Romania’s integration in the EU was a common wish of the entire Romanian nation, expressed with so much passion that the chorus of invocations dedicated to this topic could rarely be counterpointed by a lucid voice now and then. A realistic and forward-looking voice could have been able to draw everybody’s attention to the fact that it is precisely the integration in the EU that requires an unanimous competition effort from our behalf. Insufficiently prepared and, most of all, lacking afterwards the focusing of our entire nation in order to reach strategic objectives, joining EU risks turning us into a mere market for Western products; a simple semi-colonialist market. Unfortunately, this actually happened to some extent. And it is precisely this negative fact to warn us today that none other than our capacity to be competitive and provide quality in certain economical branches, but also in the field of culture and education, may help us reap the specific benefits of European integration.
One of the virtually competitive economical branches is, for the time being, agriculture. We have one of Europe’s most productive soils; we have a proper climate for quality agriculture; we have an outstanding tradition. There are advantages that could help a genuine professional make wonders, as far as productivity, economical efficiency and ecological value are concerned. Nonetheless, the most ignored factor in this frequently mentioned situation is precisely high class professionalism. Few people are interested today in the level of professional training and the fate of agricultural workers benefiting of various levels of education. This is despite of the fact that, ever since the nineteenth century, Romania has benefited of a well organized agricultural education, continuously developed during the next century. So it happens that, in 1950, after the terrible damage caused by the war, Romania had 8,700 agriculture experts, 5,500 of whom benefited of high education, while in the year 1989, our country had 65,000 agriculture experts, 33,600 of whom benefited of a University degree. This explains the fact that Romania has always exported food products until 1991 – 1992, when its agriculture crashed.
The crash was caused, first of all, by the exaggerated parcelling of the agricultural lots and the vehement rejection of agricultural cooperation, the only salvation to our agricultural potential. The exaggerated parcelling of agricultural lots determined the de-capitalization of agriculture companies and the absence of technical means as well as sending all agriculture experts into unemployment. Most of them were working on the farms of the former collective agricultural establishments or state-owned agricultural cooperatives. By their restructuring and, respectively, privatization, many specialists were left outside. The rational and easily applicable proposition to grant each expert a production surface of ten hectares that would be turned into a farm, was unanimously praised, yet, it finally failed to pass. Although there was enough land available for these experts. The lacking factor was political involvement, and, subsequently, Romania’s development potential. And these issues amplified their negative effects one year after the other.
Thus, the present agricultural education system works in a double perspective. On one hand, we have agricultural professional education, technological high schools dedicated to agriculture and universities with the same profile in several of our university centres. On the other hand, year by year, less than 25 per cent of the students of agriculture high schools manage to pass the baccalaureate exams. And, as most of these young people, including many of the university graduates, end up, shortly after finishing school, in the registry of the unemployment agencies, those who still dare to attend these forms of agricultural training lack any necessary preliminary information. Why? Because they do not come from a rural environment. No more than 2 – 3 per cent of the students of agricultural sciences and veterinary medicine universities come from the countryside, where approximately 40 per cent of Romania’s population lives and works. Under these circumstances, how can Romania develop its agriculture at a high level of European competitiveness? This is the first paradox of the “agricultural bet” each new Government of Romania invokes and revokes.
And, yet, there are still possibilities to overcome this national crisis that also includes the painful crisis of the Romanian village. The civil society has launched plenty of initiatives throughout the years, all targeted to accomplish the social, cultural and, most of all, educational emancipation of village dwellers. But results, honourable as they might be, are far from enough. There is an obvious necessity of a national strategy developed under the authority of the Romanian state. All correcting efforts from various directions need rigorous coordination from behalf of a unifying factor with an anticipative view. And the fundamental target of all these strategies is education at all levels, in rural regions.
As years went by, education at all levels in the Romanian rural regions experienced several crises, but neither of them was as severe as the one it is facing today. There is a lack in kindergartens, schools, qualified and experienced teachers, laboratories, up-to-date didactic materials, school libraries and medical care centres for students, there are no proper textbooks, and sometimes the students themselves are missing, as dropping out of school has become a frequent practice. And all of these exist despite of several projects and programs referring to the “rehabilitation of Romanian schools” that justified many of the foreign financial loans made by the Romanian officials of the past two decades.
How does the Romanian state, the first and most important holder of responsibility towards these imperative necessities, exigencies and projects. Well, here is the severe issue that negatively impacts the society in its entirety. By the mistaken de-centralization of education system, schools are now reporting to local administration. When questioned on this error, political factors defend themselves by bringing up the financial crisis. But it is precisely this overall political crisis that determines officials of local administrations to close schools altogether. It is not the crash of the demographic index, nor the acute need of laboratories and school libraries, nor the absence of qualified school teachers, willing to teach at the countryside as well, but most of all, it is the avoidance of responsibility by local administration that contributes to closing rural schools and forcing children to attend a difficult day-by-day commutation to a school in another village.
It is also the main reason for the school dropout percentage of approximately 20 per cent, as well as that of 2 – 3 per cent of children from rural areas that are still able to afford and qualify for a university education. And this is how Romania is forced to attend a mortal leap, falling back 70 years – the last time in history when the percentage of students from rural areas equals the one reported today.
Political factors pretending to govern Romania: pay attention: the crisis of rural education is the leading cause of the drama of the Romanian village!