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Ministry wants to hand national defense study camps over to Defense League

Estonian Defense League (Kaitseliit) crest.
Estonian Defense League (Kaitseliit) crest. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Annual national defense camps that see hundreds of student participants have until now been organized by different bodies. Starting in 2022, the Ministry of Defense wants to hand organization of the camps over to the Defense League.

National defense education culminates in field camps where young people can experience the beauty and pain of forest life. Schools' national defense teachers call on Defense League or Estonian Defense Forces instructors for help. This cooperation has resulted in groups of friends and NGOs that have experience working with young people and organizing camps, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

"We usually have around 40 students. All my camps have been organized with help from the EDF Cyber Command that sends us instructors," said Mark Nisumaa, national defense teacher and Defense League member.

The camps are organized by local Defense League units in some places. The camps are funded from the defense ministry budget through schools or local governments. Funding per student can exceed €100. The ministry plans to harmonize camp organization the year after next.

"The plan starting in 2022 is for all national defense education camps to be organized by the Defense League, with funding moving there directly," said Anu Rannaveski, head of the ministry's military service department.

As most national defense teachers are members of the Defense League, one would expect them to find the new system to their liking.  However, teachers warn that the camps should not be overpopulated and instructors should be professionals as opposed to enthusiasts.

"The Defense League is a volunteer organization. I cannot say how they plan to find enough instructors for major camps," Nisumaa said.

Commander of the Defense League, Brig. Gen. Riho Ühtegi says that whether the Defense League will take over the camps will become clear by next summer.

"The Defense League has its limits. At the end of the day, it is additional workload for paid members, meaning that additional funding needs to be considered. Perhaps additional work as well," Ühtegi said.

National defense education takes place in roughly 150 schools, with 40-70 students per class.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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