The Romanian Government has resorted to the budget reserve fund for financing the National Program ’Safe Education’.
On Monday most schools in Romania will open for a new school year. In other words they are in the green scenario, which involves the physical presence of students in school. This is not the case of Bucharest though, where the epidemiological situation and the big number of pupils in a class have imposed the yellow scenario, with part of the pupils going to school and the others studying online from home. There are schools across Romania which will not open their gates to pupils as they are in the red scenario, which means online education alone.
Depending on the evolution of the pandemic, things can change for the better or for the worse. Many new cases of infection have been reported daily during the summer, which fueled parents’ and teachers’ worries related to the beginning of the new school year. The specific problems created by the virus overlap the chronic ailments of the education system.
One of the biggest weakness of the education system is the lack of proper equipment. The authorities are now pressed to remedy the situation. The government increased the budget of the Education Ministry by 20 million Euros taken from the budget reserve fund to finance the National Program ‘Safe Education’.
The head of the Chancellery of the PM Ionel Dancă explained how the money would be used: “We allotted the money necessary for School Inspectorates to purchase laptops, sanitary materials and electronic devices as well as web cams and tablets, to allow the teaching staff to hold classes online if the epidemiological situation requires it.”
The government also adopted a memorandum which provides for connecting to the Internet a number of 3,150 schools as well as a decision for the employment of 500 persons in the pre-university education system, both teaching and non-teaching staff. The situation was created by the great number of retirements reported, as many teachers who were older than 60 opted for retirement in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The local authorities have to hire medical staff in the school health office and the Health Ministry will provide money for their salaries.
The opposition Social Democratic Party accuses the government of failing to properly prepare the new school year from the point of view of health safety and of failing to support the local authorities in organizing the teaching process so as to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
The first vice-president of the PSD Sorin Grindeanu: “4 days ahead of the beginning of school, the government has not complied with its obligations, although they could have done that during the summer. There are no tablets, no face masks, no tests for the teachers and also no textbooks in many schools.”
According to Grindeanu at present 26% of the schools do not have the infrastructure for Internet access. We recall that Romania is in full election campaign for the local elections due on September 27. (tr. L. Simion)