These are children and teens with inexhaustible energy and curiosity. They are citizens with equal rights and future voters. Do they really know how they would elect or be elected when they turn 18? We speak about the young generation of the Republic of Moldova and, in this particular case, about young people from boarding schools established for children without parental care.
During 24–27 October, the Centre for Continuous Electoral Training (CCET), the Central Electoral Commission, in partnership UNDP Moldova support, organised the camp “Democracy can be learned. My Electoral Rights”, engaging 44 children from boarding schools located in Ceadir-Lunga town, Carpineni village (Hincesti district) and Bender town.
By its “Enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections” project, UNDP Moldova managed to support and conduct dozens of activities and events dedicated to youth and their civic and participatory education. Now it reached out to children who, following their graduation from the 9th grade, would need to fit in, to study and work, and to become aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens of this country. There are few so-called boarding schools left in the Republic of Moldova, this being their old name. As soon as the reform in this area is completed these boarding schools are going to vanish.
Those three residential institutions have been identified with the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research. The teens gladly accepted the invitation to attend the camp, in Chisinau. A mini-vacation — this is how many participants called it. All of them confessed it was their first time to attend an event where one could accessibly learn about democracy, participation and elections.
Eight children from Bender, which is located on the left bank of Nistru River, attended the camp, this being the total number of pupils hosted by the school.
Lidia Postarencu, school principal, says she rarely crosses Nistru River to accompany the children upon somebody’s invitation from the right bank.
“These days have been extraordinary for us, because we, as residents of the left bank, have had few opportunities to visit the right bank. When the news about attending such a camp reached our ears, it made the children happy, and they warmly welcomed it. The luggage was packed well in advance the day of leaving for Chisinau. The children were impatient to get to the capital city. In fact, the camp was very useful. First of all, children found themselves in a special mini-vacation. Second of all, they learned new information. The excursions to different institutions they visited for the first time offered them the possibility to see other faces, hear other voices; hence, their interest was just great. All the children shall have equal rights, and such events offer them the possibility to socialise, to interact in order to be prepared for adult life, which is around the corner,” the school principal concluded.
Those 44 children were engaged in different activities. The first day was dedicated to closer acquaintance with several institutions, namely with the Central Electoral Commission, Centre for Continuous Electoral Training, UN in Moldova, and the Moldovan Parliament. They talked with institutions’ representatives, learned more about their work and mandate. The same day, the children visited the Vivarium located on the territory of the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History of Moldova. A movie-evening ended the first day.
On the camp’s second day the participants worked in workshops, discussing democratic values and electoral processes. They even created parties, conducted election campaigns and, at the end, simulated a true Elections Day. The lab for scientific entertainment hosted them in the evening where the children discovered various chemical reactions.
During the third day, the children formed teams and talked about their rights. The aim of that activity was to familiarise them in a creative manner with their rights and the ways of engaging in community life. Certificates of participation were handed out to all 44 pupils as well as many information materials to be used at school.
Dan Popovici and Mihai Rotaru, CCET Trainers, accompanied the children throughout their visit in Chisinau.
“It was both interesting and challenging for us as the children were so active and noisy, while we needed to catch their attention all the time and win their trust. This lasted until they realised they could make friends, form teams and create things together.
I noticed they liked what they learned, namely that they could vote when they turn 18, could be elected as a MP or as a local councillor at the same age, and be elected as a mayor when they turn 25 and as a president when they turn 40. I feel proud I have successfully met the challenge. The standing ovation at the end was a reward for my four-day activity,” said Dan Popovici.
Ten children came from Carpineni, Hincesti, accompanied by their educator Galina Banzari, who stated: “I am so glad that some obviously humble children managed to unleash their creativity and engaged in games and activities. FWhen they created parties, it was obvious that competition made them involve. Even I learned so many new and useful things. Now I better understand and I am more confident in terms of voting and participation in elections”.
Inna Sadovscaia, who accompanied 26 children from Ceadir-Lunga, noticed that some children took notes. “The camp on electoral rights and civic participation is the first of its kind for the children from Ceadir-Lunga. What impressed me the most was their presence, as we felt they were open and free”.
Veronica Vilcu (Ceadir-Lunga)
“This is my first visit to the Parliament, and I liked the premises and what I learned there. I liked also the UN House where I learned about those 17 UN Goals. For instance, to have clean water in our country, prosperous families and take care of our health. No doubt, I liked the chemistry experiments because it were funny. The voting simulation exercise was interesting as we felt we were adults indeed. I did not know it is required to stamp on the ballot paper, I thought it was enough to tick the box. I do not want to return home. As it is frequently the case, it is difficult at the beginning, then you make friends, and when it becomes more exciting, it is high time to depart”.
Alexandrina Erhan (Carpineni)
“I am over 12 years old and I live in Carpineni. These days were quite interesting, and I felt good. I liked the most when we sat together and watched the movie because the atmosphere was so friendly. And, indeed, I have made new friends, and we would keep in touch via Instagram. I learned I can vote when I turn 18; however, there are countries where one could vote at the age of 16. I am glad I got different handouts and brochures I would read when I get back to Carpineni”.
Cristina Arseni (Bender)
“Over these days I learned so many interesting things. I found out why we should vote, and I have already decided to vote when I turn 18. I liked the third-day activities when we worked in teams and simulated elections. I liked also the Parliament, Vivarium and UN House. I attend such a multi-day camp for the first time where I learned about democracy via easy-to-understand games and activities”.
Veaceslav Veselinoi (Ceadir-Lunga)
“Now I know where the Parliament is and what it does. I have been to the meeting room where the members pass the bills. Next year I will turn 18. I do hope I would manage to vote. Actually, I would like to enroll in the army. I just like it, and the only thing I need to be active in the army is to be healthy. Now I am healthy, and I believe that I would be ready to get enlisted next year”.
Pavel Cabacenco, CCET Director, said: “Inclusive education is important, as democracy cannot be taken for granted; we learn what democracy is, what engagement means during youth. In fact, the youth is our future and, according to statistics, their turnout is low in comparison with all other categories of voters. I believe that at this age, the teens can accept more and understand even more via interactive games, via activities, which develop critical thinking, build those abilities, which would enable them to be fully aware and well-informed citizens”.
During the visit to CEC premises, Dr. Dorin Cimil, Chairperson of the Central Electoral Commission, told the children: “It is my pleasure to notice your interest in electoral processes, and I do hope you would become responsible citizens who vote and actively engage in community life at your maturity, and even now, in your school”.
Eva Bounegru, UNDP Moldova Project Manager, stated: “Through its projects, UNDP Moldova encourages inclusive education and supports all society groups regardless of their age, national minority or social status. We are glad this event helped us enhance children’s knowledge about democratic processes and their rights”.