Foreign Minister at the New York Estonian School: in the future, the child of an Estonian parent who receives the citizenship of two countries at birth should not have to renounce one of them


Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus met with teachers and parents of the New York Estonian Educational Society’s Estonian school to hear about the school’s progress and discuss ways to increase the involvement of foreign Estonians. The Foreign Minister thanked the teachers and parents for their commitment to the preservation of Estonian identity, language and culture. “Every person who understands and knows about, supports and values Estonia is valuable to us. The stronger the network of those who support and cheer for Estonia is, the more strongly Estonia is able feel,” the Foreign Minister said at the Estonian school.

The director of the New York Estonian Educational Society’s Estonian School, Merike Barborak, gave the Foreign Minister an overview of the school’s history and its curriculum today. The New York Estonian School is a supplementary school for children 2.5 to 13 years of age, where classes are held every second Saturday. For this school year, 80 children attended the school. The school's primary goal is the teaching of Estonian language and introduction of Estonian cultural. The curriculum consists of Estonian language, local folklore, history, folk dancing and singing. Most of the teaching materials are received from Estonia.

Ways to strengthen the local Estonian communities’ ties with the Estonian state were discussed at the meeting. The Foreign Minister presented the idea of creating a global Estonian network, one of the aims of which would be to reach Estonians living abroad, keep them informed about what is happening in their homeland and give them the opportunity to speak along. The meeting also touched on concerns related to citizenship. “Currently, Estonia has a law, which in the case of a child born and living in the United States to an Estonian parent, forces them to choose to renounce one – either then Estonian or American citizenship upon reaching adulthood. This in spite of the stipulation in the Estonian Constitution which does not allow anyone to have their native born citizenship taken from them,” Pentus-Rosimannus said. A similar choice has to be made by children who have two parents of different nationalities. “Such a situation is not reasonable or needs to be changed so that a child born with dual citizenship at birth would not have to renounce one of them or have to choose between the citizenship of his/her mother or father.”

Foreign Minister Pentus-Rosimannus also took some time to introduce the opportunities provided by the compatriots programme. The teachers were particularly interested in materials for teaching Estonian as a second language and introducing folklore aimed at young children and expressed hope that theatre groups and singers popular amongst the students might visit the Estonian school more often.

This year was the 80th academic year for the New York Estonian Educational Society’s Estonian School. The school is a subordinate organisation of the Educational Society established on December 7, 1929. The first regular meeting of the Educational Society was held on January 19, 1930 at the Finnish House. In 1943, shares of the Estonian House began to be distributed. The house purchasing committee found the building at 243 East 34th Street for a price of $ 25 000 and the house was purchased in 1946. It is in this same building, that children are being taught to this today.

Photos from the meeting:

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