One teacher, one pupil
Armando Smircic-Runka, 7, the only pupil in his class on a mid-Adriatic island of Premuda sits outside the school. (Jure Miskovic, AP)
Zagreb, Croatia - Only one day into school and Armando Smiricic Runka is already the teacher's pet.
Little wonder, as he is the only pupil in his class on Premuda - a mid-Adriatic island of just 52 mostly ageing residents. But that has not deterred the government from ensuring that a teacher from the mainland, more than 32 nautical miles away, arrives daily to teach seven-year-old Armando the ABC's of life.
School started across Croatia on Tuesday.
"Armando is great," 28-year-old Iva Maras told HRTL television on Wednesday. "He's open and very communicative."
"I've never had such an experience, nor did I ever imagine being in such a situation, but this is what I am trained to do and I'm sure I'll find my way," said Maras, who had never been to Premuda before she took the teaching assignment. Unlike countless others, who moved from Croatia's remote islands to the cities, Armando's mother was bent on staying on Premuda, a cedar-dotted haven on 9.2 square kilometres. Her family had lived there for generations and her husband, Joachim, is a fisherman, reliant on the rich catch in local waters.
"Nobody believed it was possible, but I began sending letters to various addresses a year ago, from local officials to the minister for education," Jagoda said on HRTL. "Everybody tried to dissuade me, but I didn't give up and I was determined to barge my head through a wall for this."
The government, which has been eager to stem the flow of people from hundreds of islands along its shores through various other projects, came to the call. Officials pledged 100 000 kuna (US$16 390 ) to renovate the island's elementary school, which has been closed for the past 14 years.
"I did all I could to help, but I must admit I didn't think it would all turn out the way we hoped," Branko Matulina, the headmaster of schools in the archipelago, told HRTL. "I'm really surprised and glad it worked out now and that Armando and his family don't have to leave their homes."
Matulina was not immediately reachable by phone, while the Smiricic Runka's number was not listed.