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Education

Is the education system in Moldova prepared for online schools?

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The Government of the Republic of Moldova recently decided to cancel this year high school graduation exams – the so-called Baccalaureate, fearing more people could get infected with the novel coronavirus. The exam marks will be replaced by an average of the annual grades for the respective courses.

Generally, schools from Moldova, just like any other schools in the world, had to adapt to the new realities and go online in order to continue their activity. How efficient or challenging was the transfer process from traditional to online schools is something that needs to be examined in details.

Go online, if you can

Even though the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research (MECR) announced, at the beginning of the pandemic, that 92.8% of the total number of students were involved in distance learning, there were over 7 000 students and over 600 teachers who were still excluded due to the lack of devices and internet access. According to the Ministry’s information, 20 million lei were allocated from the state budget for the purchase of laptops and tablets for both children and teachers who need them for the educational process. The acquisition seems very lengthy though, as the Ministry officials avoid providing concrete deadlines. “The purchase of laptops and tablets will not be made in a week or a month. This could take up to several months,” explained the MECR Secretary of State, Natalia Grâu.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 47.7% of Moldovan families have not even one computer at home, those from rural areas having a visible disadvantage when compared to families from urban areas. The same source said that only 41% of the population of Moldova has a computer and 38.7% have internet access.

See also: “The possibility to learn online – schools from Moldova are looking for solutions in the context of coronavirus”

The majority of teachers and students encountered one more challenge – they had to learn how to use online communication tools overnight. Lessons, explanations, conferences, recordings, presentations, discussions, homework – all of that had to go online and most education system’s employees weren’t prepared. Some teachers were flexible enough to adapt, others didn’t.

Therefore, alternative solutions as the one of Ana Cotuna, a maths teacher at a school from Fundurii Vechi village, Glodeni district, came out. During the pandemic period, she became a ‘postman’ for her colleagues who do not have internet or computers at home. Teachers write the topics and the corresponding explanations on paper, Ana collects them, takes photos and passes them on to students. After the homework is done, students take photos of it and send it to Ana. She prints the homework and takes it back to the teachers. “Some teachers are really stubborn and do not want to change. But there are also retired teachers who can perfectly cope with Zoom,” she said.

One more identified solution was to have teachers contacting by phone students who do don’t have access to internet and paying weekly visits to pupils with special needs. “Teachers, equipped with gloves and protective masks and keeping social distance, leave the homework at the gates and explain to parents what to do,” specified Ana Apostu, the director of a school from Truseni.

Still, everything is far from going smoothly. Moldovan teachers confess that online classes, even those of half an hour each, are exhausting both for teachers and students. The latter do not want to spend so many hours sitting at the computer, locked inside the house and try to find various justifications for not participating in online classes, even though they are compulsory.

Of the 144 pupils of the school from Coropceni village, Telenesti district, only 30% have computers or internet at home. Ion Curchi, the director of the school claimed that even children who do have internet access, that may be only on the phone, the signal being really weak.

“I understand that many want great statistics, but this is not always the case. I switched to Messenger because this way I can gather more students together, but the best solution in this situation is to write the tasks and explanations on paper and meet with children in the centre of the village to hand them in.”

Parents as superheroes

Parents, on the other hand, confess that the pandemic period, when everybody is at home working or leaning, represent a powerful emotional shock. “I have to be mega multi-functional: mother, cook, teacher, employee and student. Sometimes I feel that I want to run away from home. I have the impression that I am at war, on different battlefields,” said Cristina, mother of school and kindergarten-age children. There are not enough devices for everyone in the house connecting at the same time for different purposes. That is why, the explanatory lessons transmitted on TV by the MECR are her salvation. That is the time she uses the laptop for her work, not for online classes of her children.

In order to determine her children to be more responsible and less distracted, the woman also bought a bell, with which she rings every time the lesson begins or ends. “But that doesn’t help either,” she said.

“Now we have to learn a lot of subjects, so that we can explain them to our children and it doesn’t seem right to me that we have to do the work instead of teachers, as long as we have to focus on our job as well.”

A benefit of the online education, according to Ala Revenco, a founders of the “Solidary Parents” Group, is that video lesson libraries have been created for all classes. However, some parents and teachers claim that the impossibility of asking questions creates difficulties in assimilating the material taught in the videos.

