President Alar Karis is holding a brainstorm and essay-writing competition for children aged 7-19 on the topic "Why does the world need Estonia?" Essays should be mailed or emailed to the president by February 14; Estonian children living abroad are welcome to write as well.
While last year's topic, "What kind of Estonia do we really want?" focused on the future of Estonia, problems the country is facing and the ideals it should be striving for, this year, the Estonian president is calling on children to pinpoint Estonia's place in a globalized world, according to an Office of the President (VPK) press release.
What role does one small culture play in a highly interconnected world? What advantages does it boast, and why is it important to listen to small countries in particular? How is Estonia of value to the rest of the world?
Essays can be mailed (max. length two A4 pages) to
Office of the President of the Republic
A. Weizenbergi 39
or emailed (max. length 5,000 characters) to [email protected] by Tuesday, February 14.
Please attach your name, age, school and grade, home address and phone number to your essay.
The VPK will publish both the best ideas from the brainstorm and the most impressive essays.
Hundreds of children write about what kind of Estonia they want
Last January, President Karis called on children to write to him and share their thoughts, feelings, wishes, opinions and dreams on the topic of "What kind of Estonia do we really want?"
By February 14, a total of 564 schoolchildren aged 7-19 — and one six-year-old child — had written to the president, both by hand and by email, in prose and in poetry, both with and without accompanying illustrations. Responses poured in from all over the country, from Tallinn, Tartu and other large cities to even the smallest and most remote villages.
Overall, the letters received reflected a great love for Estonia, and praise for education and their teachers was frequent, the VPK noted. Yet there was also great concern regarding Estonia's nature and the environment, particularly the future of its forests, as well as a divided society, racism, bigotry and xenophobia, disappointment in the behavior of Estonian politicians, and worry regarding mental health as well as inequality, including poverty. Common themes, however, also included caring for one another, kindness and empathy.
Responses reflected writers' feelings and thoughts about Estonia today and fantastic as well as less fantastic visions of the future Estonia; they included humorous parables, but also painful confessions about the concerns they, their families and their friends faced.
An outdoor exhibition featuring selected quotes from the letters received was opened in Kadriorg Park on Children's Day on June 1.
'Right now we're not the best version of ourselves, but we can better ourselves'
Below are some of the thoughts shared in last year's letters to the Estonian president:
"We have very good teachers right now. Teachers that love their work and have devoted much of their lives to it, despite the fact that we are thwarting them with all our might. I want that, ten years from now, we have the same sort of teachers who are passionate about their work."
— Averiin Hummal, 11, Tartu Hansa School
"I think that Estonia doesn't need to be big, because then it's easier to go wherever you need to go. Some want Estonia to be big, but I think it doesn't need to be. But if others do, then okay."
— Marten Simo, 4th grade, Ülenurme High School
"Of the good things, what I like is that Estonia has all four seasons, and that is something that no politician can take away or add to."
— Carmella Krislin Kruus, 11, Tartu Hansa School
"I want that, in the future, people would take notice and care more that young people receive help if needed. Because what good does it do us to top global PISA rankings if the ones [taking the test], i.e. OUR FUTURE, burns out completely and doesn't even see their own future. There's no point in dreaming of a future Estonia if young people break before that future becomes the present."
— Johanna Karp, 12th grade, Hugo Treffner High School
"I play the flute in music school, and my dream is to become a musician. I want music education to be valued. For it to be prestigious to be a musician."
— Bogdan Karasjov, 3rd grade, Nõo Basic School
"If I could make something better right now, I'd make it so that:
- there would be schools in smaller rural areas as well;
- there would be stores in small settlements;
- public transport would be ensured in areas further out from urban centers too;
- everyone who needs it could receive psychological help, quickly and for free;
- pensioners living alone would be offered more help;
- small village roads would be better cared for;
- smaller roads and streets would be lit."
— Ida Leen Katvel, 15, Kolga School
"It should be clear to us by now that not talking about our feelings takes a toll on people and can end someone's life too soon. Those are tragic cases and we want for there to be as few of them as possible, right? I believe it's time to let go of the stereotypical Estonian and bloom as a new, open and happier Estonian. AN Estonian that isn't afraid to talk about their emotions, that doesn't keep everything inside and doesn't hide behind hate.
What kind of Estonia do we really want? Are we going to keep talking about how the grass used to be greener and the sky bluer or are we going to be thankful for the grass we currently do have and fertilize that which would make the grass greener now?"
— Elise Zinovjev, 8th grade, Türi Basic School
"I want to wish for my Estonia that it would not be alone and that it would have a lot of friends."
— Sofia Suba, 1st grade, Tartu Hansa School
"I like how Estonians love their country, I like our customs and cultural heritage, our dreams and achievements over the years, but Estonia is certainly not the best country, because there is no best; there is only the best version of yourself. Right now we're not that either, but we can better ourselves. We can be a common environment and acknowledge our past. To do this, we have to carefully weigh all of our possibilities."
— Monika Bronzini, 13, Järveküla School
"'Why do you want to be in Estonia?' Because, despite everything, I have hope."
— Helis Luks, 17, Saaremaa High School
Editor: Aili Vahtla