Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

Novi Bečej through Church Initiatives, Reforms, and Literacy Challenges

Evolution of Education among Serbs in Austro-Hungary: Novi Bečej through Church Initiatives, Reforms, and Literacy Challenges

It has been a long time since the first major migrations of Serbs to the regions beyond the Sava and Danube rivers until the establishment of the first primary schools. They did have, under both Hungarian and Turkish rule, some form of primary schools associated with monasteries or parish churches.

These schools aimed to meet the needs of the church, namely to teach students how to read liturgical books and, if possible, to practice transcribing them. After the great migration led by Arsenije Čarnojević in 1690, the situation changed significantly. Compact settlements with significant Serbian populations were established in certain regions. Additionally, with the privilege granted by Emperor Leopold, Serbs were recognized as a people within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which naturally created a need for the expansion of general education.

The necessity for establishing Serbian schools became particularly urgent after the expulsion of the Turks from Bačka and parts of Srem, following the signing of the Karlowitz Peace Treaty. In 1706, Patriarch Arsenije submitted a request for the establishment of Serbian schools and the founding of a national printing house. After his death, Metropolitan Isaija Đaković reiterated the request, and in 1709, an imperial official was appointed to oversee the establishment of Serbian schools in Serbian-inhabited areas.

Immediately after the conclusion of the Treaty of Požarevac in 1718, Serbian Metropolitan Mojsije Petrović appealed to Russia to send a qualified individual to serve as a teacher. Maxim Suvorov was sent from Russia, bringing with him four hundred primers and one hundred copies of a Slavic grammar book. Thus, a Slavic school was founded in Belgrade, while teachers Emanuilo Kozačinski and Jovan Minacki worked in Sremski Karlovci. Kozačinski was appointed as the school's rector.

In 1724, Metropolitan Mojsije issued a circular to the clergy, urging them to strive for the establishment of Serbian schools. In 1726, the Serbs in Buda sent a request to their representatives in the parliament to support the efforts of bishops in the dioceses to establish as many schools as possible, and to organize a large school within the metropolitanate where Serbian, Latin, and German would be taught. That year, a government decree was also issued allowing the establishment of primary and secondary Serbian schools in both rural and urban areas.

An elementary school was established in Sremski Karlovci in 1726, and a gymnasium followed soon after in 1731. The Russians who came were mostly teachers in higher schools. At that time, a large number of young people were preparing for priesthood, and as not all could secure positions as priests for various reasons, many took up teaching positions.

The training of teachers at that time mainly consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, and singing. Anyone who knew all of this was considered fully prepared to be a teacher. However, most teachers at the time knew only how to read and sing.

In addition to their teaching duties, teachers also had many other responsibilities related to the church. They performed all the tasks later carried out by churchmen and also tended to the priestly gardens and fed the priestly pigs and other livestock.

One of the primary conditions for hiring a teacher at the time was obedience to the priest. The priest's will was the law for the school and the teacher, as it determined what and how much would be taught in the school.

The contract between the municipality of Taban in Buda and the teacher Lacko Krištovljević vividly illustrates the position of the school and the teacher at that time. The contract was drawn up on May 12, 1707, and among other obligations of the teacher, it states: "And I, Lacko, agreed and accepted, as the mayor and villagers ordained, to receive from now on six forints per year. Therefore, my service is first to serve the church, light candles, serve the priests, ring the bell on time, and accept all church saints to the coffin and join the church service; after that, I shall receive thirty-five children to teach for that higher written salary for one year."

The establishment of a printing press was a concurrent task with the opening of schools, as schools cannot function without books. Undoubtedly, had there not been a Serbian printing press capable of printing school books, and had there been no import of primers, Slavic grammar books, and other literature from Russia, there might not have been as much struggle and effort regarding the reform of the Serbian language and script. It might be redundant to emphasize, but it should be noted that Gavrilo Venclović wrote his sermons in the true vernacular language thirty years before Dositej, let alone mentioning how many years before Vuk.

In the history of Austria and its peoples, the reign of Maria Theresa was of great significance. As soon as she extricated the country from the chaos of war, she devoted great attention to popular education. She saw the establishment of schools as the basic foundation for progress. She endeavored to establish schools in all villages and towns, catering to both the rich and the poor, and to all peoples of the Empire.

This was not merely a result of her love for education or some particular sense of humanity, but rather an economic necessity. Namely, the German colonists, coming from poor and overpopulated regions of Germany, were not particularly industrious workers. On the contrary, among them were young unmarried artisans, idlers, and ne'er-do-wells who accepted colonization to live without labor, as they were promised during the recruitment for migration, believing they could live well with little work because the land was rich. Such attitudes towards agricultural work among them influenced other settlers, thereby questioning the primary purpose of colonization—improving agriculture in those regions.

