Today, the Schwarzkopf Foundation announced the finalists of the Young European of the Year. Constantin-Alexandru Manda, nominated by GEYC and PRISMA, is one of the five finalists! The award for the Young European of the Year congratulates the dedication of Young Europeans in support of European integration.
Alexandru Manda from Romania Constantin-Alexandru Manda
Meet Constantin-Alexandru Manda, GEYC and PRISMA’s nominee for the Young European of the Year. He answered PRISMA’s questions in an interview conducted in February and shared his insights on the education system’s current challenges, the necessity to invest in digital skills, and his projects for the future.
A YOUNG ACTIVIST FOR ROMANIAN STUDENTS‘ RIGHTS
Constantin-Alexandru engaged himself for the representation of students’ rights in Romania at only 14 years old, when he founded with his peers the Constanta’s School Student’s Association. As its President, he became one of the most committed young leaders in Romania. In 2017, his dedication was brought to the European level as he joined the Promoters for European Democracy, a program initiated by the European Parliament Office in Romania. Thanks to his relentless devotion, the topic of the right to scholarships became mainstream in Romania and many organizations started to advocate for this issue.
With the support of GEYC, he further promoted the European democracy in his community, until he finished high school and joined the Romanian Academic Society in 2018. Currently, the Clean Schools initiative is his most important project. It aims to increase good governance and the level of local financing in public education. Through his advocacy actions, during the last five months, more than 1 million euros were invested in local public education.
“Together with brave young people, we are initiating a continuous series of changes that will positively impact local communities and may even improve the access to education of disadvantaged children. My biggest happiness is that with this project, we formed a team of young, strong-minded activists. Once the project ends, they will continue to be active citizens and to militate for the rights of students and the bettering of the Romanian education system”
AN ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL SCHOLARSHIPS
In 2020, Alexandru was among GEYC10 Changemakers Ranking and named manager of a national report of the Institution of Ombudsman on respecting the right to scholarships in Romania, at only 21 years old. The report highlighted that only 180 out of 3182 localities respect their legal duty to grant scholarships. When the pandemic hit, social scholarships became more important than ever. The lockdown also pressed the urgency to invest in Romanian students and teachers’ digital skills.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic revealed the real capacities of the Romanian educational system. The Ministry of Education failed to assure free access to education when classes moved online. According to a Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy’s study, 900.000 students could not participate in online schools, because they either had no access to an electronic device, the Internet, or even electricity”
Despite 2020’s many challenges, Alexandru did not give up the fight. As the representative of the Romanian Academic Society, Alexandru coordinated an advocacy campaign from September 2020 to February 2021. He successfully pushed the Romanian Government to adopt a decision and settle on a minimum amount for the scholarships: 100 RON per month, which equals approximately 23 euros. A much-needed victory:
“The pandemic situation we are experiencing worldwide worsened pre-existing educational issues. In order to still this vicious circle, students who did not have access to online education must be offered concrete solutions and recovery courses”
A MENTOR FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF YOUNG CIVIC LEADERS
As 2021 starts, Alexandru is optimistic and believes in the societies’ ability to adapt:
“Our world is moving forward, this pandemic proved, once again, like nature always does, that adaptability is a skill we must continuously improve. Once used for survival, adaptability now resonates with students and teachers whose classes moved online. In my opinion, the visible effect of the pandemic situation is that the relevance of digital and online learning instruments in education will increase. I have met, until 2020, very good teachers, however, most did not have basic digital skills. If in Romania, there was a reluctance to invest in digital education or to use technology in classrooms, the pandemic forced previous generations to connect with the Youth using digital tools”
In February, Alexandru introduced his latest project: The Accelerator of Civic Involvement for Young people which he coordinates at the Romanian Academic Society.
“[The accelerator aims to] coach and mentor young civic leaders from rural and small urban areas”
One more step towards an inclusive education system and the success of the European Democracy, in Romania.