Estonian Minister Wants Students to Harvest Potatoes
Estonian Minister of Rural Affairs Arvo Aller has proposed school students to assist farmers in agricultural work, during harvest season. But education experts believe a student’s job should be to learn.
According to err.ee news portal, the Minister of Rural Affairs believes that when it’s time to harvest and there is a shortage of workers, no opportunities should be looked down upon. Schoolchildren, among others, might be able to help farmers out.
“High schoolers should have the chance to help out, should have the opportunity to harvest potatoes, cabbages, which provides physical exercise. And as PE classes as such don’t exist anymore, this physical activity is reasonable and necessary for young men,” Aller said.
“We are already taking into account that students have missed valuable materials while learning remotely and must make greater efforts to catch up next year. Sending students to do agricultural work in the middle of the academic year does not match that logic,” Chairman of the Federation of Estonian Student Unions Marcus Ehasoo said.
Mart Laidmets, Secretary General of the Ministry of Education and Research, agrees, saying that during the academic year, students should first and foremost be dedicated to studying. “Of course, it cannot be ruled out that when the crops are rotting away, others have to help farmers out, but I’m not too sure that students should be at the forefront,” Laidmets said.
Commenting on Aller’s idea, the Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps said no separate school holiday would be introduced for students to assist in harvesting potatoes.
“The main activity of our children and young people, of which we are very proud of, is learning. Any other activities, including work, are of course welcome, if it is possible to engage in them in addition to learning. That means that working cannot interfere with learning,” Reps said speaking at a press conference.
It would not be appropriate to give students time off from school for work similarly to, for example, school students working in a collective farm during the Soviet era, Reps said, adding that foreign workforce, which has thus far been widely been employed in the Estonian agricultural sector, cannot be replaced with students.