This school year started under the sign of the most pathetic statements made by ruling politicians, regarding the security, order and quality of the new phase of development reached by the education system. As real or imaginary as these attributes of the new Education Law may be, they were all invoked and evoked as arguments of the fact that the 2011-2012 school year will be a landmark in the history of Romanian education. Indeed, a recent nationwide survey confirms this will be remembered as a milestone, but a negative one, rather than the positive year of reference anticipated by officials. Over 30 million unjustified school absences were registered in these three months alone. Obviously, these were not evenly distributed among the 900,000 pupils that go to Romanian schools. But, as a statistic average, each pupil has over 30 absences. And this was only the beginning of the school year.
However, essential for education are not just the events ‘per se,’ positive or negative, but especially the causes that generated them. Authorities need to tackle these reasons and act so that the positive developments prevail over negative issues. The motives of these negative issues registered in the Romanian education system are individual, but mainly structural. When many of the wealthiest Romanians, with fabulous accounts abroad, are uneducated, often illiterate people, teenagers are outraged even at the idea of having to go to school. This is the source of a school abandonment that exceeds 20 pc in Romania – a sad record for any country.
And this figure might get even higher, against the background of the economic and moral crisis of the Romanian family. The divorce rate increases each year. Legal procedures now benefit from the legal facilities which the Romanian state provides to a couple, thus removing part of the burden that weighs upon Justice and easing the pressure put on courts by such “trivial” happenings. Meanwhile, masked divorces are generated by the migration of one or both members of a couple, in search of a modest job abroad. This leaves children in the care of grand-parents, aunts, or even forced to fend for themselves, turning them into teenagers or pre-teens devastated by the absence of their parents. Officially, Romania has over 50,000 cases of such “orphan” children… whose parents are alive, but absent. As early as five years ago, the UNICEF representative in Romania warned that, nowhere in the world do parents leave home together or, if they are separated, they do not leave simultaneously to work abroad. He gave the example of some African countries with a much higher rate of emigration, which however does not affect both parents at the same time. Mothers usually stay at home and care for their children.
With individual or structural reasons, all these cases result in the alienation of the young generations, also because they allow the youths – deprived of parents’ influence – to fall prey to drugs, while the traditional link between school and family loses substance each year. Recently, the Romanian public conscience was outraged by a tragedy largely caused by the insufficient cooperation between school and family. A brilliant high-school graduate, who passed her Baccalaureate with the maximum score of 10, committed suicide because her parents prevented her from studying History – her passion – and instead forced her to enter the Polytechnic Institute. Unfortunately, the incidence of suicides is on the increase among youths, and juvenile delinquency is at a peak. Many cases of theft or public vandalism are committed by minors, while coming of age does not necessarily reduce the state of physical and moral alienation.
The analysis of these tragic realities, from a causal perspective, raises certain questions. Why are the funds granted to Education, through the state budget for 2012, incomparably smaller than the expenses with alcohol and tobacco, which are often kept secret? Why are psychological counseling services on the decline, in the case of youths? Won’t the pretended “savings to the budget” – achieved by suspending these services – actually cause much bigger losses, in the long run? Why does preschool education – the basis and starting point of the whole education system – suffer from a chronic deficit of places in kindergartens? Why do authorities ignore the law which exempts education units from the effects of the law on the retrocession of abusively confiscated properties? Why do school lessons often lose the focus on the pupil’s personality ideal? Why did the balance between school instruction and education collapse so much as to allow pupils to smoke unhindered in school, or skip classes altogether, while teachers are assaulted in front of their pupils by a criminal parent, or an insolent teenager?
Such questions are often asked precisely because they refer to the bad and alienated behaviour of an increasing number of youths. But the official answers frequently illustrate the deficit of vision and, implicitly, of correctness displayed by those responsible for the alienation of the young generations. Many school principals, inspectors, mayors, presidents of sports clubs for youths etc., confronted with shocking cases of youths’ alienation, often resort to a specific form of conciliatory attitude. They treat these situations as “special cases,” “unheard of,” like they weren’t serious enough. Some say that “your reactions should not trouble the water even more,” as if the respective deeds were somehow acceptable. An even stranger – and truly tragicomic – attitude is that “we must focus mainly on the future, not just on the present of these youths,” as if future weren’t an extension of the present.