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Exploration.

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on July 25, 2011 in Personal |

I cannot understand people who have never travelled anywhere, and I don’t mean necessarily overseas, but even to their neighboring State. There is something strange about staying in the same town all the time and not taking the chance we’ve been given, with all our technological advances, to get out and about: it’s not as if it costs the world! It’s amazing how many people who claim they have always wanted to travel, to get out and see new places, but always come up with one excuse or another, even during vacation. Perhaps you’ll think me a bit unusual, if not weird, but travelling is one of the joys of life; the chance to really experience something new.

I’ve been out and about with my little camera again, taking a few hours off here and there to explore the area I’ve chosen to live in and to learn a little bit about its history and the culture I’ve immersed myself in. Despite my short time here, and it has only been a year or so, I’ve seen many changes as well as many new and fascinating things. Take, for example, the schools here.

There are several different levels. Children start off in Kindergarten – there is also a pre-school Kindergarten for children younger than four – then move on to Grundschule (primary) and then either to the Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium according to their abilities. All of these are in this small town of less than five thousand people. Then there is the Berufsbildende Schulen – the trade schools – and what we call College – university for the Europeans as well as different on the job trader training areas and the Volksschule – what we would call Evening Classes.

This wonderful building is the Grundschule. Children spend four years here from the age of six or seven – depending on when they were born. It is a fascinating building, built specially as a school in about 1860 and still in use today. The growth of the town means that there is an extension, or annex to the school:

Called the new building, it was built in about 1920. This year, in one of the major changes I will experience, it is due to be demolished and a new, slightly larger version built in its place. One of the advantages of this new building, as far as the children are concerned, is that the toilets will be inside! The new build has already been sanctioned by the County Council, who foot most of the costs, and comes right after completion of a new Kindergarten in the nearby village of Bücken.

What is amusing about the whole is the way everything was decided. For the building of the new Kindergarten – I think there are four or five in the County – the authorities decided to build next to the old one. Hardly any disruption for the children aside from a little bit of noise during the day.

In the main town a new build next to the old one isn’t possible, there simply isn’t enough room. So the plans were laid, financed and approved and then, several months after all this, the County Council met again to decide what to do with the children while the building work is underway. You would think they might have considered the children earlier in the planning stages, but it didn’t work out that way at all. Why not? Well, for one thing, there wasn’t any appropriate space available for two years worth of children; at least, at the time they were planning there wasn’t. A few ideas were served up but, since the buildings which could be used were all being used for other things, there was not much anyone could do.

Things changed at the end of this year when the Manor House was vacated by the local court. The Manor House – as I call it, everyone else calls it a castle! – held the smallest court in Lower Saxony right up until December last year when the last local judge retired. The administration in Hanover had, and have, absolutely no idea what to do with the building now, so it was suggested that the children be housed there for the two years of building. Although, as everyone agrees, there isn’t enough room. So a second building would have to be used as well, which is where the cost saving plans from Hanover come into play again. Closing the court was obviously a cost saving measure, as was the decision to move the Historical Sport Institute for Lower Saxony – housed in the town since its foundation less than twenty years ago – to Hanover into a new, horribly Sixties concrete construction with more space but less character.

The Sport Institute was housed next to the Manor House, making it an ideal location and, as with all things the administration in Hanover seems to do, had no further use; it would have been empty too. Matters were slowed down by a small question of money.

You see, the Sport Institute was founded with a financial incentive from the town. Hanover, to save money, decided to close the Institute before completion of the contractual twenty years; obviously they had either forgotten about it or thought that the Town Council would have, since it was all so long ago. The contract states that, if the Institute closes or leaves the town before the end of twenty years this financial aid must be repaid and, of course, the town duly demanded this repayment. The end result was that Hanover decided to put the house on the market, literally forcing the town to buy it.

Which they duly did, but the contract of sale wasn’t signed until last month, pushing a decision on where the children could be housed and educated back.

Then came another round of interesting events which the Town and County Council couldn’t have foreseen: the parents.

Several possible areas were suggested for the children to be educated over the two years it will take for the new school annex to be built. The first – the one which Town and County Council saw as favorite – was the Manor House and former Institute building combined; although it involved major building work to make the small rooms in the Institute building large enough for all the children in one class, and the laying of new power cables. The second was the setting up of prefabricated containers; these would either be on the site of the former hospital (closed down by the administration in Hanover a few years ago and now barren, undeveloped land) or on the playing fields in the main school complex. The former solution, including rebuilding work, was offered as a logical and inexpensive solution. The container solution would cost up to one hundred thousand Euro more.

The parents were asked by telephone which of the proposals they preferred, and this telephone question was almost immediately set aside since those posing the question – parents themselves – put their own preference forward rather than the options available. The parents – one hundred and sixty of them – were then invited to an information evening, where the Town and School Administrations would explain the options clearly. Only about forty turned up for this evening and, from these forty, only seven apparently voiced an opinion.

However, it became clear that the Manor House / Institute solution was not going to win any votes – it is an election year – mainly because the parents who did voice an opinion were concerned about the safety of their children and a lack of parking spaces for those parents who insisted on bringing their children direct to the school doors.

The end result? Prefabricated containers on the playing fields of the main school complex for two years. But that isn’t the end of the tale: the containers have to be surrounded by a high fence, as the parents don’t want their little angels to be influenced by the antics of older children …

History in the making, and something that I would never have come across – it’s hardly international news – had I stayed at home…

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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