STA, 2 September 2021 - Home schooling appears to be ever more popular in Slovenia with the number of kids taught from home spiking by 75% last year, which is attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and measures related to it.
In the past school year 687 children were schooled at home, most of them the youngest children in the first two years of primary school.
The number of first formers taught from home rose by 75% to 126, from 72 in the 2019/2020 school year as the number of second formers rose by also as much, to 106, from 61 the year before.
Data for the school year that started yesterday will be available after 10 September as parents have time until 31 August each year to opt for home schooling, but a new rise is expected.
Lara Romih, the head of the Parent Councils' Association, believes the reason for the surge is that some parents opted for home schooling because they oppose vaccination and testing of their children.
More generally, the association attributes increased popularity of home instruction to classes being held remotely during the Covid-19 outbreak and often disrupting the family's daily routine.
Talking with the STA, Romih said the association had noticed parents wanting to home-school their children have been joining into various initiatives, mainly on social networks.
In the run-up to the new school year, there was an increase in queries on social networks about the terms of home schooling.
The Institute for Development of Home Schooling, a non-profit promoting home schooling, has currently 2,292 followers on its Facebook site.
Home schooling has been legalised in Slovenia since 1996, but has not been practised until 2004 when first cases were recorded by the Education Ministry.
The ministry says that under valid legislation primary schools cannot deny pupils the right to home schooling, but they can if the pupil fails to pass exams at the end of the school year.
To home instruct their children, parents only need to notify the respective primary school by the start of each new school year, without needing to state their reasons for it.
However, the requirement is that home-schooled pupils attain at least the level of education standard afforded by state school, which is tested by exams.
These are held from the end of May Day break until ten days before the new school year with the level of attainment assessed by a three-member exam panel appointed by the headteacher of the primary the pupil is enrolled in.
In the first three grades, home-schooled pupils are tested in maths and the Slovene language, or in areas with the Italian or Hungarian minorities in Italian or Hungarian.
A foreign language exam is added in the fourth to sixth form, with exams in several more subjects added in the final three years of primary school.
STA, 1 September 2021 - A new school year is starting today for almost 270,000 Slovenian primary and secondary school children and nearly 30,000 teachers. Classes will be held in person for everyone for now but with safety measures in place, including mandatory Covid certificates for staff. If schools flout the rules, they may be ordered to switch to remote classes.
The third school year marked by Covid restrictions will start the same way the previous one ended, following model B, with an additional requirement for the staff to be either vaccinated, recovered or tested weekly for Covid-19.
Apart from the mandatory Covid certificates for staff, model B entails in-person instruction for all children, mandatory masks and voluntary self-testing for older children, hand sanitising, distancing and extensive airing.
Provided health authorities' recommendations are heeded, all school programmes and activities will be allowed, including school camps and swimming classes, while pupils from different classes will be able to mix for elective subject classes.
However, under a decision taken by the Education Ministry last night and coming into effect today, inspectors will be able to decree classes to switch online for the schools that fail to follow the prescribed measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The coronavirus outbreak this time around is much worse than a year ago with the number of infections increasing by an average of more than 400 a day so concerns are growing how school will proceed beyond the first week.
Facing extensive criticism over a lack of a clear roadmap and instructions, the government has announced new rules can be expected after 6 September depending on the state of the coronavirus outbreak.
But unofficial information indicates the Covid-19 advisory group drawing up a proposal of restrictions to be introduced in various stages of the epidemic does not plan school closures even if the situation deteriorated.
The Education Ministry has set out four different basic models for primary education depending on the epidemiological situation, with the extremes being A under which classes are held for everyone without restrictions, and D where classes are held remotely for all.
Model C envisages a combination of in-class and distance learning, which would kick in should the Covid outbreak worsen after 6 September. However, even under that model primary pupils up to 5th grade plus final year primary pupils would be kept in schools.
Teaching staff who have not been vaccinated or have not recently recovered from Covid-19 will need to undergo mandatory weekly testing, with the possibility of self-testing being introduced after 6 September give sufficient test supplies.
However, as some staff oppose vaccination and even testing, the Education Ministry has sent out a circular warning that unjustified refusal to get tested or wear a mask warrants a disciplinary procedure and as a last resort a dismissal from the job.
