Estonian children and youngsters have a decisive role in developing the country’s future today and in the times to come. Language proficiency, multiculturalism and tolerance are common concepts in the current open and flexible world. The essence of an open Estonia is the cooperation between different nationalities and the communication with people living in Estonia and their versatile experience. There are nearly 300 societies of national culture and 30 Sunday Schools for ethnic minorities operating in Estonia. Integration increases people’s feeling of connectedness with the state and with the other members of the society.
Many plays, concerts, handicraft events, camps, seminars and discussion platforms have come into being through youth cooperation projects. Warm friendship between young people with a different cultural background gives a creative impulse and a valuable experience of how to execute good ideas based on common interests. When children and youngsters of different nationality play and learn together, they all win an equal opportunity to manage life in Estonia as a grownup. Also, it increases trust in the society and that helps in ensuring the sustainable growth of the country itself. Events for children and youngsters supporting integration are financed by the Ministry of Culture and the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.
Integration and Migration Foundation (Integratsiooni SA) is engaged in developing cooperation activities for youngsters, and it supports the possibilities of ethnic minorities to retain their language and culture. The foundation supports the activities of Sunday Schools and natural culture societies for ethnic minorities. It has also published various information materials for introducing different nationalities living in Estonia. For example, a book series Nationalities in Estonia and a video series Ethnic Mosaic. The foundation also supports the youngsters’ extracurricular Estonian language acquisition through language camps and family placements, and by carrying out common events on the topics of democracy, participation and civic society through the practice of the Estonian language. There are also camps organised for Estonian children living abroad for the development of their Estonian language skills and for improving their understanding of the Estonian culture.
Magazine Täheke is the oldest continuously published children’s magazine in Estonia. It has illustrated stories and poems for children, self-created content by the readers, a crafts section, cross-words, games and competitions with awards. Through times it has been the place for publishing the newest original Estonian literature for children. It publishes leading Estonian children’s authors and illustrators. The target audience of the magazine is 5-9-year-olds, which makes it widely read, in addition to home, also at schools and kindergartens.
The Russian special edition enables children who are Russian native speakers to participate in the Estonian children’s culture. It has been issued continuously (once a year) for five years now, 2011 to 2015. In 2016 the edition appeared three times and in 2017 as many as four. The special edition is free and is given to all first grade students in Russian-speaking schools in Estonia; it is distributed all over the country – in addition to Ida-Virumaa, also in Paldiski, Tapa, Haapsalu, Valga, Tartu, Pärnu, etc., including also the Russian children’s literature departments of Estonian libraries. The Russian edition of Täheke has also started to spread in south Estonia, where it helps Estonian children to pick up on Russian from other sources than their text book. The Institute of Estonia has sent copies of the special edition also to Estonian schools operating in Russia. The Estonian Publishers’ Association distributes the magazine also in international book fairs, for example in Bologna, Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Pille Lille Muusikute Fond (PLMF; Musical Foundation of Pille Lill), established 2003, is the first and currently only non-profit association in Estonia that continuously supports Estonian musical talents. The foundation supports integration through youth choirs. In September 2016, a choir was put together from the students of three schools in Tallinn (Tallinna Mustemäe Reaalgümnaasium, Tallinna Kesklinna Vene Gümnaasium and Tallinna Tõnismäe Reaalkool) with the aim of creating a new youth choir of Tallinn that would provide competition to the already existing ones. Project Integration through Choir Music is supported by the Gambling Tax Council.
Year of Experience (Elamusaasta) is a series of meetings that takes creative people to schools to talk about experiences that have shaped and influenced their personal identity. The aim of the series is to enrich the school curricula both with subjects as well as with speakers. In the spring of study year 2016/2017 and the autumn of study year 2017/2018 the plan sees 2000 school children meeting Estonian cultural figures; whereas focus is on the schools that the project has not been brought to as yet.
Veni Vidi Vici is a student exchange programme organising student exchange within Estonia for the students of 7th to 12th grade. Within the programme a student has the opportunity to study at another school in Estonia for one or two weeks. The youngsters have the possibility to visit schools in cities or in rural areas; they can attend either an Estonian-speaking or Russian-speaking school.
Text by: Anne-Ly Reimaa, Adviser at the Cultural Diversity Department of the Ministry of Culture