Bucharest, March 6, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Daniel Stroe
About 2 million students, out of the total 3.1 million registered pupils, had chosen to attend religious classes in schools one day before the closing date of the attendance registration, the Ministry of Education announced amid a heated debate sparked by a decision the Romanian justice passed last year.
In Bucharest, about 76 % registered to attend these classes by Thursday. The number, both in the capital and nationally, is expected to rise a little over the day since Friday is the last day parents can enlist their children to attend religious classes.
The registration comes as a result of a decision passed late last year by the Constitutional Court which drew the ire of the Romanian Orthodox Church. In November, the court ruled as unconstitutional two articles in the law on education which that far required that a student of age or a parent of a minor student have to file a written application if they want to skip religion classes. The court’s ruling says that, on the contrary, those who wish to attend religion classes have to file such an application and not the other way around. In practice, the new ruling takes the religious studies out of the mandatory sphere.
Following the decision, the minister of Education, Sorin Cimpeanu, said parents who wish their children would attend the religious classes have to fill in an application by 6 March and file it at their children’s school. Cimpeanu previously said the court’s decision can only be applied as of September, when the new school year begins, but then backtracked amid reactions in the civil society.
Speaking to the state television last night, Cimpeanu said there are 6,200 religion teachers in Romania, 4,200 of them being hired on the basis of an undetermined contract. He warned that the latter could sue the state if the Ministry of Education cannot provide them with a full didactic norm.
Following the court’s decision, the Romanian Orthodox Church has launched a nationwide campaign to encourage parents to enlist children for religious classes. The campaign will be deployed by Trinitas TV, the Romanian Patriarchy’s TV station, and features a dozen Romanian stars.
But the campaign has again raised eyebrows and a Romanian teacher filed a petition with the state audio-visual regulating body (CAN) to withdraw a recommendation it had made to TV stations in Romania to promote Trinitas TV’s video spots. The petitioner argues the message of the promotion spots – “enlist your child in a religious class or the class will be dissolved” – contains false information and is manipulating.
The Ministry of Education has one more issue to settle – the problem of the religious classes placed in the middle of the daily school schedule. Parents whose children are not enlisted to attend the religious classes complain their children have to attend the class anyway since they are not allowed to leave the classroom. They ask for the religious classes to be held either at the beginning or the end of the daily schedule so the pupils who do not want to attend them can come to school later or leave earlier.