And a regulation that the government adopted last night stipulates that the Education Inspectorate will have the power to order schools to switch to remote learning in the event they not comply with Covid-19 restrictions.
The government said this constituted "a zero tolerance approach to schools' failure to create conditions for safe ... learning environments."
The problem of opposition to testing and vaccination was highlighted as the head teacher of the primary school in Prebold questioned coronavirus measures and even the existence of the virus, yet the school council has failed to dismiss him.
It is not clear how many teachers have been vaccinated, but their trade union, SVIZ, has called on Health Minister Janez Poklukar to provide the figures after he alleged the inoculation rate among teaching staff was low.
SVIZ supports Covid vaccination and self-testing, which has prompted some members to quit as an informal union is emerging round the anti-vaccination and anti-testing sentiment.
SVIZ could not get hold of the data on the vaccination rate among teaching staff but says secondary data from some local communities suggests "at least 55% to 60% of teachers are fully vaccinated", which compares to 43% of the total population.
With less than 10% of under 18s fully vaccinated, pupils in the last tree grades of primary schools and secondary students can pick up free antigen tests for voluntary weekly self-testing at pharmacies.
However, no one will check the results with Health Ministry State Secretary Robert Cugelj saying they will "play the card of trust". Also, children in mandatory education cannot be barred from classes if they do not wear masks, yet their parents will be informed of the requirement and cases of such pupils will be referred to school inspectors.
In the face of the many uncertainties surrounding the education process, all stakeholders pledge that their main concern is to keep schools open, especially in view of the impact remote classes have had on pupils' mental health and learning gaps.
The results of a national study into the impact of distance learning are expected to be released later this month.
Even if schools had to switch to distance learning, Arnes, the internet provider for public institutions, says it has upgraded its services and infrastructure so that the process will run smoothly.
Covid-related problems have stolen the limelight from the 21,123 six-to-seven-year-olds who will have their first day at school today. Their parents will be eligible for an extra day of paid leave on the occasion, but they will need a Covid certificate to accompany their kinds inside the school.
In all, school is starting today for more than 193,000 primary pupils and 76,000 secondary students.
To ensure their safety outside of school gates, local communities have teamed up with police, traffic safety promotion groups and insurance companies to come up with innovative ways to boost traffic safety.
Zebra crossings have been repainted and equipped with additional markings as the country's first 3D-zebra crossings have been unveiled in Velenje and drivers are being urged to look out for schoolchildren.
STA, 30 August 2021 - Nearly 90% of doctors working at Slovenian hospitals have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, data from the Slovenian Medical Chamber shows. The vaccination rate among other health staff is lower.
Out of 3,571 doctors employed at Slovenia's two medical centres and hospitals 89.4% have been vaccinated.
"The data shows clearly that vaccination is being opted for by people who know professionally the most about the safety and efficacy of vaccination and its significance for society," the Medical Chamber said in a press release on Monday.
Its data shows that all the doctors have been inoculated at the Topolšica hospital in mid north-east of the country, and nearly all at the general hospital in Celje (99.4%).
Over 90% have also been jabbed at UKC Maribor, Slovenia's second largest medical centre, at the Oncology Institute in Ljubljana and the general hospitals in Brežice and Slovenj Gradec.
At UKC Ljubljana, Slovenia's largest medical centre, 87% of over 1,300 doctors working there have been vaccinated.
"The figure includes all doctors, including those on long-term sick leave or maternity leave, whereas in most other hospitals doctors on long-term leave are not included," said the release.
Some doctors are still deemed protected through a recent infection, which is why they have not yet been vaccinated.
Almost two weeks ago, UKC Ljubljana said 75% of its staff have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Tatjana Lejko Zupanc, the head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at UKC Ljubljana, said the vaccination rate among nursing staff was on a par with the national average.
Nation-wide, 43% of the population has been fully vaccinated or 51% of the adult population.
STA 28 August 2021 - Carlos Pascual, a Mexican author who has been living in Slovenia for years, has won the Novo Mesto Prize for the best collection of short stories of the year for his work Nezakonita Melanholija (Unlawful Melancholy). The collection plays with the concept of the chronicle genre in an ingenious way, according to critics.
The prize was conferred by the Goga publisher in Novo Mesto yesterday evening. This marks the first time the winner was not born in Slovenia, said Goga, which had aimed to push boundaries by considering and short-listing for the first time authors who live and write in Slovenia but were not born there.
