Booking a ticket to a better future, Florin goes back to school
by Debbie Stowe, UNICEF Consultant
Like many teenage boys, Florin Constantin Dinu wears a football shirt. But it is reading, rather than sport, that is the 16-year-old’s passion.
“He doesn’t like to do chores or work, instead he wants to study. He could stay all day long with a book in his hand,” says Florin’s mother, Anişoara.
But Florin’s schooling was interrupted when he went to Spain to look after his nephew. After two years out of the local education system, it would have been easy for Florin to have dropped out of school permanently and stayed on in Spain, joining the thousands of his compatriots drawn to the Iberian country by the promise of higher wages.
Florin made the difficult decision to return to Romania and finish his studies. “I told them [my parents] I wanted to return home. I have to learn a profession, so I can, in my turn, teach other children, like our teachers are doing with us.”
With maternal pride, Anişoara says, “I always had great expectations from him. I don’t want to tell him what he should be; he just needs to learn, learn for himself. He should have whatever job he chooses. I don’t want him to struggle as we have…”
And life is indeed a struggle for the family. Florin lives with Anişoara and his father, Gigi, in a dilapidated home, typical of many throughout Romania’s towns and villages. The place is in need of repairs, and there is little space to do homework.
His parents work part time in a pet centre. No doubt life would be easier financially if Florin entered the work force. But it’s a sacrifice that the family are prepared to make for the sake of their son’s future.
“We hope that we will manage to support Florin through high school and if he wants we will support him at college too,” says Anişoara. “If he studies and gets a scholarship we will help him. Somehow we will manage…”
With support from his parents and from UNICEF, Florin is now working towards a better future for himself. Sitting on his bed in the evening, he reads about the world in his geography textbook. Education can make that world his oyster. But there are thousands of boys and girls like Florin, around Romania and abroad, who have dropped out of school, whose young promise is being squandered in the pressing fight for survival.
Given help to continue their studies, they could be tomorrow’s doctors, teachers, leaders – the next generation taking Romania on its journey from communism to democracy. But deprived of an education, their lives will simply be devoted to scratching out a living.
Perhaps Florin sums up best the importance of education to Romania’s young people. “I must go to school to be somebody.”