Former mayor: Narva will drag out switch to teaching in Estonian

Katri Raik.
Katri Raik. Source: Dmitri Fedotkin / ERR

Narva's new city government will make efforts to slow down the switch to teaching in Estonian, former mayor Katri Raik said on the "Esimene stuudio" talk show.

Raik said that while there was different criticism for her as mayor, the main reason for the no-confidence vote that saw her ousted was the switch to teaching in Estonian. She believes the new authorities of the predominantly Russian-spreaking city will try and slow down the transition.

The former mayor said she launched preparations for the switch and gave teachers one last chance to study Estonian. "I have seen kindergarten teachers who are my age and who learned Estonian in the span of a single year. It's quite a thing. We started retraining elementary school teachers."

"We took action. And that is the fundamental thing – if Narva can switch to teaching in Estonian, there is no reason why Lasnamäe cannot," she said. Raik added that she used to work at the Education Ministry when the partial switch to Estonian education in high schools was being put into practice. "It was said at the time that while we would love to switch to lessons in Estonian, we cannot because of Narva. But Narva would have made it happen. I'm quite certain that the powers that be will launch stalling tactics, even if they will not go as far as slamming the brakes."

Raik said she managed to anger school principles who are also members of the Narva City Council. She suggested that council members are appointed irrespective of whether they're a good fit or not in Narva.

She said that she stepped on the toes of five or six council members. "If a person does not speak Estonian, they cannot be running a kindergarten or school," she remarked.

Raik said that Narva has a very serious municipal food chain problem. "A part of that food chain is that all coalition council members also serve on city department boards, with specialists kept away. /.../ A vehicle dealer I know in Narva told me that whenever there is a new council, they buy brand new cars, and indeed everyone drives the same make. It goes beyond schools to city departments and their management."

The former mayor admitted she did not have a good rapport with the council and that one of her mistakes was not demanding two deputy mayor positions.

Center's Jaan Toots is poised to take over running the border city. Raik said that Narva is slow to welcome outsiders, and things may prove difficult for Toots.

"I went to live in Narva in 1999 and was until recently referred to as someone who is otherwise a nice person but was born in Tartu. I don't think Toots will not find it any easier. But Jaan Toots is an imposing middle-aged man and a former policeman, so he has advantages I did not," Raik remarked.

"I hope that Jaan Toots has enough character and strength of mind to tow his own line and recognize when he is in danger of becoming the council's puppet."


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Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski

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