As the new school year approaches, why some parents will be better off than others when it comes to school books.
Students of primary and secondary schools in Zagreb, as well as primary school students in Međimurje, Osijek, Vukovar, Varaždin, Dubrovnik and several other cities, are in a privileged position compared to their peers in other Croatian regions. Residents of these towns and regions will not have to pay a single kuna for school textbooks, because the local authorities have decided to provide free textbooks for all, while the parents in the rest of Croatia will start the new school year with their wallets significantly slimmed down. Textbooks are free for children in Rugvica, Sveti Ivan Zelina and Ivanić-grad as well, while some other cities and municipalities provide partial financial assistance for the purchase of school textbooks, reports Novi List on August 16, 2015.
The central government will cover 50 percent of cost for textbooks for children who live in households which receive a social assistance allowance or whose parents are members of several categories of veterans. The state has quadrupled the money for textbooks for blind and visually impaired students in Braille to 1.5 million kuna, in comparison with just 390,000 kuna last year.
All in all, this year the central government will provide 18.5 million kuna for about 26,000 students in primary and secondary schools, or about five percent of the student population. A little more than 120,000 children will receive free textbooks from their local authorities, and if we include children from cities and municipalities which are co-financing the purchase of books, we come to around 200,000 children which will get completely or partially free textbooks.
Since there are about 400,000 pupils in Croatia, about half of students are at a disadvantage compared to their peers. Education minister Vedran Mornar has spoken about the problem of inconsistency and said there will be changes. “We should agree upon criteria and standards, so that everybody in Croatia finds themselves in same situation”, said Mornar in September 2014.
In addition to parents who will have to pay between 600 to 1,800 kuna for textbooks and workbooks, ombudsman for children Ivana Milas Klarić also does not support current solution. “Even though this practice is consistent with the law, it is not fair”, said Milas Klarić. “Education, as a way of overcoming poverty, should promote equal opportunities for all children, as well as creating conditions for the realization of their full potential.” She believes that the problem could be solved by introducing children’s budgets at national and local levels. This would show how much money the state and local communities are willing to set aside for children.