There is so much yet to be implemented and improved in these times. Beside the creativity and effort of teachers, parents and children, there is still more to be done by the authorities that should really help handling this whole situation.

Jurnalistă that speaks English very well. De aia Maria are grijă că prietenii noștri străini să nu piardă nicio informație valoroasă despre actualitatea din Moldova.

Politics

The effect of Russia’s constitutional changes on the Transnistrian region

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A nationwide referendum is held in the Russian Federation between June 25 and July 1 in order to amend the constitution of the country.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the opportunity to vote during several days was provided. The voting process is held outside and, in addition, contactless voting at home, electronic voting and voting using the Mobile Voter mechanism are available.

In the Transnistrian region, voting was allowed for three days, from June 28-30, the whole process being organised under similar conditions as in Russia, the Tass News Agency announced.

According to a survey conducted at 800 Russian polling stations from June 25 to June 28, the majority of voters opted for the amendments, 23.6% opposed them and 0.4% invalidated the ballot paper,

Beside the amendment offering the possibility of prolonging the presidential term of Vladimir Putin (until 2036 instead of 2024), there are a a few controversial amendments to the Russian fundamental law.

Source: Facebook| The Center for the Study of the Transnistrian Conflict Consequences

Russian federal territories

One of the most important articles of the Constitution of the Russian Federation that could be amended is article no. 67,  which provides for creation of federal territories in Russia and introduction of the expression “subjects of the Russian Federation”.

“By making this change, Putin wants to make sure that certain federal subjects do not leave the Russian Federation, such as Chechnya, Tatarstan or Crimea, the latter being illegally occupied by the Russian Federation. The territory of the Republic of Moldova doesn’t belong to  the Russian Federation. However, taking into consideration the priorities that President Dodon and socialist have, one could draw a parallel.

During the propagandist Moscow parade, Putin mentioned in his speech that all neighbours ‘are part of the Russian world’. Moldova, according to Vladimir Putin, is part of his strategic interest. The fact that 11% of the Moldova’s territory is hosting occupation troops proves it one more time,” said security policy expert Rosian Vasiloi.

Previously, President Igor Dodon claimed that federalisation is the only solution to solving conflicts in the Republic of Moldova, including the Transnistrian one.

Source: Facebook| The Center for the Study of the Transnistrian Conflict Consequences

Russia as the legal successor to the Soviet Union

In the same article, a paragraph was introduced, saying that the Russian Federation is the legal successor of the Soviet Union. Another amending paragraph states that the Russian Federation honours the memory of the “Fatherland’s defenders” and ensures the protection of historical truth. “The diminution of the importance of the act of heroism in the defence of the Fatherland is not allowed.”

Historian Andrei Cusco mentioned that the victory in World War II is a myth that represented the main pillar of the regime’s ideology after Putin came to power in 2000. “Russia has taken certain moments from the Soviet communist narrative and reinterpreted them to serve the interests and visions of the current regime,” Cusco said.

The Criminal Code of the Russian Federation prohibits the dissemination of information that expresses a clear disrespect regarding the days of military glory and memorable dates in Russia related to the defence of the Fatherland, as Meduza informed.

A good example is the reaction of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Moldova to the TVR Moldova declaration that June 22, 1941 was the day when Romania entered the World War II to liberate the Russian-occupied lands in the summer of 1940. “For Romanians, this date went down in history as the day of starting the fight for the reunification of the nation. The President of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, is not of the same opinion, as he stated that today is the day when the occupation of Bessarabia began,” it is said in the article.

The Embassy of the Russian Federation qualified the material as “uncivilised and extremely dangerous, because it justifies the war criminals.”

“Such tricks offend most Russian citizens who remember the common heroism of the Red Army that saved Europe from the Nazi plague.”

The perfect Russian child

One more completion to the constitution refers to children education, namely patriotism, citizenship and respect for the elderly.

The same approach existed during the USSR, when the principles of a very cultured man were considered love for the socialist homeland, friendship, companionship, humanity, honour, love for socialist work, etc.

 Marriage of a man and a woman

Another newly introduced amendment provides for the protection of the family, maternity, paternity and childhood, defending the institution of marriage as a union of a man and a woman, creating the conditions for a decent upbringing of children in a family, as well as for the fulfilment of the obligation to take care of parents.

