The war in Ukraine has seen a spike in young people's interest in national defense. While field camps are an inseparable part of training, the Defense League has been having trouble finding instructors.
A few hundred eleven-graders of Tallinn schools will go through their first test at the Soodla Training Area in Harju County this weekend. While the war in Ukraine has boosted young people's interest in national defense, the Estonian Defense League, as the organization in charge of field camps, is having some trouble.
We initially planned a camp for four schools. The Tallinn Mustamäe High School, Pae High School, Õismäe Russian Lyceum and the Loo High School. Three months ago, the Defense League asked us to include three more schools, while we now have a total of ten schools' students attending the camp," national defense teacher Margit Leerimaa said.
She suggested that the Defense League is having trouble finding instructors, despite daily pay having been bumped from €70 to €100 for this year. Leerimaa said that while it was the right call to hand organization of the camps over to the Defense League, the transitionary period has been too short.
"The transition should have taken two or three years, seen teachers consulted to a greater degree. The current approach of trying to tick the box as quickly as possible isn't really working," she suggested.
Aare Sutt, field camps coordinator for the Defense League, admits to planning mistakes, and that the organization failed to consider the effects of the Wolf (Hunt) and Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) major training exercises. A part of camps coincided with the summer break and had to be rescheduled quickly.
"Because it is extremely difficult or impossible to organize national defense education field camps during the training period, the original plan was to postpone them until June. Because two camps scheduled for June coincided with the summer break, we had to readjust the annual field camps plan. That is why some schools have joined other camps," Sutt explained.
The need for instructors is set to become more acute next year when national defense education in schools becomes mandatory.
While most who attended the Saturday camp were there voluntarily, instructors will in the future have to deal with students with little in the way of motivation to participate.
"I believe it should be mandatory to some extent, to give everyone a measure of preparedness for a military situation. /.../ Some aren't interested at all, while it all boils down to people and their willingness to defend their country in the end," said Hendrik Saar, student of the Mustamäe High School.
The course is voluntary for students of the Mustamäe High School, with five out of 26 students in the class opting out. But attendance was made mandatory at the Pae High School.
"I believe it should not be mandatory, as compulsion could work to demotivate children," said Veroonika Heinaru from the Pae High School.
Thirty field camps will take place this year, while the one in Soodla is the only camp organized by a nonprofit.
Editor: Marcus Turovski