TCN previously reported, Facebook groups that share anonymous confessions played a crucial role in revealing sexual harassment in the Croatian higher education system, mainly at the acting academy in Zagreb and other parts of the wider region.

Still, the small amount of threads gathered by Tenžera's group already reveals some true horror stories about how teachers in Croatia are perceived more as slaves than as valued individuals tasked with properly preparing the next generation for adulthood out there in the big wide world.

''My mother works as a teacher, and the situation in which someone came to school to attack and threaten to sue her because she gave a low grade to the child of someone famous has happened more than once. She literally had to remove the grade under the threat of getting fired,'' reads one anonymous confession.

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FB thread translated above, screenshot / Zašto žulja kad nije 5.0?

Tenžera wants to learn just why Croatian schools and their headmasters don't take a stand and explain to parents that a good grade needs to be worked for and earned.

''I'm just a layman, but I hope that experts and experienced teachers will join the group and provide some of their solutions,'' says Tenžera.

Zagreb's Vladimir Prelog Science School and Mathematical Gymnasium (MIOC) has already taken to the practice of having entrance exams to settle the difference between talented pupils on paper and actual talented pupils.

Introducing and valuing entrance exams more than elementary school grades is one solution Tenžera believes could work, but as she points out, she isn't an expert. So, she hopes the Facebook group will encourage discussion for those who are educated, trained, and qualified to discuss education issues.

The following days will reveal whether or not this Facebook group grow into a bigger voice protesting against unfair and unethical practices in the Croatian education system and the abuse of Croatian teachers.

Meanwhile, in the first week of the new school year in Croatia, pupils are back in their classrooms learning about the world around them. However, the lesson of honesty and getting only what you work hard for is a lesson only their families can teach. Not threatening teachers for giving grades that are a realistic, professional evaluation of knowledge is lesson number one.

Read about Croatian politics and history since 1990 on our TC guide.

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

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, 27 August 2021

Authorities Thinking of Introducing COVID Certificates in School and Health Sectors

ZAGREB, 27 Aug 2021 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, who heads the national COVID-19 crisis management team, said on Friday that there were still no plans for the introduction of COVID certificates in the educational and health sectors, but the authorities were considering such a move.

He announced the extension of the validity of the current COVID certificate, whose current validity is nine months.

Božinović called for compliance with anti-epidemic rules such as social distancing, room airing and mask wearing.

Croatia's 14-day incidence 143.4 per 100,000

The head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), Krunoslav Capak, said that this week, the number of new coronavirus cases increased by 31.6% as against last week.

He added that currently, Croatia's 14-day incidence was 143.4 per 100,000 population, and that broken down by county, Istria had the lowest incidence and Split-Dalmatia County the highest.

Of the 27 EU member-states, Croatia ranks 11th while Poland and Hungary have the lowest incidence. The current ranking is topped by France and Ireland.

As for the COVID-related mortality rate per million citizens, Croatia ranks 20th in the European Union. Capak said that Croatia would soon start providing booster doses to the most vulnerable groups.

He added that when it comes to children aged between 12 and 18, 10% of this age cohort has so far been vaccinated against coronavirus.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević Announces New Model For Appointment of School Boards

ZAGREB, 3 Aug, 2021 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević announced on Tuesday that next Monday, applications would be invited for the appointment of members of school boards, with around 400 members to be selected, plus 200 who are representatives of local government units. 

Speaking at a news conference, Tomašević said that under the new model, of the three school board members who are appointed as representatives of schools' founder, namely the City of Zagreb, one would be chosen from among representatives of local government bodies and two would be selected in an open competition.

Around 400 school board members will be selected in an open competition, around 200 will be nominated by heads of city district councils.

The boards of primary and secondary schools whose founders are local government units each have seven members, of whom three have so far been appointed exclusively by a decision by the mayor.

The Večernji List daily recently reported that the appointment of some of the school board members in an open competition would be introduced by Zagreb and Split, whose mayors, Tomašević and Ivica Puljak respectively, have said the new model is aimed at depoliticising educational institutions.

Tomašević today also noted that fees for members of school boards as well as for members of the management boards of city-owned kindergartens and cultural institutions would be cut. 

Amendment of criteria on lease of city premises

Speaking of waste management in Zagreb, Tomašević said at today's news conference that the situation in Zagreb was critical regarding the disposal of bio-waste and bulky waste.

A new public procurement procedure has been launched for the disposal of bio-waste while the public procurement procedure for the disposal of bulky waste is under way, he said.

The mayor of Zagreb also announced changes to criteria for the lease of city-owned premises, noting that by raising prices of lease, which are currently very low, the city's revenue could be increased.

"I do not see any logic in leasing commercial businesses that earn millions in revenue spaces of several hundred square metres at a price of several thousand kuna," he said.

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

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

MP Jeckov: There Are Definitely No Segregated Schools in Croatia

ZAGREB, 7 July, 2021 - MP Dragana Jeckov of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) said on Wednesday that there are "definitely" no segregated schools or exclusively Serb schools in Croatia, let alone a segregated state education system.

