School in the countryside, where to?

school in the countryside, where to? Schools in Romania's rural areas are facing many challenges

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.

Mihaela 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 refurbished.

The most important accomplishments? One school has a new roof while another one has a brand new heating system. Here is Mihaela Petrovan again.

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.

Mihaela 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..."
Publicat: 2021-02-03 13:00:00
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