SIRIUS STUDY VISIT IN CROATIA: INSTITUTIONAL AND NON-INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT TO STUDENTS
ZAGREB – A. is a youngster who left Afghanistan for Iran, where he attended school. Then he and his family left Iran for Europe. They settle at first in Austria, where A. learnt German to attend the school there. One day, they moved to Croatia. He is now 17 years old and he is learning Croatian, and once more, he is enrolled in another school. N. is a 21 years old student from Sudan. He recently came to Croatia. He would like to enrol the University in Zagreb to complete his educational path.
These are in brief the stories of two young migrant students living in Zagreb, who got in touch with the NGO Are You Syrious (AYS), a humanitarian organisation visited during the SIRIUS network peer learning activity that occurred in Croatia in Mid-May. AYS is striving to give them assistance, in a country that has a relatively short history as a migration destination. In the period 2006 – April 2019, in the country, 767 people were granted with international protection. Among them, 284 were minors. At April 2019, Croatia hosts less than 200 asylum seekers, 30 of which are minors.
Besides helping migrants with everyday needs, Are You Syrious and its volunteers provide also support for the recognition of diplomas and the school/university enrolment. For asylum seeking children, they organised group study (3 age groups), individual support and educational activities outside the reception centre. For children under international protection, they organise individual support (language, homework, etc.) and educational activities outside their home. Through the so called “big brother/big sister” program, AYS volunteers help the students and their families with school related activities and beyond. One of them, former teacher, explained: «AYS, as an organisation, is in contact with all the schools attended by the children. I help them in all subjects when they cannot understand what it is written in the textbooks. They know English and German as well, so we can switch to those languages when needed». «AYS volunteers help me with mathematics, chemistry and physics. The most important help I get from AYS is the studying support» – added A.
The results of the international study Citizenship Education in Schools in Europe (2017), in which Croatia participated, showed that civic education in Croatia was carried out mostly by enthusiastic teachers as there was no clear political support for its implementation. In 2017 – 2018, the NGO Forum for Freedom in Education conceived and implemented the EU project Start the Change – Embracing Differences Through Intercultural Education and Volunteering to try to mitigate the effects that a lack of civic education could bring. The project aims at preventing radicalisation and at promoting democratic values, fundamental rights, intercultural understanding and active citizenship. It focuses on developing and nurturing psychological thriving, emotional development and self-regulation, civic competences, positive attitudes towards differences as well as multi-perspective and deeper understanding of the world. The project was implemented in four countries (Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, and United Kingdom) and led to 41 school projects, with a direct involvement of 2463 students and indirect involvement of more than 5000 students. Within the frame of the project, 105 teachers & youth experts were trained.
The SIRIUS delegation visited one of the school that participated in the project in Croatia, the Bernardin Frankopan VET school in Ogulin. It features five curricular tracks: general grammar program, language grammar, hotel-touristic specialist, economist, commerce specialist.
«At the beginning of the project, we enquired the students about their needs and problems – explained one of the teacher that took part in the action – and they stressed the fact they did not interact with students from other curricular strands». The school started then to organise various common activities with the aim of raising students’ awareness regarding any prejudice they might have about each other. «The success factor – added another teacher – was the implementation of a workshop in which we asked the students to identify the features of a successful “salesperson”, of a successful “businessperson”, and so on… The students realised that every program/profession is equally important, that some fundamental skills are common across the different fields and that everybody is relation with the others and with the community».
The response from the students was positive: they appreciated the project and they said that they would like to repeat the experience in the current year or to continue with it during University, if it would be possible. One of students explained what was at the core of the project activities: «I’ll carry with me not only the knowledge about school subjects and matters, but also the life knowledge that the teachers conveyed. We learnt that we have to give an opportunity to everyone».