Education Minister ponders resigning over song festival debacles

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Education Minister Mārīte Seile has come under scrutiny after a series of mishaps - which started with children fainting during the general rehearsal - in organizing the Youth Song and Dance Festival. She is thinking about stepping down from her post as minister, Seile told Latvian Television and Latvian Radio. She is currently waiting to discuss the situation with PM Laimdota Straujuma. The PM is currently abroad, so a decision will likely be made tomorrow.

Some 17 children were hospitalized after dozens of them fainted during the final rehearsal of the Youth Song and Dance Festival - medics now cite exhaustion as the main reason (source: Latvian Television), though no official explanation has been given as yet.

In response to this, education Minister Mārīte Seile had canceled the final parade of the festival on Sunday morning, but it was announced the next morning that it'll happen on 'a voluntary basis'. She now faces criticism both for children fainting and for confusing officials and participants alike, many of whom had already gone home after the first announcement.

"It'd be foolish to say that I don't care what people say," she said on television. "I haven't decided [yet whether to resign]. [..] I have plans to talk with the PM - who is not in Latvia on Monday - as soon as she returns," said Seile.

She said that the decision to cancel the parade was made at midnight, when there were many people with health problems around her in the Mežaparks open-air stage, and children would have less than five hours to sleep until the parade took place.

However, the decision to make the parade voluntary was made as there were doubtless some choirs and folk dance collectives who would not know that it was canceled.

A number of officials, such as mayor of Riga Nilks Ušakovs, have criticized the announcements that had been communicated in a disorganized manner. So have many parents, whose children did not know they could go in the parade, so missing a great moment in their lives. 

The closing concert took place as planned Sunday evening, and some 15,000 singers, dancers and brass band members took part in it. Despite the organizational issues, most people seem to have enjoyed it.

Later in the day, President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis told the media that he thinks that Seile should not resign, saying that her worries about the young people's health are understandable.

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