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Introduction to the Platform for Development of School Volunteering of Sisak-Moslavina County

30. June 2023.

“The Platform for Development of School Volunteering of Sisak-Moslavina County is an informal network of schools and civil society organizations, serving as a hub for education, exchange, and advocacy with decision-makers. The purpose of the Platform is to support schools and civil society organizations in developing and sustaining school volunteering clubs as proven tools for practical education of children and youth on active citizenship, social justice, and the social inclusion of vulnerable groups.”

Launching the first School Volunteering Platform in Sisak-Moslavina County

The Local Democracy Agency Sisak, in partnership with Vocational School Sisak and the Human Rights House Zagreb, presented the work of the Platform for Development of School Volunteering of Sisak-Moslavina County and the first research on best practices and needs in the field of volunteering and civic education carried out in primary and high schools in the County.

The presentation took place on June 29, 2023, at the premises of Vocational School Sisak, attended by representatives from the media, schools, and local authorities from the County.

“We are pleased that our school has joined this project because we believe that even though our school offers many opportunities for vocational learning, this also provides opportunities for learning life skills that are essential for young people.”

Ivica Beloglavec, the director of Vocational School Sisak.

“Eight schools from the County are involved in the Platform for Development of School Volunteering, including Vocational School Sisak, Primary School Budaševo-Topolovac-Gušće, High School “Ivan Trnski” from Hrvatska Kostajnica, High School Glina, Primary School Viktorovac from Sisak, High School Viktorovac from Sisak, Primary School Mate Lovrak from Petrinja, and Primary School Zorka Sever from Popovača. Teachers from these schools are undergoing training on teaching children and youth about social justice. Following the training, they plan and carry out volunteer activities in their communities. The results of these volunteer actions, as a method of practical learning, will be formulated into a handbook with teaching plans that can be used by other interested schools in Croatia. An internet website dedicated to school volunteering will also be launched soon,” explained Paula Raužan, the president of the Local Democracy Agency Sisak and the project manager.

Nurturing inclusivity and impact through volunteering

“It is important for our students to have the opportunity to learn and understand diversity, inclusivity, and equality, as these are topics that surround them and which they encounter daily. Students show a great interest in their community and see volunteering as an activity through which they can work towards small but significant changes in the environment they live in. Therefore, we formed a team of teachers and students who went through preparatory training together and created the school’s volunteer program. On June 14, we officially opened the Volunteering Club of Vocational School Sisak called “Most” (English: bridge). Bridges connect, just like our club aims to bring people together,” explained Nataša Perković, an ethics teacher and one of the leaders of the school’s volunteering club.

Voices of students and teachers: Insights on education, participation, and volunteering

The research on best practices and needs in the field of volunteering and civic education was conducted in six primary and high schools in the County. It was carried out through focus group methods, separately with students and teachers.

Tina Đaković, the organizational and program coordinator of the Human Rights House Zagreb, presented the main findings of the research:

“Teachers involved in the research recognize that students are generally interested in everything related to “real” life, and some highlight the need for more experiential learning in school.

Primary school students express the desire for a school that prepares them for the future and one with better infrastructure. Outside of school, they want to see improvements in transportation infrastructure and better transportation to extracurricular activities. They perceive misunderstanding from adults as a barrier to being part of change themselves. High school students want a school that cares about social development, not just education in the narrow sense. Outside of school, they say they want to eliminate differences among people, have more equality, and less discrimination, and they want more understanding among people.

Regarding participation, primary school students note that the opportunity to express themselves and have their voices heard depends on individual teachers. High school students, as well as teachers, highlight the role of class teachers in communication and support in school. Criticism of the work of Student councils was also voiced.

Volunteering is a concept familiar to all students, defined as humanitarian work and helping for charitable purposes without compensation. Some perceive that volunteering does not always have to be of a humanitarian nature. Some students also mention that, in addition to motivation, developing certain knowledge and skills is necessary for volunteering. They see volunteering as promoting empathy and caring for others in the community and emphasize the need for volunteer activities focused on vulnerable groups and individuals, such as the elderly, children, and peers with lower academic performance.

Teachers note that organizing volunteering requires exceptional dedication and a high level of motivation. The main barriers to the successful organization of school volunteering are shift work, the lack of more frequent public transportation for students, and the lack of funding for minor costs, such as materials for specific volunteer activities.

To decision-makers, they convey the need for greater support in terms of ensuring more frequent transportation, funding for minor costs of volunteer activities, stronger promotion of volunteering, and stronger community connections.”

Following the research results, the Platform will work on advocacy actions towards decision-makers at all levels of the education system, with the aim of supporting schools and civil society organizations in the development and sustainable operation of school volunteering clubs.

The Platform for Development of School Volunteering project is implemented by the Local Democracy Agency Sisak in cooperation with partners Vocational School Sisak, Human Rights House Zagreb, and Norsensus Mediaforum Norway. The project is supported with €87,870.00 in financial assistance through the Active Citizens Fund, funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA Grants.

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The content published in this text is the sole responsibility of LDA Sisak and does not necessarily reflect the views of the donor countries and the Fund Manager.

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