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Best of RFE/RL: In One Moldovan Town, Schoolchildren Learn Difficult Lesson In What It Takes To Build A Road

In the Moldovan village of Caracui, the main road is in such bad condition that cars, carts, and bicycles can barely use it. The authorities in the village have largely turned a blind eye to the problem, leaving local schoolchildren fighting to keep the road passable. Ilona Spataru, a correspondent with RFE/RL's Romanian-Moldovan Service, traveled to Caracui to talk to drivers and other residents about the notoriously bad condition of Caracui's road. (This story was a finalist for RFE/RL's Division of Broadcasting Innovation & Excellence Award for reporting on social issues. The story was originally broadcast on 20 February 2004.)

Caracui, Moldova; 23 June 2004 ((RFE/RL) -- "Our Skoda is having difficulty driving over the holes in the road in Caracui," correspondent Ilona Spataru said over the sounds of traffic. "People say the road hasn't been fixed for ages. We're trying to stop a car now... Good morning! What's it like driving on Caracui's roads?"

Passenger No. 1: "You can see for yourself. We're already used to driving on the roads of this village."

Passenger No. 2: "People can drive on this road only in a cart."

Spataru: "Why is that?"

Passenger No. 2: "Because cars can't manage it; it's hard to get through."

Elderly people living in the Moldovan village of Caracui seem to have gotten used to the holes and poor condition of their central road. Those who can't drive a car on this road use a cart.

Children are upset by the situation as well. The extremely bad road conditions means they can't use their bicycles to get to school. A few months ago, a group of pupils -- together with their teacher, Galina Tripac -- decided to fix Caracui's road on their own.

Pupil No. 1: "We covered the holes as best we could, working on our own."

Spataru: "How many times?"

Pupil No. 1: "We covered it with gravel two times, but the water washed it away every time it rained."

Pupil No. 2: "After the first time the rain washed away all the stones, we tried to put them back. The second time, we asked companies to help. They helped us to find the channels through which the water drained. Still, if it rains, the holes appear. Basically, nothing changes. You can see -- the water is washing away all the gravel even now."
"Children are not the problem, children are the solution!"

Spataru: "That cart seems to be moving very slowly, doesn't it?"

Pupil No. 2: "Yes, of course, and it's because of the holes. The wheels get blocked in almost every single one of the holes."

Pupil No. 3: "We went to see Mr. Nagacevschi..."

Spataru: "Who is he?"

Pupil No. 3: "He's the director of the Hancesti [District] Transport Department. We told him about our problem and he gave us some trucks full of gravel."

Spataru: "So where are the trucks?"

Pupil No. 3: "Not all of them have reached the village. Actually, I can't tell you for sure what happened to them. I guess one of the trucks is still at the transport department."

Tripac: "Unfortunately, part of the gravel Mr. Nagacevschi gave us got lost on its way to Caracui. We don't know where to look for it.

Spataru: "So not all of the trucks reached the village?"

Tripac: "That's right. But we still hope they will find their way to the village."

But Anatol Nagacevschi, the director of the transport department, was unable to say what had happened to the gravel intended for Caracui. He claimed not to know there were any problems at all with the road in this area.

"I can't tell you what sort of problems they have with their road," Nagacevschi said. "The mayor came to see me yesterday, but he didn't tell me a word about it. I suggest you call Mr. Rusu, the person in charge of road construction in this district."

Andrei Rusu, the head of the road department for the Hancesti district where Caracui is located, said local authorities do not have the financial resources needed for further work on the village road.

"We don't have the money for this," Rusu said. "We would need quite a sum in order to fix the road in this area, and we don't have it."

Correspondent Spataru went to the Caracui town hall to find out whether the village had enough money to help the schoolchildren in their effort to fix the road. The mayor, Anatol Papusoi, could not be found for several hours. His adviser, Dumitru Arcus, said the mayor was engaged in training courses and was not available.

Arcus: "The mayor is in Hancesti. He leaves every Thursday for a training session for mayors. They are trained on how to run the village efficiently."

Spataru: "How do you like the main road in your village?"

Arcus: "I don't like it, but we were the ones to destroy it, and we will be the ones to repair it."

The chief accountant of the town hall, Nina Vozneac, said that Caracui is a poor village, and that authorities are unable to gather money to repair the roads.

But many villagers in Caracui believe the worsening condition of the main road is due mainly to the attitude of local authorities over the past 10 years. They say they no longer believe that things can be improved.

Villager 1: "They had to [repair] the road a long time ago, but they didn't. Those who are leaders have bought themselves Jeeps over the past years instead of figuring out how to fix the roads. They are comfortable with this situation, while all the others who live and work in the village are suffering. Nobody thinks about us."

Villager 2: "We don't have the technical means to repair the roads. Things haven't progressed at all! The people in charge are changing all the time and the new leaders blame the previous ones for the situation. They are not united."

Spataru: "Did you know that there's a group of children who are trying to improve the situation?"

Villager 2: "But how do you think they will manage this? With what sort of material? With stones from the valley? No, I really don't think they are going to succeed."

But the schoolchildren of Caracui and their teacher Tripac will not give up.

"People in Caracui, as you can see, are very reserved," Tripac said. "They're afraid to say or do something. But we will keep covering the holes with gravel and we will keep hoping that one day we will solve the problem. I am saying this because of who we are, and who are we?"

Children in chorus: "Children are not the problem, children are the solution!"