Yet, another video promoting the amendment of the constitution promotes homophobia as well.

Crime against Russians

The Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner believes that the way of voting the amendments is not democratic. “There are many proposed amendments. Among them, there are those that I would be willing to support, but there are those that I am against of. Unfortunately, everything is organized in such a way, that either you order the entire dinner or none of the dishes,” he said.

Liubov Sobol, a Russian politician and lawyer at the Anticorruption Foundation, claimed that resetting Putin’s mandates to zero is a crime against Russians. “20 years were enough to implement all the reforms needed for our country. We saw that Putin failed. Corruption is flourishing in the country, we have a low level of education. There must be a change of power, and all eligible candidates must be allowed to run for president. People have to make a choice.”

This text is a translation. The original article here.

Photo: Facebook| The Center for the Study of the Transnistrian Conflict Consequences

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Environment

A natural water cycle? The floodwater dangers that are neglected in Moldova

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Due to heavy rains in Ukraine, Romania and the Republic of Moldova, the employees of the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations (GIES) were working during the entire week to eliminate the consequences of the floods in the whole country.

The water level in the Dniester River increased by up to 3.5 m in some northern localities, while the State Hydrometeorological Service forecasted further increases of water level by July 2. Therefore, residents were evacuated from the villages at risk of flooding both from the Dniester and the Prut riverbeds, cleaning works were performed, protection dams were build or fortified, according to a note of the Government of Moldova.

However, beside the problem of flooded households and farmlands, there is also a critical ecological problem. Moldova is still a country with a limited access to centralised sewerage systems. The majority of population (especially in rural areas) still use an improvised toilet placed in the yard (latrine). Moreover, there are still localities in Moldova with no access to a centralised water supply systems, the water from local reservoirs being consumed. The floodwater accelerates the transfer of dangerous pollutants from various sources of pollution (including latrines) to the water that gets in the supply systems or local wells.

Source: gov.md

No water supply systems

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, 81.8% of population  had access to the public water supply service in 2019. 53 cities and 724 rural localities had access to the public water supply system in the last year, which represented only 50.7% of the country’s localities.

About 51% of Moldovan villages do not have access to drinking water supply from public systems.

The localities from Chisinau (88.6%) and Gagauzia (78.1%) have the highest level of connection to the public water supply network. The lowest level is recorded in the North (35.5%). The water is usually captured from surface sources – 64.6%, from underground sources – 25.5%, or from other sources – 9.9%, informed the NBS.

Floods can lead to a higher risk of running out of drinking water for all localities in the Prut and the Dniester riverbeds, which do not have access to centralised water supply systems. Moreover, even those that do have access to such systems risk to drink contaminated water, if the water is captured from sources that came in contact with floodwater.

The National Agency for Public Health (NAPH) reported high levels of non-compliance of  the water from local wells, concerning both chemical and microbiological parameters. “This situation is determined by the lack of centralised sewerage systems, unsanitary conditions, the location of latrines and landfills in the immediate vicinity of wells,” noted the agency.

It also warned that the contaminated water from wells need to be pumped out and walls need to be cleaned in case if floods. When the water in the natural reservoirs is back it needs to be disinfected and tested. The question is how many flooded localities from Moldova respect the NAPH recommendations.

Source: gov.md

No sewerage systems

reportage of Moldova.org disclosed that seven out of ten households in the Republic of Moldova do not have a toilet in the house. On average, 21 out of 30 people use a latrine.

Only 126 out of 1682 localities have sewerage systems and only 73 of them have functional sewage treatment plants. Without a sewage treatment plant, wastewater reaches the soil and rivers, causing serious pollution.

Only 7.6% of Moldovan localities are provided with public sewerage system (95.0% of cities and 4.4% of rural localities).

The highest share of localities with access to the public sewerage system is registered in the capital city area (71.4%) and Gagauzia (15.6%), while the localities in the South and North have almost no access to such systems ( 5.4% and 4.7%), said the official NBS data for 2019.

Only a few localities from Moldova have access to decentralised sewerage systems with attached treatment plants and there are rare cases of households where home treatment plants attached to the individual sewerage system are built.

“In the 21st century, latrines must go down in history,” claimed the NAPH. In case the improvised toilets, built in the yards, are flooded, that could cause a real ecological catastrophe.