Nagrado novo mesto za najboljšo zbirko kratkih zgodb preteklega leta je prejel Carlos Pascual za zbirko kratke proze Nezakonita melanholija.— Založba Goga (@ZalozbaGoga_) August 27, 2021
Unlawful Melancholy, published by LUD Šerpa, includes autobiographical stories that span years and take place both in Mexico and Slovenia as well as passages dedicated to history and geography, excerpts from biographies of other artists, the author's reflections, and features of gonzo journalism and essays, among others.
This fusion distances itself from moralistic analyses or judgements, simply putting into words moments of being and capturing the reader's attention, said the jury, adding that poetic segments in the book were rare but all the more powerful because of that.
The collection was translated into Slovenian by Pascual's wife, Mojca Medvedšek, as he wrote the stories in his native tongue. This is his third book that has been translated into Slovenian.
Pascual, born in 1964, is also a poet, essayist, playwright and screenwriter. He has established Pocket Teater Studio in Ljubljana, an independent studio for the development of intimate theatre.
Last year, the prize went to Sergej Curanović for his literary debut, titled Plavalec (The Swimmer). The prize has been launched by Goga and the Association of Slovenian Literary Critics to draw attention to Slovenia's quality short stories.
STA, 26 August 2021 - The tested-vaccinated-recovered requirement, known in Slovenia by the acronym PCT, will be expanded to university students and those participating in indoor sports activities under a decision adopted by the government on Thursday.
The change means university students who are unvaccinated or do not have proof of having recovered from coronavirus will have to be tested once a week to enter their universities, where the PCT rule already applies to all staff.
The same rule will apply to anyone under 15 doing indoor sports activities, whether professional or recreational. The managers of sports premises must ensure that Covid passes are checked at the entrance.
The changes will enter into effect a day after being published in the Official Gazette, presumably on Friday or Saturday.
The change marks an expansion of the use of the PCT rule. The stated goal is to keep schools and business open even as cases skyrocket, and to convince people to get vaccinated.
Health Inspector Deana Potza said today inspectors would step up checks at institutions that are required to verify compliance with the PCT rule. They will be assisted by police.
STA, 26 August 2021 - Nights in Old Ljubljana Town, a traditional end-of-summer festival organised by the Imago Sloveniae Foundation, will begin tonight in Ljubljana's historical centre despite Covid-19. It will open with the Marko Hatlak Band while featuring a total of 19 events at five venues and over 100 artists from six countries until Saturday.
The 33rd edition of the festival will combine traditional and modern sounds, intertwining progressive world music and jazz.
Despite Covid-19 restrictions, the biggest street festival in the Slovenian capital will go ahead with all the planned events, said Janoš Kern, the director of Imago Sloveniae.
The opening concert will see the Marko Hatlak Band of the versatile virtuoso Marko Hatlak, an accordionist, vocalist, songwriter and lyricist, present a mix of soul, funk, latino music, pop and rock.
As part of the international programme, the festival brings concerts by the renowned Hungarian Roma performer Mónika Lakatos, folk singing master Zvezdana Novaković and the Viennese Duo 4675.
Slovenian academic musicians gathered in the Oberdixie Band will also give a concert.
The festival will offer an accompanying cultural programme, as well as gastronomical treats prepared by the winners of the MasterChef cooking show.
As always, all events are free of charge, and will take place even in case of rain.
STA, 25 August 2021 - Schools and kindergartens have received instructions on how to act if staff does not adhere to the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule. The Education Ministry document obtained by the STA shows that a refusal to get tested for coronavirus will be sufficient ground for a lay-off.
Employees in kindergartens and education institutions must be either vaccinated, have proof of recovery, or tested once a week, a rule known in Slovenia as PCT.
This means that those who are not vaccinated or reconvalescent and refuse to get tested weekly do not meet the obligations from their employment contract, reads the document.
Employers are not obligated to give those who refuse to get tested the possibility of working from home or going on a furlough.
In case an employee refuses testing, a disciplinary procedure can be launch against them and the lay-off procedure started, which means that ultimately the employee can be fired.
A refusal to wear a face mask is also treated as a violation of the employment contract.
Students and pupils who will not wear masks must, however, not be banned from attending classes. But parents will be notified of the requirement and the school will report such cases to the school inspection.