Jeckov made the statement in parliament following statements in the media by "quasi-reformists of minority education," primarily the one conducted in the Serbian language and Cyrillic script.

"Certain myths need to be debunked," she said, including the one that Serbs in Croatia have separate schools and that they are being taught from textbooks from Serbia, based on the so-called Serbian programme.

"In Croatia, there are definitely no segregated schools, there are no exclusively Serb schools, let alone schools that are segregated from the state education system," said Jeckov.

The truth is that students go to school within the same building, that they usually go in the same shift, that they have extra-curricula activities together. The only difference is that members of the minority community are taught in their mother tongue and only if their parents decide so.

"Model A is used by the Italian and Hungarian and Czech minorities and they enjoy their minority rights to a greater extent than Serbs because their schools are registered as minority schools, unlike those for Serbs," she said.

She said that the Serb minority is not asking for more than others but it hasn't achieved the level of rights that others have, and that there is no alternative to education in the mother tongue and script.

MP Stipo MIinarić, of the Homeland Movement (DP) retorted that she was not telling the truth.

"Schools are segregated. Children are segregated from kindergarten age to secondary school. That is not good for Vukovar, the Serb community, the Croatian people, for anyone. Why are children being segregated?" he asked.

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

 

Friday, 25 June 2021

Ending Segregated Education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava Announced an Idea

June 25, 2021 - Is there any possibility of ending segregated education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava announced Serbian and Croatian education could merge in school and kindergarten levels, but more details are yet to be revealed.

The start of the week saw interesting news that surprised many. As reported by N1, Ivan Penava, the mayor of Vukovar, announced Croatian and Serbian classes and kindergartens could merge together.

Vukovar, often referred to in Croatia as the „Hero City“ for the heavy blow it suffered in the 90s war Croatians refer to as Homeland War, still has a lot of ruins as memories of that ugly past. In the light of national tensions among Serbs and Croats, the segregation of kindergartens and different shifts in schools for Serbian and Croatian classes seem to be a solution to keep the peace.

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screenshot/ N1

Good idea but more talks needed?

„In Vukovar, parents do not choose the model of education that is imposed by politics, it is nowhere written in public“, said mayor Penava, as reported by N1.

Penava, a former member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), despite earning a new term in the recent local elections as an independent candidate, enjoyed support from Miroslav Škoro, runner-up candidate for Zagreb mayor elections, and the leader of the Homeland Movement (DP) supports Penava's idea.

„I lived in America for a number of years, in Hungary, I traveled the world... what is the difference between Serbian and Croatian mathematics? Is Argentina in Serbian in the northern hemisphere, and southern in Croatian? I don't get it“, said Škoro adding that segregation was done in malice with a tendency to divide children from the start.

„In Vukovar, the symbol of defense had priorities. Reconstruction of the water tower, and certain moves Penava did well in his last term (he wouldn't win elections if he hasn't), thinks that city needs to move on. I support him 100%“, concluded Škoro.

On the other hand, criticism is erected on national-level politics.

„I don't think that local officials are the ones who need to determine a way in which minority education will be conducted. Political trade is clear here, and I'm glad there is no longer just Serbian-Croatian trading coalition, but also another one“, said Dragana Jecov, a Croatian parliament member from the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referring to the accusations of the right-wing that current coalition of HDZ and SDSS and is vile political trade.

Interior Minister Davo Božinović also said that while we need to work on erasing national, social, and political tensions, but this is a question that needs to be discussed more seriously.

Additionally, as N1 reported, the Ministry of Education pointed out that different models of education for Vukovar schools exist, and parents can choose which they find most suitable.

Accepting national differences or nationalistic uniformity?

Some improvements have indeed been seen in the city infrastructure, but Vukovar still remains a challenging place to live. Partly due to the tough economic situation, but also because of discrepancies among Serbian and Croatian residents. Earlier in June, there was even a violent incident when a 30-year-old Serbian member of the Grobari football fan group physically attacked a Croatian 13-year-old boy in front of a bakery for having a medicine mask with Croatian symbols.

„Sadly, this kind of thing happened too long in Vukovar, where people attack each other because of national disputes. Media aren't even introduced to some of these events. It is spread a lot, as evident by the constant police patrols around Vukovar high-schools where there are always police cars around“, said Vukovar police to Večernji List daily newspaper.

Such incidents, a misfortunate loose ends of the war, also come from the Croatian side. Earlier in May, a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo Selo (close to Vukovar), a scene of heinous war crimes in the '90s), sparking condemnation from both president Milanović and the Croatian Government.

In that light, integrated schools might finally bring positive changes in regards to tolerance and peaceful life for Vukovar citizens. But again, not everyone sees the glass as half full.
Index.hr columnist Gordan Duhaček agreed in his column that Serbs and Croats don't need to go to separate shifts but warns how Penava isn't the guy that should unite them.