No sewage treatment plants

The rivers in the Republic of Moldova are highly polluted due to sewage that is discharged in rivers, as the National Environmental Center (NEC) warned. “The level of pollution and degradation of rivers is so high that we risk causing irreversible damage to the environment, which in turn endangers human life,” said the NEC representatives.

In 2019, 97.15% of the total volume of wastewater discharged in the central sewerage system was treated, as the national statistics reported. While in big cities this share was 99.55%, only 26% of the wastewater was treated in small villages. Let’s not forget also that only 4.4% of the rural localities in Moldova are provided with centralised sewerage system. That means that the biggest quantity of discharged wastewater in rural areas doesn’t reach sewerage systems and national statistics’ reports.

The polluted wastewater gets to the surface and underground waters and from there back to the water supply sources. Floodwater drastically worsens the situation, as even more pollutants reach the water Moldovans drink or use in agriculture.

Photo: gov.md

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Reintegration

The OSCE representative: “Earlier gains in the [Transnistrian] settlement process must not be lost.”

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Last week, several discussions were held between Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the Transnistrian Settlement Process, Thomas Mayr Harting, Moldova’s Special Representative for Transnistria negotiations, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Cristina Lesnic, the Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky, as well as other officials from Moldova and the Transnistrian region.

Thomas Mayr Harting paid a visit both to Moldova and Transnistria in order to document the situation regarding the “Berlin-plus” Package, the challenges of the pandemic situation, the dynamics of the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol, the press release of the Government of the Republic of Moldova informed.

Also, the progress regarding such issues as freedom of movement (blocking the administrative border), transportation problems, functioning of Transnistrian schools with teaching in Romanian, forced enlistment in paramilitary structures in the Transnistrian region, human rights as well as limited access to fair justice, medical care and banking services of the Moldovan citizens living on the left bank of the Dniester were discussed.

Source: gov.md

Moldovan officials have reiterated their concerns regarding the illegally installed border checkpoint in the Security Zone, as well as raised new concerns about the rules imposed by Tiraspol on entering and leaving the region, which were extended until September 30. The OSCE special representative underlined the fact that the officials from Tiraspol promised to remove the border checkpoints, installed as a “temporary measure”, as soon as the COVID-19 situation is under control. Especially, he stressed the need to facilitate the access of farmers to their lands and commuters to their places of work even during the pandemic, is mentioned in a press release of the OSCE.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova announced recently that a group of children from the Transnistrian region were recruited in a youth military organisation of Russian troops stationed on the Transnistrian territory. “It is a violation of independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and permanent neutrality of the Republic of Moldova and is incompatible with the norms of international law,” is claimed in the Ministry’s press release cited by NewsMaker.

Source: Transnistrian Presidential Press Service

On the other hand, the Transnistrian side reminded about unresolved issues and unfulfilled agreements, the number of which is growing, expressing its readiness to discuss with European diplomats every item on the current agenda, as the Transnistrian media wrote.

Among the short-term issues to be prioritised are the finalisation of the telecommunication agreement and an improved internal banking connectivity in Transnistria, as the OSCE representatives informed. “The visit also provided an opportunity for Ambassador Mayr-Harting to exchange views on the negotiations process with the resident mediators and observers in the Transnistrian settlement process,” is stated in the press release of the organisation.

Source: gov.md

Special Representative of the OSCE called on the Moldovan and Transnistrian sides to formulate coordinated responses to all matters related to the settlement process in the context of the pandemic, bearing in mind interests of the people on both banks.

According to a Promo-LEX report, about 400 000 inhabitants of Transnistria, of which over 330 000 are citizens of the Republic of Moldova, lack effective guarantees or tools to protect their rights, such as the right to liberty and security, the right to not be subjected to torture and ill-treatment, freedom of expression and association, freedom of movement, the right to education, the right to property, etc.

“Still this region remains closed and inaccessible to human rights monitoring institutions or missions.”

The authors of the report noted that the authorities of the Russian Federation continue to influence events in the Transnistrian territory, due to the unconditional political, military and economic support offered to the Tiraspol administration, contrary to bilateral and international commitments and especially Russia’s status as a mediator in the Transnistrian problem settlement process.

Photo: gov.md

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