According to great Romanian scholar and founding
father of Romania's modern education, Spiru Haret, 'the way school looks today,
the way the country is going to look tomorrow.' In the past years however, Romania's
education system has been facing numerous challenges and the present pandemic
has deepened these issues. School in the countryside is currently bearing the
brunt of the present situation.
BookLand, a non-profit organization, has set out to
improve this situation and offer children in the countryside a chance to
high-quality education. Besides a roving book fair, cultural camps and various
conferences for the young people, the aforementioned organization has also got
involved in the restauration of several schools fitting them with equipment
necessary in the education of students.
Mihaela Petrovan, founder of BookLand, has told us more about the accomplishments, challenges
and future projects of this organisation.
Petrovan: ʺI believe in education, I believe that education is beneficial to the Romanians'
state of health. And I am not exaggerating. We, the team of BookLand, are a
bunch of honest, hard-working individuals who kept our word and even went the
extra mile to fulfil our pledges. Last year for instance, we pledged to refurbish
10 schools and ended up refurbishing 14 instead. Why schools and why in the
countryside? Well, I can say I have a great passion for books and education in
general. I was born in the countryside, in a village, and I am proud of that.
Growing up in a village is what gives me power, strength...And this passion for
education somehow comes naturally to me. I want to tell that we got the idea to
help and get involved from the teachers of a certain school who called us and
asked for help with some activity. It was not complicated to write in excel
that a certain school needs doors and windows or roof or desks or whatever...What
was complicated was to go to certain companies and ask them to provide
materials and skilled workers. Suchlike restoring activities cannot be
performed by drones or robots. What you need is workers. And that was the great
challenge, to find enough money for this activity. ʺ
But Mihaela Petrovan and her colleagues from BookLand didn't give up and in spite of
the funds shortage, they managed at first to refurbish one school, then another
one and another. Companies and enterprises got more and more involved in this
project and eventually schools have each been allotted close to 31 thousand
euros on an average. Within a year and three months 14 schools have been
The most important accomplishments? One school has a
new roof while another one has a brand new heating system. Here is Mihaela
Petrovan: ʺWe focused on Romania's poorest regions and we went to the country's
most disadvantaged region, Moldova, which in spite of being inhabited by great,
hard-working people didn't have the chance like Transylvania to attract
investment. I was born in Transylvania but we have chosen Moldova because it is
there where our efforts are needed most. Of course we also worked in southern
Romania, because here we have some of the oldest schools in the country, some
of them in dire need of restoration. Some of these schools were built 100 years
ago. You cannot ask performance from students forced to learn in schools that look
like barns, schools that are falling apart. And it's a pleasure to take lessons
in a school where everything is new and smells fresh, not of mildew and
dampness. If we respect our children, they are going to show respect to the
country as well. ʺ
According to statistical data posted on Bookland's
Facebook profile, 82% of Romania's schools were built before 1970, 16% before
the anti-communist revolution of 1989 and only 2% after 1989. Some of these
education facilities still have toilets outside, no running water or sewerage
systems. Due to poverty, oftentimes, only 77 out of 100 village children go to
school and 21% of the rural population benefitted only from primary education. Only
4.74% of these people graduated from faculty and over 42% of the students
failed the baccalaureate exam. Also 40 out of 100 rural households do not have
access to the Internet and that's very sad because due to the present pandemic,
Romania has resorted to online education.
Here is Mihaela
Petrovan with more on the issue.
Petrovan: ʺIn some places one can see school maintenance out of nothing, so to
say. Those people did real miracles like covering teacher desks in cloth so
that the holes may not be seen. It's
heart-rending! Nowadays you cannot teach people without Internet connections.
There were schools without blackboards, they simply had a couple of painted
boards. Students lack these mere facilities and we are talking about online
education, tablets and so on. Let's be honest, we are a bunch of ignorant
hypocrites if we don't care about education in the rural area, as most of us
are coming from there. Village children don't have the education facilities of
their city counterparts and that's not fair. We are not criticizing anyone but
started to do something, because we believe we can. And anyone can do what we
are actually doing!ʺ
Bookland intends to refurbish 20 schools in rural
Romania this year and also wishes to accomplish something else. Here is again
at the microphone Mihaela Petrovan.
Mihaela Petrovan: ʺOur dream this year is to conclude some partnerships and build the
first reference-school for Romania; built from scratch, after the Finnish
model, a school as all the schools in Romania should be, of course adjusted to
our Balkan traditions, with our teachers and a curricula proposed by
us...everything for free..."