The story of Rajić village should be the story of Croatia: from “Where were you in 1991?” to “Where will my child be in 2031?”
Nenad and Rujana Bakić are the founders of the Croatian Makers Robotics League, run through The Institute for Youth Development and Innovativity, privately funded with a mission contained in its name. IRIM sees youth robotics and automation as the main platform for development, which have become easily accessible.
Original post on Nenad Bakić’s Facebook page on October 22, 2016:
One of the more inspiring stories in Croatian Makers, which gave me strength is the case of Rajić village, the story that began today exactly two years ago. In 2014, our first donation of robotics equipment went to Popovača, where there is a very active and quality robotics club with Vlado, Robert Sedak, Bražen Beleta and others. After a while they told us in Rajić there is a great primary school teacher Mira Čuvidić who knows nothing about robotics, but would like to offer it to her pupils. I hope Mira won’t mind if I share this about her:
“Around ten years ago I decided to devote myself to working with gifted children as I believe they are neglected in our school system. Everything is about poor and problematic pupils. I am not saying they should not receive attention, but we tend to overdo it, which leaves no time for gifted children, who are not even noticed in class. I was one of the first five teachers of grade school in Croatia who had her own webpage with additional interesting educational material available to everyone. Why? Because our children spend too much time at the computer since they are little, but unfortunately use it for stupid games etc. I wanted to divert their attention to learning via computer. I created different interactive games, quizzes and the like. They liked it very much and I continued. Then I decided to open an online class in Moodle via CarNET. Everyone told me Moodle is for college students, not first grade pupils. I didn’t care and prepared a first grade class. Parents and teachers were thrilled. Children solved interesting assignments and I had insight into what they were doing. I added an additional math module at math is my passion. Our textbooks are so bad and we claim to be a land of knowledge, they have no tasks to apply the knowledge in the real world. Pupils from other schools also took part in the class, even one child from Ghana.”
As they were total beginners, we made an exception and donated the most expensive robot, LEGO Mindstorm (then around 400 Euro), the easiest and most attractive entrance into robotics. Our great partners from Popovača helped them get started. In a short while, teacher Mira decided to take her kids to a competition, registering for the simplest discipline for their age, Robo-dance. The robot is programmed ahead and the kids dance with it more or less synchronised. They dressed themselves and the robot in their folklore dress. And – won!
Later we received this wonderful letter:
“Croatian Makers – our doorway to the future
We are thankful for Croatian Makers for opening the door to the future. It is , indeed, a praise worthy project. Who know when, or if in the near future, would robots arrive to a small Slavonian village which most Croatian children wouldn’t know about if they hadn’t seen our robot on television or read about it in the newspapers. As part of the Croatian Makers project our school received robotics equipment in October 2014 (Lego and Arduino). Great excitement and joy for our pupils, a challenge for me – a grade school teacher, who knew nothing of robotics. Not just me – no one in our school has experience in assembling and programming a robot. ‘Teacher, can we assemble that robot?’ asked my 4th grade pupils.”
It is evident that in the local communities we are moving the focus away from “Where were you in 1991?” to “Where will my child be in 2031?” How will it fare in life? Will it see its future here, or in another country?
Unfortunately (and I didn’t want to write about this, but it was in the letter), teacher Mira wrote:
“There is no better way than investing money in knowledge. Although you personally have no material benefit, you seek to help young people, which is very noble and commendable. Thank you so much for that! If our politicians would think like that, we could be so much better off!”
We recently applied to the first EU tender titled “Support for organisers of volunteering for advancement of the management of volunteers and execution of volunteer programmes” for the sole purpose of working with people like Mira. Unfortunately, we were illegally denied. Does it have to do with the fact it is a very political organisation, easily seen in the two portals they promote on their web pages, with titles such as :
– Capitalism kills!
-Solidarity against capitalism!
-Say: Stop the violence of capitalism
-Why was Marx correct
-Why do we fear socialism?
-The crisis of capitalism
-May 1st on Cuba
-Read Karl Marx
-Enough with the greed of multinationals!
-The long neoliberal night of the EU
And so on… In short, the state institution for the development of civil society recommends we read portals that propagate socialism and Marxism under the cover of civil society. It’s hard not to feel we were illegally eliminated because we don’t fit into the ideological matrix (private philanthropy, donations: yuck!), I suppose one can only be noble with state money. A little more on the activity of the Foundation: NO CRISIS FOR THEM: 7.5 million state Kuna awarded to associations close to government! Unfortunately, we seem to be out of favour with the Foundation director, Mrs. Plavša-Matić.
The state does not like us. Neither do people who make good money on STEM education, often for state money, as we are doing this on a large scale and for free (“destroying the market”). Some of those developing STEM education also don’t like us, as we show them much can be accomplished with very little. Still, we are strong and we will continue, and I will feel free to cite what our most quoted scientist, our only member of The Royal Academy, Igor Rudan, wrote on our wall:
“The best initiative that I can remember in the Croatian educational system. Genially envisioned project with relatively small investment (taking in consideration the entire amount spent annually on education) achieves incredibly much: a large number of children is preparing for a future where they will need to think, code, automate, solve problems, all through a game. It is sad, of course, that such a quality initiative has developed outside the educational system, financed with private money of two capable and benevolent people, and as I understand it, without any reaction or help from state bodies, at least for now. The least the state should do now is invest 1 Kuna for each Kuna invested by the Bakić family and turn this project into a positive example of state-private partnership, as would have been normal here in Great Britain. Congratulations to Rujana and Nenad. Congratulations on this programme and best of luck in expanding it to all of Croatia! Cheers from Edinburgh, Igor Rudan.”
Who do we believe, Igor or Cvjetana? Why is ideology killing us? What kind of a country is this?
In the meantime, “the game continues,” we have started this complicated, but globally advanced project (in the end, we will network all the children and have a live system across the world!): Internet of Things — Solutions for a smart home. For those who haven’t been following, cases like Rajić have inspired us for the STEM car project, a sort of bookmobile of modern age that has toured the less developed areas of our land with free robotics workshops.