In the spring semester of the school year 2018/2019, the Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC) programme was conducted in primary schools in Croatia. We, the WYA Croatia Chapter members had the opportunity to teach the HDC in two primary schools in Zagreb: First Catholic Primary School and Primary school Ivan Mestrovic.
In First Catholic Primary School we were teaching the HDC to 8th graders. Students were very interested and even familiar with the topics of human dignity, freedom for excellence and others, but the HDC lessons helped them to understand these terms in a more personal and elaborated way. They were especially interested in the topics such as the differences between treating a person as a subject and treating a person as an object, intentional actions and making good decisions in their lives, using rational thinking and their own talents and preferences. These topics helped them to better understand how it is important to take an active role in their life already when it comes to making decisions, because next year these 8th graders will apply for secondary school and it was important for them to realise that this decision is one of the important ones in creating their life paths and accomplishing their dreams.
In Primary School Ivan Mestrovic, we were teaching the HDC to younger students who were attending 5th grade. This was much different then teaching the HDC to 8th graders, because the approach had to be different since the students were on different level of maturity and interest. Here was the chance to show how the HDC can be elaborated in a way that each child can understand the complex terms related to human dignity in a unique and understandable way. To younger students, it was important to have as much fun and playful workshops, in order to give them the opportunity to experience the importance of human dignity in each of them and to know how to recognise the dignity of persons around them, specially their classmates. The HDC helped them to solve some issues and conflicts they had in the class. It also gave them a chance to express themselves and to talk about some personal things they don’t have the opportunity to talk about every day, even though they do have a need to share some of their life views, and they do have a need to be listened to.
It was also interesting how in some aspect of classes in this school, student’s reactions were rejection and distance (which is understandable if we consider their young age), but at the end they got very interested and involved in the workshops and they finally gave some amazing personal feedback. For example, when they had the lesson on ”Heroes” it was rewarding to hear from them how they perceive heroes in their life and how they were so aware that heroes are not found only in movies or in the books but also in their own life – but they just need to open their eyes to recognize them and then to thank them for being part of their life.
One of the students claimed that his hero is his mother because she gave birth to five children, himself and his brothers and sisters.
Another student had a chance to recognize his professor as a hero, who saved his life during class while he was choking.
Overall, this experience of implementing the HDC in Croatia in the last couple of months was very rewarding and enriching not for the students and us as HDC teachers, but also for their professors in primary schools.
It helped all of us to understand the importance of human dignity in our life, considering our own dignity and the dignity of the people around us.
It also gave us new motivation for our next generations who will be involved in the HDC in the next school year (2019/2020), two other primary schools in Zagreb that will be a part of this life changing programme in the next semestre.
Written by Petra Medak, the leader of the WYA Croatia HDC team