During previous years Räpina Folk School has focused especially on trainings for unemployed people. They could learn skills for social work, ecological farming, park design, starting one’s own business etc. Somewhat surprisingly in these currently economically difficult times Räpina Folk School has not been given the official permit to continue teaching the unemployed and the Ministry of Education as well as the Unemployment Office think that only vocational schools should be allowed to teach the unemployed. Mati Kirotar director of Räpina Folk School admits that vocational schools are probably better in specialized teaching but vocational schools are far from Räpina and unemployed people don't usually go there. On the other hand many unemployed have attended the courses at Räpina Folk School. It was nice that people instead of sitting and worrying at home could attend courses and stay in touch with others, Kirotar sais.
Ceramics is the most popular
Mati Kirotar continues that regardless of that thanks to the support of European Social Fund five new free courses have been opened this year which are intended for people who are unable to pay tuition fees: three courses for foreign languages, one for ceramics and a furniture restaurateur course. Approximately 120 people have participate in these courses until spring. (People who are officially unemployed are not allowed to attend these courses.)
Ceramics courses are on a high level in Räpina and people come to take these courses from more than hundred kilometers far, therefore an additional course with study fees has been opened. A two-hour session costs 3 Euros and most people can afford it. Grandmothers' handicraft courses, English for the advanced and children's creativity course are also not gratis for participants. But every cent is important for Räpina Folk School these days, some projects that finished already in September are still unpaid for. "We have been active for over 16 years but have never before encountered such difficult and complicated times", Kirotar sais.
Collaboration with the Nordic Countries
Räpina Folk school has had excellent collaboration partners in Sweden ten years ago: ABF Norra Halland Folkhögskola and Löftandalens Folkhögskola. Together they organized joint seminars and trainings for leaders of study circles and politicians.
Unfortunately connections with got weaker since the initiators in Sweden retired. But recently a group of young people in Räpina contacted a Folk High school in Sweden which also offers high level ceramics courses. The School in Sweden was immediately interested in collaborating, but then the Influenza wave hit Estonia.
Kirotar notes that compared to other Folk Schools in Estonia where only a few young people attend courses Räpina Folk School differs because almost a quarter of all the learners are pupils and students. Kirotar hopes that in the future these young people will continue to develop free education in Räpina.