Dear Sir, dear Madam,
We are building a school – Book-train on the Lane.
Teleorman, perhaps the only county in Romania which does not offer children an educational alternative.
Book-train on the Lane will be the first and only alternative to the centralized state system in Teleorman county. It will cary out work for preschool, primary and gymnasium cycles.
Traditionally, Teleorman county ranks last in the national exams.
I want to talk to you about a dream of mine as big as a chimera, about a country lane, about children’s education, about the need for a revolution…
For two years, I’ve been trying to carry with me a project concerned with the children’s education – Book-train on the Lane. Meant for the children in the countryside, especially. It started absolutely by chance. I had heard before that the best stories start by chance, so it seems that it is my turn to get the miracle of chance, which was the Diaspora protest meeting on August 10 2018. On the previous evening, on the 9th, I made a Facebook post where I announced my friends that “I will go”, or something like that – I was trying to encourage the people of Bucharest to come as well. Just for principles. Nothing political. Just principles. I also told my friends that I had about 100 ron, put aside in order to buy my child some math books and some fiction, but that I would spend the money on the trip to Bucharest, since I was coming from Scrioastea, Teleorman. I was keen on participating, it felt like I owed it to my conscience. People were coming from thousands of kilometers away from Romania and I couldn’t come from 100? I strongly believe in principles. For example, Alexis of Toqueville speaks about one of the most important principles of America, the education of children, the communities being forced to build schools and the parents being forced to send their children to those schools, otherwise risking to have their children taken away – Code of 1650; John Stuart Mill and the freedom of the individual, of the opinion, especially when it goes against the public opinion, because, in this way, the latter has the opportunity of being checked; John Rawls and the equality of opportunity or the ancients with the famous dictum: Fiat iustitia, pereat mundus – Let justice be done, though the world may perish. In fact, we are talking about morality, conscience, dignity.
I will cut the story short, so that I won’t take too much of your time… Some friends of mine, after the post on August 9th, messaged me that they want to help out financially so that I can buy those books for the kid. Of course, I could not accept, it was impossible. I didn’t even know what to reply to them so that they would not be offended. And I thought, look, there are people who jump at the opportunity for education. So why shouldn’t we do something for ALL the children?… I had read a while ago about two English students who built mini-libraries in the old telephone booths and set them up right there on the street. I couldn’t shake the thought, I would have liked to do something like that too, but… But! Most of our dreams die young, like mere thoughts. Because of … fear, being alone, the reactions of those around us, biases, etc. An enormous wall stands in front of you. And most people take a step back. I think I’d been dreaming for too long, so much that I didn’t take into account anything else. So I made another post. Step by step, people joined me in my dream. They donated books, stationery, toys, clothes for children, sweets and money. We took the books out on the country lanes, in front of the gates, set them up on plywood, old doors and pieces of BCA.
The mini libraries in telephone booths, that was what I wanted to do, but soon my dream kept rolling like an avalanche. Today that dream is called a Cultural Center. Because it is MANDATORY for us to teach our children lessons. So, we need a proper space for lessons, meetings with important people who can open new horizons for the children, who can challenge them have their own dreams, a theater hall… There are a lot of things that I would like to do here. In fact, I call it a Temple of Education. I know, it sounds pathetic, but we are the only county in Romania that does not have a bookstore. As I have said, there are many things I would like us to build around this Centre. Some of them I haven’t even made public, because I’m afraid of the hostile reaction of the local authorities, since they are the number one public enemy.
I had the luck of having fabulous friends. I had the honor of having by my side the Humanitas publishing house with the general manager Lidia Bodea. The chance of being supported by Alex Dima and “Romania, I Love You” and many other friends. Lidia had the idea of building a library in… we had just built a room, a bedroom for the kid, it was almost finished, when Lidia came up with the idea of the library. So, for quite a long time, we have been teaching the children lessons here. I have a girl (she’s not my child) that I’ve managed to determine to fall in love with geometry, the terror of the kids. When she came to me, she was at the ZERO level in mathematics, in everything. It’s hard to imagine this zero level… but then she got an 8 in the term math exam (and another kid has just got an average of 9.17 in the National Exam – 9.25 in the Romanian test, 9.10 in the Mathematics one). Here, at this level that practically undermines any hope in a child, there are very many other children in public schools from all over the country, especially in the countryside. For 30 years, the education in Romania, the lack of education has been another type of epidemic, but … one which, apparently, doesn’t harm. Apparently. Maybe the disaster that the lack of education produces is more harmful than a virus. In two years Book-train on the Lane, I have understood many things, almost as if I had lived one more life. Education and books have no friends in Romania. With the exception of a minority, a small minority, to use a suggestive license.
EDUCATION CHANGES DESTINIES. INCLUDING THE DESTINY OF A NATION – this is my motto, my belief. Year after year, the system ruins the destinies of hundreds of thousands of children. Education is the only solution, for an individual, for a nation. Cioran used to say that we have always situated ourselves on the margins of the history. Lack of education leads to such a marginalized destiny.
