Experts warn that schools must not be closed, even without enough students, because where there is not school, there is also no life.
In the last two school years, 2014/15 and 2015/16, branches of eight schools were closed down, or as the Ministry of Education says, “they temporarily stopped operating”. This year, at least four more branches with close their doors, reports Večernji List on September 16, 2016.
However, there are also some good news. On the island of Zlarin, after a three-year break, the school once again opened its doors. Furthermore, as many as six students are expected to enrol in the first grade in the next two years. In addition to Zlarin, another school after a long break has been opened in Bogomolje on the island of Hvar. On islands and in mountainous areas, schools are sometimes kept open for just one, two or three students, because otherwise life comes to a complete standstill.
In the last five years, the largest decrease in the number of schools took place in Lika-Senj County, where seven schools have been closed, followed by Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, which lost six schools, and Split-Dalmatia County where three schools lost all their students.
According to demographer Stjepan Šterc, closure of school branches is a proof of demographic devastation and the Ministry of Education should draw up a plan and a map to see where the population is concentrated by age. Based on that data, it could determine which schools must stay open regardless of the number of students. “For demographic renewal of a certain area, the prerequisite is the existence of a school and certain economic activity. Population, especially young families, cannot settle in those areas, on the islands and in continental marginal areas which are potentially valuable, where there is no school, and education authorities must understand that”, said Šterc adding that savings can be found in other areas.
“They can terminate educational projects and programmes which do not contribute to the development of society. These projects cannot be equated with projects that are of strategic importance for Croatia”, said Šterc. Although the Ministry of Education is very careful with the closure of schools, Šterc said that in large cities they could close more schools, because there is no need for two half-empty schools at a distance of 300 metres.
Josip Burušić from the Ivo Pilar Institute said that the closure of small schools in small communities was “a crime against the future of this society and this nation”, because that destroys the last chance for demographic renewal. “Each area without a school is basically dead. There is no justification for the closure of schools. There is enough money and it needs to be managed properly. Because, ultimately, they will close down small schools in small communities, while the same sort of small schools in large cities will remain.”