Schools in Slavonia Making the Difference
The FFE’s project team in Croatia have visited several schools in Slavonia region (eastern part of Croatia) that are participating in the project. The school’s coordinators met together and discussed and shared the projects they are working on within the project “Start the Change” and how their work on the topics like diversity and acceptance of differences are making significant contribution to the improvement of school culture and learning environment. Throughout all implemented projects, the voice and agency of students was paramount and what teachers noticed as most contributed to students’ engagement in the projects was opening the space in schools to create, plan and implement their own ideas into practice.
The teachers also expressed their concerns with the general poor socio-economic situation in their region where a large number of families immigrating to other countries in the EU in search for more prosperous lives. This has a direct impact on schools because number of students with each school year is significantly reduced which presents concern for the sustainability of these schools and their future. The number of students in primary schools in Croatia from 2011 to 2016 decreased by 7%, which clearly shows the emigration trends of the Croatian citizens. Still, even with these concerns, teachers shared stories of their students participating enthusiastically in the projects and accordingly we are presenting their stories and accomplishments.
Grammar School Matija Mesic from Slavonski Brod
This 100 year old grammar school is one of the largest in the region that recognized the significance of empowering their students to talk about their diversities and celebrate it. Through the project “From Understanding to Acceptance”, the journalist group of the school decided to launch the photography competition “Being Different is Cool(ture)!” where they invited students of their and other schools to create and send photographs on this topic. The best photographs were selected and school organized the exhibition in order to promote the artistic perception of the diversity. Also, the school volunteer club organized different workshops for their members that raised awareness on their own prejudices. Debate club established on the school level organized debates on the topics such as: EU values and migrant crises; migration trends in Croatia – staying or leaving Croatia etc. All these activities were the key topic in the schools’ magazine where students shared their stories on the participation in the project.
Primary School Trpinja
This small primary school with 70 students is located in the village of Trpinja inhabited by Serbian national minority and the school program is implemented in Serbian language and curriculum. The school recognized the need to connect more with a wider local community in order to tackle the issue students recognizes and that is that there is a need for exit the school and reach out beyond their community. Through the project “Little Volunteers” they initiated different pro-social activities where students had opportunity to engage themselves through organising and participating in the volunteering activities by visiting different stakeholders in their communities like animal shelter in neighbouring town of Vinkovci, collecting food and other goods for the shop that provides food for people in need; by visiting local kindergarten etc. They also opened their door for senior citizens who were for one day both learners and teachers, they were thought by students how to use computers and they shared their stories about how their schooling looked like. All these activities were presented in their school magazine.
Technical School Nikola Tesla from Vukovar
This VET school has over 400 students who attend the school program on either Croatian or Serbian language. Having in mind the devastating recent history of town of Vukovar, the school recognized the need to organize activities for students of different nationalities that would provide them with opportunity to meet in the space outside of the classroom where they can get to know each other better. Within the project, the school organized many activities, but the one that they are very proud of is the Book club that the school project coordinator started in cooperation with the local creative writing centre. The idea was to encourage students to read more and to get familiar with the writers from Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They also hosted students from the Islamic Grammar School from Zagreb and different writers from Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.
Medical and Veterinary School from Vinkovci
Within the project “I give you a hand so you can fly”, the students of all three vocational subjects (nurses, veterinary technicians and physiotherapist) came together and decided to revive previously existing volunteering club. The students were very enthusiastic to help the children and adults with special needs through different activities, which also provided them with the opportunity to practice their vocational skills. The girls and boys of the club volunteered in the local NGO that provides so called Therapy horse riding for people with disabilities and also implemented workshops in the home for adults with disabilities. The students enjoyed very much these activities and plan to continue to do the same in the next school year.
Primary School Dubrava from Zagreb County
The school has 447 student and their motivation to join the project was to improve relationships among students considering that many of them have developmental difficulties, belong to national minorities or come from foster families. The teachers were eager to celebrate their diversities and provide students with the opportunity to meet and get to know each other outside of the class and academic accomplishment. Through the project “I can do it!” 30 students of different academic success, social relations, learning and behavioural difficulties implemented different activities within the school and in the local community which led to improvement of their self-image, behaviour and general school climate. They have met on weekly basis during the whole school year and through different workshops prepared for visits to local kindergarten, local elderly home and local home that care for patients with mental illness where they enjoyed time together and become more sensitive about different needs of vulnerable groups in their local community. The two teachers who are coordinators of the project also implemented the workshop on dealing with prejudices and stereotypes with parents and with the rest of the teachers in their school. They were very happy with the workshop for parents which they found very influential and raised awareness among parents on diversities on the school level making them more sensible and focusing more on promoting values of acceptance among their children.
Still, there are 10 more projects in Croatia to describe, so expect more stories on inspiring projects from our country 🙂