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Thursday's papers: High school seniors' big day, ID card issues, doggone metro

Oulu upper secondary school students shake off shadows, an 80-year-old's ID card odyssey and a mutt takes to the metro.

Penkkarit Lappeenrannassa.
Soon-to-be graduates of Finland's upper secondary schools invade city streets in trucks and toss candies before they retreat to prepare for their final exams. Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle

Final year upper secondary school students were expected to take to the streets in cities across Finland on Thursday to celebrate the end of formal classes in a tradition known as "penkkarit", where they dress up and throw sweets at onlookers before withdrawing to study for matriculation exams.

Largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat spoke with students in Oulu, where a series of suspected child sexual abuse cases as well as a chain of pharmacy robberies have cast a shadow over the city and penkkarit preparations. HS caught up with some of the departing students, who were nevertheless upbeat about the occasion.

"Oulu is no different from other big cities. Crimes happen in other places too. A big deal has been made about the ones here," said Vilma Häkkinen, a senior at the Merikoski upper secondary school.

Häkkinen told HS that she and her peers planned to wear costumes with a cheerful animal theme: passersby can expect to see a procession of giraffes, hippos and zebras.

"With things so out of hand it makes you wonder what kind of reputation Oulu has in the eyes of other cities," she pondered. "There is probably room for improvement here, but no one can do it alone," she remarked, adding that Oulu is just a regular city that has grown rapidly.

Another senior facing matriculation exams, Jussi Uusvaara, commented that locals in Oulu had become more guarded. "The same probably goes for everywhere, not just Oulu." However he said that it was a positive development that police had been able to uncover the suspected offences.

ID card runaround

Tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat relates the story of 80-year-old Kyösti Matiskainen, who waited several weeks for a new identification card, partly as a result of new rules about proving identity and the shuttering of police stations in rural areas. Matiaskainen, who is a sole trader, said he needed the ID card for his work, noting that he would not be able to open a bank account or even get online banking services without one.

New regulations that came into force at the beginning of the year mean that people can no longer verify their identity with a driver's permit, but must use a passport or ID card to do so. At the same time, the process requires a visit to a police station to prove one's identity. Matiskainen noted that although the visit was somewhat inconvenient for him since the nearest police station is 40 kilometeres away, for some people living in more remote parts of southeast Finland where he resides, the distance to a police station may be 80 kilometres.

The elderly gentleman's quest was further complicated by the fact that after a long wait, his ID card was delivered to the nearest Matkahuolto bus and freight depot. However he needed ID to retrieve the card, and since he did not have a valid passport, he couldn't do so. He eventually got the document with the help of a friendly Matkahuolto employee, whom he authorised to collect the card on his behalf.

IS noted that the reform has prompted a spike in applications for ID cards, with police deluged by 48,000 applications in December and 59,000 in January. Instead of waiting just over a week for a new card, applicants now wait up to one month.

Mutt on the metro

Tabloid Iltalehti delved into the bowels of the capital to report on the case of a lone canine seen travelling on the metro line. According to one eyewitness, the animal appeared to be a fairly young Danish-Swedish Farmdog. The breed has been described as a companion dog that enjoys working and loves a challenge.

The metro-riding mutt was first sighted at the Puotila metro station in eastern Helsinki. Helsinki City Transport HKL received word that an unaccompanied dog was on the loose and was able to track the canine as it boarded the metro at Puotila. However it seemed to realise that it was headed in the wrong direction, hopped off at Rastila and took the next metro headed in the opposite direction toward downtown Helsinki.

The dog's metro adventure came to an end in Itäkeskus, where a passenger handed it over to security guards. The errant animal ended up at the Viiki animal shelter after a ride in the guards' patrol car. The story's happy ending came when the shelter reported that the dog's owner had been located and would be re-united with the pugnacious pooch.

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