Attempts to force and physically compel immigrants to work had not yielded results, so the solution was sought in education.

Great attention was given to the influence of schools and churches on upbringing, especially of the new generations, as little could be expected in that direction from adults, although the influence of the church was counted on. Therefore, special care was taken to build prestigious churches and beautiful schools in villages, and to provide priests and teachers with comfortable accommodations and good salaries to encourage their dedication to success in their profession.

The management of schools was overseen by the church parish, and schools were supported by the school fund, local church, and school fees paid by students' parents. In the Temesvár Diocese, to which Novi Bečej and Vranjevo belonged, teachers received three forints per year from each student in 1758. Poor children were exempt from school fees.

Classes were held on weekdays from seven to nine in the morning and from one to four in the afternoon.

The reforms in education implemented by Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II also included Serbian schools. For example, the empress demanded that the Serbian Church Assembly in Sremski Karlovci sell the estate in Dalj for 38,000 forints to support schools with the interest from this money. The Assembly in Karlovci discussed this proposal in 1769 with less understanding for the needs of schools and asked the Empress to withdraw this demand, which she did.

In order to spread education, a school charter for Orthodox elementary schools was drawn up in 1776. According to this charter, in every municipality with an Orthodox parish, there had to be an Orthodox school. If there was no suitable school building, one had to be built as soon as possible. School buildings were required to have a large classroom and accommodation for the teacher. Girls were taught separately from boys in classrooms.

The charter stipulated complete professionalism of the teachers, which was proven by a teaching diploma. Teachers already in positions but lacking the required education had to take exams later.

Attendance at school was mandatory for all children aged six to thirteen, and teachers were required to keep a diary of children's attendance, their progress, and abilities.

The charter strictly prohibited the use of children for the private affairs of priests and teachers, which had been a normal practice until then. It should be noted that some teachers in our towns retained this custom until more recent times, until the 1930s.

After the abolition of the Serbian Duchy, Dr. Đorđe Natošević, the former director of all Serbian elementary schools, moved from Temesvár to serve as a school advisor to the royal Hungarian governorship. Natošević recognized the importance of teacher training schools, and he attributed all the failures and incompetence of Serbian teachers to these schools. Therefore, he made efforts to introduce subjects like pedagogy, and as auxiliary subjects—psychology, ethics, and anthropology—in teacher training schools, and to carry out necessary reorganization of teacher training and education.

From 1858, according to the established program, prospective teachers were required to attend classes in the elementary school in Sombor under the supervision of the teacher training school professors, to prepare them for practical work in schools. Thus, the Sombor Preparatory School gained a good reputation and high regard. This is evidenced by the fact that every year there were many students from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Herzegovina attending. It continued to meet contemporary educational standards.

Natošević drafted a proposal for the new organization of Serbian schools, which the Assembly in Sremski Karlovci adopted in 1864/65, envisaging:

- every municipality with 7–12 capable children for school must support a school and pay the teacher;
- teachers would be initially hired temporarily and only after two years of successful work would they be officially appointed;
- in case of illness, a sick teacher would be assigned an assistant, and in case of prolonged illness, they would be retired;
- instruction in all Serbian schools would be conducted in the Serbian language, with subjects including: 1. religious studies, 2. Serbian language with reading and writing (using the Cyrillic script), 3. arithmetic, 4. penmanship, 5. gymnastics;
- to demonstrate the school's success, weekly, monthly, semiannual, and annual examinations would be introduced;
- female teachers would be appointed to girls' schools, and in addition to the mentioned subjects, manual labor would be mandatory in these schools;
- the main school would consist of 4 grades, headed by a principal; a foreign language would be taught at the school;
- alongside the main school, there would be a Sunday (parish) school, which children up to 15 years old were obliged to attend on Sundays and holidays. In addition to repeating what was taught in the main school, subjects such as agriculture, Serbian history, and citizen duties would be taught;
- apprentice schools would be established for artisan and commercial apprentices.

The local church board would oversee the school, and the patriarch would oversee all schools.

Despite these reforms, the school still did not meet the needs of the people, who sought to ensure faster educational development, so it was further improved, and new subjects were added to the curriculum.

Data from 1900—unfortunately—show that Serbs in Hungary lagged significantly behind Germans, Hungarians, and Slovaks in terms of literacy rates. Germans had 79.63%, Hungarians 72.05%, Slovaks 60.36%, Serbs 48.38%, Romanians 23.88%, and Ruthenians 17.78% literacy rates among the total population.

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