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Monday’s papers: School closures, Afghan deportations panned and drones take flight

Finland shutters schools in rural communities, one official wants to stop Afghan deportations, a growing personal drone market, and bear hunting season begins.

Kamerakopteri lennossa.
The use of drones raises privacy and safety concerns. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland’s network of primary schools is shrinking drastically, reports largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat. In the past 12 years, officials closed 1,000 village schools by folding them into bigger institutions.

The trend means kids are bussed into larger towns and according to the paper, last year some 1,500 pupils and 200 special needs learners endured daily school runs that exceeded the 2.5-hour-limit set by law.

Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Director General for the Finnish National Agency for Education, says Finland’s relatively large geographical area is exacerbating the problem. In some parts of Lapland, educators are piloting a distance learning initiative for part of the week to avoid long commutes.

At the moment, there’s a school in every municipality, though this may change in the future, say researchers.

Time-out for Afghan deportations?

In a break with official government policy, Olli Ruohomäki, an outspoken Afghanistan expert with the Finnish Foreign Ministry, tells Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet that deportations to war-torn Afghanistan should cease due to the deteriorating security situation, which is worsening ahead of general elections slated for October.

The Taliban control some 70 percent of Afghanistan, says Ruohomäki, who travels there frequently.

Last month, Iraq said it would no longer accept rejected asylum seekers who do not willingly want to return. Yle reported that deportees returned from Finland to Iraq have been turned around and sent back to Helsinki.

Drones take flight

Finland will soon be home to 100,000 drones, reports business daily Kauppalehti. The privately-owned drone market in Finland is growing and many business sectors, including agriculture, insurance, and real estate, are also finding uses for the miniature unmanned aerial vehicles.

Vesa-Pekka Venho of the mobile repair chain iHelp says he’s shocked parents buy drones for very young children.

“It’s not a toy for small kids,” he told the paper, citing privacy and safety concerns.

Finland raises bear hunting quota

Bear hunting season begins Monday, reports agricultural sector newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

Finnish hunting clubs have received permits to hunt 260 bears during this year’s hunting season, slightly up from 255 last year.

The Finnish Wildlife Agency is especially looking to control the bear population in northern Karelia. Last year the quota jumped by 72 compared to 2016. At the time officials said that the bear population in Finland had increased considerably to nearly 2,000 adults.

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