Education institutions received the instructions on Tuesday afternoon after head teachers warned on several occasions they have no legal ground or instruction on how to act if employees refuse to adhere to the PCT rule.
STA, 24 August 2021 - Slovenia has started using monoclonal antibody treatment for some patients with Covid-19, having received a shipment of 1,000 doses of the drug, which has been developed by the US biotech company Regeneron, as part of an EU contract.
The combination of two antibody treatments, casirivimab and imdevimab, is used at the request of attending physicians and at the patient's responsibility since it currently has a temporary permit from the Slovenian Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
The drug is given to patients with severe symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
At the beginning of July, Slovenia has expressed interest in procuring a thousand doses of another monoclonal antibody treatment, Sotrovimab, which is manufactured by Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK).
And today, ministry officials held talks with the representatives of Pfizer on the use of the antibody treatment that they are developing.
Monoclonal antibodies are just one type of treatment for Covid-19 patients.
Patients who need oxygen get the antiviral drug redemsivir and corticosteroids, while critically ill patients also get tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug.
STA, 23 August 2021 - More than 50% of Slovenians aged over 18 have been fully vaccinated and 55% have received the first shot of a coronavirus vaccine, the latest official figures show.
Figures from Cepimose.si, the official vaccination portal, show more than 868,000 fully vaccinated and almost 950,000 having received the first shot as of Monday.
In the overall population, the percentages are 42% and 46%, respectively.
Slovenia lags the best performers in Europe, but the pace of vaccination finally appears to be inching up after declining throughout the summer.
Slightly over 34,000 shots were delivered last week, almost a tenth more than in the week before.
But this is still far from the peak of the vaccination campaign, in early June, when well over 100,000 shots were delivered a week.
STA, 17 August 2021 - Police have filed a criminal complaint against actor and drama teacher Matjaž Tribušon, 58, after young actress Mia Skrbinac publicly accused him of sexually harassing her while she was a student in 2014-2016 and filed a sexual harassment complaint at the University of Ljubljana last spring, the newspaper Delo reported on Tuesday.
Tomaž Tomaževic from the Ljubljana Police Department told Delo that Ljubljana criminal police had filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor's office in June against a professor of one of the faculties in Ljubljana "over criminal acts concerning sexual integrity".
Katarina Bergant, head of the Ljubljana District Prosecutor's Office, told the newspaper they had received on 7 June a criminal complaint about criminal acts against sexual integrity involving abuse of office and harassment, but a decision how to proceed had not yet been taken.
In early February, Skrbinac, born in 1994, became the first public figure in Slovenia to come forward as a victim of sexual harassment since the start of the Slovenian offshoot of the #MeToo movement.
She told public broadcaster TV Slovenija that a professor at the Ljubljana Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT), whom she did not name at first, harassed her psychologically and physically during acting classes and outside class. She reported him to the university soon after revealing her story.
The academy meanwhile notified the Ljubljana Prosecutor's Office of the suspected criminal acts before it was acquainted with Skrbinac's complaint with the university.
At the time, it also said that Tribušon remained employed at the academy but would not be teaching until further notice.
The case has drawn a lot of media attention and resulted in strong support for the actress, while Tribušon has not yet publicly responded to the allegations.
STA, 14 August 2021 - The government has decided that people attending public cultural events will have to wear face masks as of Monday, with the exception of performers. There are no changes regarding restrictions of public gatherings, while stricter requirements for testing of employees in certain activities are to be introduced soon.
Under the decree that will be in force until 22 August, the recovered-vaccinated-tested (PCT) rule remains in force for public events and gatherings in enclosed spaces and for outdoor events for more than 100 people.
As for transport, the government decided on Friday evening that taxi drivers and operators of cable lifts will need to meet the PCT rule, while PCR test will be valid for 72 hours and rapid antigen tests for 48 hours.
Meanwhile, employees in nine service activities will need to produce as of 23 August a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours or a rapid antigen test not older than 48 hours, if they have not been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.
These activities include hygienic care, non-medical advisory and therapeutic services, services of professional or business education and training, gaming, fair and congress activity, hospitality, accommodation services.
Until next Sunday, employees in these nine service activities are required to get tested once a week.
The government said that the changes had been adopted "considering the fast increase in infections with the delta strain in the EU member states."