November 1989, photo: CTK

In this week's edition: Students' revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989; young Radio Prague's listeners. We read quotes from: Zulfiqar Ali Chandio, Pakistan; Richard P. Wilds, Kansas USA; Lee Archer, South Carolina USA.

November 1989,  photo: CTK
Welcome to Mailbox. As you will have noticed, many of Radio Prague's programmes this past week have been dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which was started by students on November 17, 1989 and resulted in the fall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. The student protesters were soon joined by the rest of society but the students were really at the forefront of the events. First their peaceful demonstration was suppressed by riot police and then they occupied their schools for a week until a general strike sent a message to the establishment that changes were inevitable.

Judging by the letters and emails we are getting, Radio Prague has many students among its listeners and who knows, some of them may be thinking of another Velvet Revolution right now somewhere on the other side of the globe. So let's dedicate this edition of Mailbox to the students and members of the young generation among our listeners.

This week we got an email from Mr Zulfiqar Ali Chandio from Pakistan. He writes:

"I am 30 years old and I teach English to High School students in Pakistan. I have been listening religiously to shortwave radio programmes since my childhood. With the advent of satellite television, shortwave listening is on the decline in Pakistan, especially among the new generation. I want to instil this habit into the young minds of school children. Our school is organising a Science and Art Exhibition in a fortnight's time. I have motivated a good number of students to set up a small enclosure at the exhibition highlighting the benefits of shortwave listening so that interest of general public may be revived in this constructive activity. I can assure you that very soon we shall have a listener's club in place and the schoolchildren will love all of this."

We are glad to hear that new listeners and shortwave fans are growing up in Pakistan - and so they are in the United States. Here is a letter sent in by another teacher, Mr Richard P. Wilds from the U.S. state of Kansas.

"We are high school teachers writing to you from Capital City High School in Topeka Kansas, USA. We started a World Band Radio Listening Project with our students over 15 years ago with a grant that we received from the Topeka School Fund and it was a tremendous success. We monitored World Band Radio from over 60 different stations with students writing letters for QSL cards, information and various prizes that were offered. Over the years, the prizes included national and regional wall maps, books on topics from folk tales to musical heritage and scientific discoveries to small objects such as key chains, pins, patches, flags and candy. Our students were interviewed via long distance phone by a number of stations over the years and the interviews were broadcast worldwide. Our adventures have been published in print on the World Wide Web."

Mr Wilds enclosed two reception reports written by two of his 16-year old students, Aj Scott and Tim Cox. Our thanks to all of you around the world who devote your time to bringing young people's attention to shortwave listening.

And staying with the topic of students, in this week's student-themed edition of Mailbox, finally our listener Lee Archer from South Carolina in the United States sent us this question via email.

"I am 15 years old and live in the United States. I have been wondering what other teenagers my age do with their spare time and what they are learning in school. I hope to hear from you soon."

Well, Lee, I guess teenagers in the Czech Republic these days are very much like their peers in much of the Western world now. As far as I know, the main interest of many of them is to avoid school, go out and stay up late, sleep in, fall in love, wear fashionable clothes, play computer games and listen to loud music that makes their parents cringe. Compared to 15 years ago, teenagers here in the Czech Republic have much more choice as to the subjects they study at school. There are many more optional subjects than the previous generation could choose from.

And also many Czech teenagers heaved a huge sigh of relief when parliament ruled recently that they will not have to take a compulsory maths test as part of their final exams. They can also study abroad if they like, which was unthinkable before 1989. Also young boys no longer need to fear having to serve in the army for many months as the Czech Republic's army is going fully professional in January 2005. But certainly most Czech students these days are not planning to overthrow the political system like their predecessors did 15 years ago in Czechoslovakia.

We're just about out of time but we have just the enough space left for our November quiz question. This month, the teenagers among our listeners may find the quiz harder than those of you whose student days are long past. The question is:

"One of the most famous polkas, a big hit during the Second World War, which is to this day played and sung in many countries of the world under different names, was composed by a Czech. We'd like to know the name of the composer and the name of the famous polka, in whichever language you prefer."

Make sure your answers reach us by the end of November. There is a CD waiting for the lucky winner. Please, tune in again to Mailbox next Sunday and in the meantime we'd love to hear your views on our programmes and your questions about life here in the Czech Republic.