Last December, I founded an Association with the same name, hoping that I will succeed in attracting sponsors from companies, hoping that I will apply to different state programs… I didn’t even manage to get a text message donation number, it wasn’t possible on the grounds that the Association was not old enough. The other two founding members were Cătălin Teniță, an important and hard working civic activist, and Mari Tudor, the manager of the West University of Timisoara Publishing House. Still, we had the luck (again, luck) of getting to know an extraordinary lady (Cristina Cinca) who sponsored me by means of two companies with a considerable sum of money that allowed me to keep on hoping that, one day, this dream of mine will get alive.
With donations from my friends, I managed to buy a piece of land (approximately 1000 m2) in a village where I could build that Temple. The building process was supposed to start in the spring or the summer of this year. That was my dream. But I am alone. You know, the loneliness I mentioned above. It was hard for me to find an architect and so on. And then there came this pandemic. Some days ago, I started looking for an architect again. I had a long chat with a kind gentleman who brought me down to earth, especially when he told me that one built square meter costs at least 500 euro. And, as I was talking to him, I felt my dream reshaping over and over again, from one sentence to another, the stakes were getting lower and lower.
I DO NOT even have money to buy a small flat. But a Temple?
Dear Sir, dear Madam, the project Book-train on the Lane is not restricted only to my little village, not at all. Every child in Romania can cross our threshold. I wish for a Revolution in Education. I know, it sounds “somehow”, coming from a country lane… And who pays attention to a country lane?
Dear Sir, dear Madam, here is what the dream Book-train on the Lane involves:
I – Setting up a school
- 3 kindergarten groups (children who are 3, 4 or 5 years old).
- 5 primary school groups (zero, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th grades).
- 4 secondary school groups (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th grades).
Each group will be made up of 15 children.
For this school we need: the building itself, teaching and auxiliary staff.
- The school building – Main spaces: 8 classrooms (3 for the kindergarten groups, 5 for the others: they will study in two shifts, the little ones will have courses in the morning, and the secondary school in the afternoon) x 25 m2 each class = 200 m2
- Auxiliary spaces: 1 teaching staff room – 25 m2; 1 laboratory (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) – 25 m2; 1 gymnasium – 50 m2; 1 theater hall (festivities) – 100 m2; 4 toilets (2g + 2b) + 4 showers (2g + 2b) = 25 m2; 4 dormitories (4 toilets + 4 showers) for the teachers – 50 m2; 1 office for the headmaster – 15 m2; 1 office for the administrator – 15 m2; 1 secretariat office – 15 m2; 1 shed – 25 m2; 1 kitchen + dining room + storage room = 30 m2; corridors – 25 m2; total auxiliary spaces: 400 m2.
* 200 m2 + 400 m2 = 600 m2 – total building.
600 m2 x 600 euro/1 m2 = 360.000 euro.
360.000 euro + 50.000 euro (interior amenities) + 10.000 euro (unexpected expenses) = 420.000 euro.
II – After school
- 50 children – those children with an extended programme (around 16-17) at Book-train on the Lane, in order to help the parents who work and have no one to leave the children at home with.
- Theatre hall (100 m2) will represent the place of rest /sleep for these children, respectively here (separated by a movable wall) they will also do their homework for the next day, under the supervision of a teacher.
- The children benefit from: lunch, sleep, lessons, leisure.
III – Salaried employees
- 3 preschool teachers + 5 primary school teachers + 10 secondary school teachers = 18 teachers.
- 18 teachers x 5000 ron (gross salary)= 90.000 ron (gross salaries – preschool teachers, primary school teachers, secondary school teachers).
- One of the teachers will be headmaster, so he/ she will additionally have 2000 ron gross salary: 90.000 + 2.000=110.000 ron gross salaries/1 month.
- 1 secretary/accountant- 5000 ron gross, 1 plumber – 3000 ron gross, 1 cleaning lady- 2000 ron gross
- 5000 + 3000 + 2000 = 10.000 ron gross salaries/1 month
*110.000 + 10.000 = 120.000 ron gross salaries/1 month
After school auxiliary staff
- 1 caretaker/supervisor- 2000 ron gross, 1 cook – 2500 lei gross, 1 nurse, full time, for the whole Book-train on the Lane Centre – 5000 ron gross
- 5000 + 2500 + 2000 = 9500 ron gross salaries/ 1 month
*120 000 + 9 500 = a TOTAL of 129 500 ron gross salaries /1 month
129.500 : 4,84 lei (1 euro) = a TOTAL of 26.756 euro gross salaries/ 1 month
IV – Maintenance costs (water, gas etc) – 1000 euro/ 1 month
V – Yard landscaping costs: playgrounds, sports field, fence, etc – 10.000 euro
VI – Costs of consumable materials, materials for the educational process (markers, etc.), for various activities with children (celebrations, trips, etc) – 5000 euro / 1 year. 5000 x 4 years = 20.000 euro
***TOTAL COSTS (teachers’ salaries + salaries for auxiliary staff + maintenance costs + consumable costs, activities):
26.756 euro + 1000 + 416 = 28.172 euro/ 1 month
IDEALLY, for the stability of the educational programme, the costs for a study period of 4 years should be covered from the very start:
28.172 euro X 48 months = 1.352.256 euro.