„Penava doesn't want to integrate Vukovar schools and end the troubling segregation in a way to ensure a better future for the whole city, but instead to impose his nationalistic, often anti-Serbian narrative as the official one. Penava wants that Vukovar Serbs bow down to his view of the Croatian state“, wrote Duhaček.

Duhaček also reminded the readership of the attempt and fail of the Danube International school that supposed to integrate pupils of both nations, an idea that spawned 16 years ago. But, the project failed, and Duhaček sees both Penava and SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac not feeling too sad about it.

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Iconic Vukovar water tower, pixabay

Questions on details

At the end of the week, the situation seems more confusing than clear. Is class integration a good idea? Could it save money for the city financially? What are some actual details of merging Croats and Serbians into one class? Obviously, Škoro is right that 2+2=4 in any math class around the world. But, troubling questions appear in subjects such as language and history. Croats and Serbs sadly have their own, different interpretations of historical facts, particularly when it comes to the last war, and while the speakers of two languages perfectly understand each other, some words do differ, and there is a different accent and spelling in the two formal languages. So, how can these issues be resolved? Would those two subjects remain in different shifts while universal subjects such as biology, math, or physics will listen in one merged classroom? Or will there be a different curriculum that would present both Serbian and Croatian history, Serbian and Croatian literature in that way, making Vukovar pupils more knowledgable in those areas than other pupils in the country?

Or some curriculum consensus on history could be reached, one that would satisfy both the Croatian and Serbian sides and thus truly open a doorway to the better understandings of the two nations in the future in perhaps the most nationally torn city in Croatia?

Obviously, Vukovar city authorities have some tensions with SDSS, but the city also has an expert associate for the development of civil society and national minorities, Siniša Mitrović in one of the City's departments. Did Mitrović manage to gain input from the Serbian minority in Vukovar about this merge? And how fast could the whole thing be realized? This autumn or maybe a bit later?
These are important and interesting questions that can only be answered either by mayor Penava himself or perhaps Josip Paloš, the director of the Vukovar City Education Department.

„Mayor Penava is in a lot of meetings and on fields, and his schedule is full. We will sadly not be able to answer you by your Friday deadline, but we will contact you at the earliest convenience“, said the lady at the Vukovar City PR service when I called them (and E-mailed) with a wish to arrange and conduct a brief phone interview.

While this article may present the current issues surrounding segregated education in Vukovar, this TCN reporter hopes mayor Penava will share more details about his plan on ending segregation in Vukovar schools and kindergarten with joint classes. If done right, this move can indeed be the way to a better, more peaceful future for Vukovar citizens.

Learn more about Vukovar on our TC page.

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

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Croatian Female Team Wins 3 Medals at EGOI: Amazing Results at First Female-Only European Informatics Olympics

June 22, 2021 - The celebratory atmosphere for the Croatian informatics scene, as the Croatian female team wins 3 medals at EGOI, the first edition of the European Female Olympiad in Informatics.

With Croatia meeting the first edition of the European Girls Olympiad in Informatics (EGOI) with a Female team ready to participate, a fantastic result was achieved as the four-member team won the contest with three medals.

As Srednja.hr reported, Ema Borevković, Lina Krištić and Lara Semeš (from Zagreb's XV Gymnasium), and Martina Licul (Pulau Gymnasium) represented Croatia and the aftermath of the contest that gathered 157 contestants saw Ema winning a gold medal, while Lara and Martina grabbed silver medals for their results.

„I think the girls did a great job, particularly when you take into consideration that Lara and Lina are first graders. For myself, I think there was space to collect more points, so I'm not entirely happy“, a new champion Ema told Srednja.hr. She added that she currently writes matura and hopes to study mathematics at the Faculty of Science at the University of Zagreb.

The contest was held online due to pandemic measures. The organization of the event for Croatian was arranged by the Croatian Computer Science Association (CCSA), and Zagreb's XV Gymnasium was the host, a place where pupils took the tests. Ivan Paljak, Paula Vidas, and Dominik Fistrić were professional guides (coaches) to the team, while Matej Ferenčević, Nikola Dmitrović, and Alenka Dogan Capan, lead by Krešimir Malnar, were in charge of the organization of the performance. 

''The European Girls Olympiad in Informatics (EGOI) is a new international competition for young women interested in computer science, and it lasts for one week. The Olympiad comprises two contest days where the participants solve challenging algorithmic problems. The program is then rounded off with excursions. The students will have time to socialize with the other girls interested in the topic and to explore their host country. Each participating country may send a delegation consisting of four female participants under the age of 20, accompanied by two coaches,'' said the official website of the EGOI event. 

This amazing result isn't the first time Croatian pupils triumphed in the field of informatics. Croatian pupils, such as Dorian Lendvaj and Patrik Pavić, who won gold medals at the International Romanian Master of Informatics, previously showed informatics is a much-loved subject in Croatia.

For more on tech, you can learn more about digital nomads in Croatia on our TC page.

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

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