EDITORIAL

Politicians are playing with fire

The Romanian public hopes that, once the current war between politicians ends, the equilibrium will return to our society. Unfortunately, there is little chance that this will happen, not only because the psychology of the Romanian politician is long stagnant in conflict lines, but especially because only after the Constitutional Court gives a verdict will our big social contradictions come to light, after being ignored of late. Two of the most serious contradictions can be found in the health and Education sectors.
Enforcing the co-payment system, in the new law of Health, undermines the main fundamental right of the human being: the right to life. Will the patients who need dialysis thrice a week be able to sustain the co-payment for this procedure, even if they earn more than RON 750 a month. In such cases, doesn’t co-payment represent a death sentence?

The explanation of the acting Health Minister, who said that co-payment will prevent medical structures from juggling with wrong figures and facts is correct. But do patients need to pay with their lives the fight against the corruption and incorrect schemes used by some hospital and clinic managers? Won’t the financial barrier named ‘co-payment’ increase the mortality in Romania at new peaks, never reached in the past? Why don’t authorities resort to other ways of fighting corruption?
In Education, the realities of the present are increasingly painful. The results of the gymnasium-end exam show that more graduates failed this year, if they did not skip the exam altogether. What will be the fate of these youths? And what will be the fate of Romania, when it becomes obvious that the development gaps between the countries of the world widen or – on the contrary – narrow depending on the investment in Education? Why do Romanian politicians ignore the truth that only by investing in Education can we burn the stages of underdevelopment? This is the main chance of progress, which must be urgently recognised as such.
This truth is acknowledged everywhere today, and even countries of Asia and Latin America increase their Education budget each year. Faced with this natural and modern trend, Romania – with its 2.8-3 pc of the GDP allotted to Education – sees is competitive capacity eroded each day. Our education system suffers new involutions each year, in terms of social sphere of comprehension and also in terms of quality. Of the more than 250,000 potential Baccalaureate candidates this year, only 80,000 passed the exam. Meanwhile, there are 90,000 places in Romanian state universities, of which 30,000 with tuition fees. The smallest such fee is equivalent to 5-6 minimum salaries per economy. Can a family with two children still aspire to university education? Isn’t this discriminatory state of facts responsible for the situation in which the number of students coming from rural localities does not exceed 1.2-1.5 pc of the total number of students? Who answers for this crime of the anti-education gap that appeared between rural and urban areas in Romania? Doesn’t this reduce to minimum the reason for national solidarity, in whose absence a nation devolves to the level of mere population?
Such questions must be insistently asked today, when it is obvious that the main purpose of our Education system turned from national strategy to petty, clientele-related, group interests. The fact that there are more places available in universities than Baccalaureate graduates this year demonstrates the truth that money contributions take precedence over a rigorous selection of candidates and the quality of higher education. This is explained through the low budgetary acquisitions, we are told. But what we are not told is that the insufficiency of university budgets is explained not only through the 3 pc of the GDP granted to the Education system, but also through the fact that the current organisation structures of the higher education system no longer comply with the traditional university pyramid. This pyramid has been overturned and now the structure of its echelons has reversed. There was a big inflation of university professors, and those who hold this title have become the basis of the higher education system, instead of being its top – peaks of competence in universities. There are more and more professors, and ever fewer assistants, lecturers and lower rank professionals in our universities.
In these adverse conditions, much worsened by private universities, the amount of fees and other financial contributions prevails over the quality of the education provided to students, because truly exigent conditions would diminish the number of students, hence the incomes of these institutions. This is why the percentage of students which pass their exams is near to 100 pc, with the logical consequence of a poor quality of the professors hired by private universities. And the quality of the personnel is a general problem throughout the system, which was recently confirmed – once again – by the results of the licensure examination of teachers. The more than 39,000 candidates compete over 6,700 jobs for an indefinite duration and some 30,000 jobs for a definite time interval. The final results have not been announced yet, but it is known fact that some teachers tried to cheat the exam. Last year, only 30 pc of candidates obtained marks above 7 (out of a maximum 10 points). However, even those which obtain marks of 1 or 2 continue to teach in schools, as substitute teachers. The dramatic situation is a result of the fact that well-trained faculty graduates reject jobs in the Education system, because of the low wages.
These sad realities are sources of new contradictions. The higher education graduates that cannot find a job represent a percentage much superior to their share in the respective age categories. Many of them are precisely graduates of faculties with educational profile. On the other hand, the presence of substitute teachers with a precarious professional training is massive in rural areas. This has a significant contribution to the aforementioned gap, which in turn is closely related to school abandonment and its most tragic effect: illiteracy. Today, school abandonment nears 20 pc in Romania, and it is on a growing trend.
All these tragic realities are overshadowed by political fights, which justify the impression that politicians are playing with fire.

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