Since the beginning of these four years we will try to find those solutions which will allow us to exist by ourselves. I am thinking of starting some important economic activities through which we will be able to support ourselves. Pestalozzi managed this hundred years ago, we have to manage as well.
IN CONCLUSION, we have the following costs:
- 430.000 EURO – 420.000 EURO (raising the building, interior amenities, unexpected costs) + 10 000 EURO (yard landscaping costs); +
- 1.352.256 EURO – costs for carrying out the educational process for 4 years (salaries, maintenance, consumable materials, activities). =
- = 1.782.256 EURO.
We have managed to raise 36.456,25 euros till today, 22.12.2020.
The school Book-train on the Lane will have a non-profit and private status. There will be maximum 15 students/ group. Ideally, there should be no fee for the children, or, at most, a very small fee, but this is possible only with your involvement. The children who have potential and who come from families with precarious financial situation will not have to pay.
The whole activity will conform to the standards of quality and performance.
The children from the countryside (3-14 years old) will be the main beneficiaries of this project. The children from Teleorman, given the physical proximity, will be the main beneficiaries, but we believe that, in a short time, we will provide boarding conditions during the entire year, so that the children from any part of Romania can attend our courses.
ANY child from Romania will have access to Book-train on the Lane. In every holiday, we will organize camps in the center where we will have intensive study programmes for the exam subjects – mathematics, the Romanian language. The study programmes will last for 2 weeks for each series of participants.
We will attract some of the best and dedicated teachers and we will equip our Temple with smart learning instruments, so that we can get closer to the children’s world and make their education more pleasant and more efficient.
Periodically, we will organize meetings with personalities from various areas, so that the children would have the opportunity of getting familiarized with other life frameworks, of knowing that there exist some other “forms” of life, inaccessible/ strange to the children in the countryside. People of science, of culture, of art. A process meant to promote, to inspire dreams and models for the children, to open their horizons. To help them understand that, beyond their fence and their street, there is the big and wonderful life. And that they have access to this life by means of Education and of Books.
We will make art, theater, we will bring plays, painting exhibitions, literature, poetry, foreign languages, personal development from the youngest age.
The project Book-train on the Lane is unique in Teleorman, maybe even in Romania. I mention this just as statistics, so that you have an image about it. The school that we will set up will be also unique in Teleorman, and, in this way, it will be a real alternative for the children.
We are building a beautiful and dignified Romania. By means of the children.
The Association Book-train on the Lane (Cu cărțile pe uliță)
- The tax code of the association is: 41987430.
- The bank account (IBAN) of the association is RO22 RZBR 0000 0600 2149 5391.
- The address is Com. Scrioastea, Jud. Teleorman.
- The birth of the association: December 2019 (the project has been running for two years).
- The founding members: Cătălin Teniță (civic activist), Mari Tudor (the director of the West University of Timișoara publishing house), the undersigned on the edge of the ditch.
- Our friends and vital partners: HUMANITAS publishing house, its general director Lidia Bodea.
- Extraordinary friends: Cristina Cinca (lawyer), Dumitru Oprișiu (pilot). And many other wonderful friends.
Dear Sir, dear Madam, unfortunately, the disaster in our education system is already widely known. The rate of functional illiteracy of over 40% in the national assessment exam this year, imagine that over 30.000 children did NOT even show up at the exam. From these 30.000 children, 10.000 got practically lost on the way, they had abandoned school between the 7th and the 8th grade. About 40.000, from 160.000 children who were present, got grades under 5. Bucharest has the most graduates from the 8th grade: 16.000. Just think that many cities like Bucharest have lost their children. And this happens year after year, and every year the situation is getting worse and worse. Not to mention the children from the countryside… Dear Sir, dear Madam, we are in a real epidemic because of the lack of education. For 30 years. And no one is working, in this case, on a miracle “vaccine”. In spite of the fact that the disaster produced by the lack of education is more serious than any virus.
Dear Sir, dear Madam, a heartful “thank you” for your involvement.
With admiration, Relu Voicu – the president of the Association Book-train on the Lane.
*I forgot to tell you – what I have done so far was pro-bono.
Who am I? I’m in love with Nichita, I did research on his life and I hope that, one day, I will make a biographical movie about Nichita; I wrote, as a scriptwriter, for TV; a graduate from the Law faculty, married, with an 11th grade child; dreams, principles.
You can follow the project on my Facebook account, from its start until now, moment by moment on Facebook and cucartilepeulita.ro.
EDUCATION CHANGES DESTINIES, INCLUDING THE DESTINY OF A NATION.