“We have to raise the public’s awareness to move the case from the dead point”

8 November 2021

In the second publication of the series, the team of the project "Different children - equal rights!" talked about the challenges and problems of school education with Irina Protasova. She is not only the chairwoman of the human rights organization "Man and Law"*, but also a mother of five children who is well acquainted with school realities.

“They forced to stand on a cold concrete floor during the whole lesson”

— What questions related to school education are addressed to our organization?

The first is the punishment and humiliation of the dignity of the child at school. Such cases are not treated so often now, but they happen.

Once we were helping a mother whose child was late for school. And for this he was forced to stand on a cold concrete floor without shoes, in the corner, during the whole lesson. This is not only a risk of catching a cold, but also humiliating.

Why are such cases treated infrequently? Sometimes parents do not want to spoil relations with the school and the teacher, sometimes the child himself believes that this is in the order of things, the norm, since the teacher behaves like this, for example, calls a student. Due to the fact that now almost all children have phones, it is possible to record audio or video, the number of such cases has decreased. And teachers are trying to behave more correctly.

There have been no feedback yet, although at our seminars teachers tell us that students sometimes behave badly, are rude, and it is difficult to influence them. We inform teachers that there is an administrative responsibility for the obscenities, insults, and parents will be responsible if they have not taught the child to behave correctly. But the teachers themselves very rarely use these articles, they do not want to “take the trash out of the hut” — it is not accepted in the system.

“The child has no right to vote in the educational process”

I am concerned about the school approach that it has little respect for the child’s opinion during the educational process. How does he participate in this process, how is it interesting to him and how interactive are the classes? Has a child got the right to vote in the educational process at all?

We still have, basically, a vertical system, when a child has to listen to boring lectures from a teacher, without saying a word at the desk, write down for forty minutes what they tell him. Everything is too standard, the same, instead of having a live dialogue, talking, using some interactive means, getting the child interested, finding their own approach.

There are good examples, but this is still an infrequent phenomenon. My eldest daughter studies at the lyceum, there is more choice there. You can go in different directions, taking into account the inclinations of the child. They try to make it interesting to live in school. This greatly affects the involvement: the child runs to school with joy, does not want to leave. She lives a full, interesting life there. But this, unfortunately, is rather an exception to the general rules of schools.

 

“They shouldn’t care what color the child’s hair is”

I am also concerned about the attempts of constant control by the school to make everyone the same. I think sometimes it borders on humiliation, starting from the school uniform and claims to the child’s appearance. “Why did you come with painted hair or with an earring in your ear?” If I, Mom, allow her to do this, why should it bother strangers at school? Why do they make claims and restrict my child’s self-expression, instead of engaging in their direct functions – education?

Up to the point that you can’t go to school in white sneakers because it turns out that this is not a classic version of clothing. And boys must always wear ties and bow ties for eight hours – I think this is just a mockery of a child, almost cruel treatment. Why should everyone be the same? Are they training military or civil servants?

“It is unacceptable for the Commissioner for Children’s Rights himself to violate the rights of a child”

The second field of appeals to us is issues of inclusion.

We had a situation when a child with mental peculiarities could study in a general class according to all indications. But the parents of the other children wrote a statement that they were against him studying with everyone. That he will prevent the teacher from paying attention to the children, will distract others. According to the parents, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in our region appealed to the prosecutor’s office to have this child removed from school, allegedly, he interferes with other children in the classroom.

This case had a great resonance. After contacting the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Russia, he wrote a letter to a colleague that it was unacceptable for the Commissioner himself to violate the rights of a child. Together, we managed to put everyone in their place, the child stayed at school.

In general, in Russia, the process of integration and inclusion in schools is just beginning. Although it is welcome in words, but it goes quite slowly and, as a rule, on the initiative of public organizations.

So, we have two classes for children with autism spectrum disorders in Yoshkar-Ola, and another class in the city of Volzhsk. This is the merit of the organizations that deal with such children. And in some cases we had to get involved, raise the public’s awareness in order to get things moving. When there was already money for tutors, officials did not want to allocate a room in the school. It is legally impossible to discriminate against different children in the field of education, but this process is unlikely to move without public organizations.

“It’s not so much about finances as about the inertia of consciousness”

Children suffering from a disease or defect of the musculoskeletal system, children with cerebral palsy and other categories, unfortunately, are still not massively integrated into the environment. The conditions are not created for this. There are no escorts, there is no understanding in schools and parents, and there is no accessible environment. Therefore, education is often conducted at home. And although opportunities have been created by law for a long time, the position is that it will be more convenient for these children to be separately or at home, there is no need for them to study in a common environment.

Everything is progressing with great difficulty. There is no serious approach and will of the state to develop it. And it’s not so much about finances as about the inertia of consciousness, there is no understanding of the importance of equal opportunities for all children. I think if the officials really want to, a lot can be done.

“Parents did not give the money, so sit at the old desk behind everyone”

The third “sore point” is social stratification.

 A few years ago, parents often had to buy school furniture themselves. We had a situation when a low-income family could not find money. And so, they bought new desks with the collected funds and decided that since these parents did not hand over the money, then their child should be put at the end of the class at the old desk. And he had to sit alone at this desk.

Parents contacted our organization. After the lawyers filed a discrimination complaint with the prosecutor’s office, the school urgently purchased a new desk, and the child was moved. They even brought to justice the teacher who created such conditions. Firstly, it was illegal to collect money, and secondly, it contributed to the discrimination of the child. But these changes again occurred only after the intervention of the public, when we were working with it.

“There are fewer school fees, but the stratification is felt”

Now there are significantly fewer school fees. The parent community has become very active in this matter, to the point that people refuse to buy textbooks and workbooks. But, all the same, it remains in schools.

For example, a workbook is not considered mandatory. The school does not buy them, says that it is not within the framework of the school curriculum, but the teacher uses and recommends. As a result, parents buy workbooks for twenty children, and five are forced to work without them if the parents do not have money.

And the problem remains: it seems that the parents themselves bought to help their child, but in fact, it turns out a discriminatory situation. This is a widespread practice, such moments are constantly present. There are still many additional classes, clubs, for which parents are obliged to pay money. As a result, almost every school has these surcharges if you want your child to develop.

“Everyone went to the prom, but one boy stayed at home”

Some people today talk about school uniforms to smooth out the stratification. But the stratification is also visible on it: someone has it cheaper, someone has it more expensive. Without a uniform, on the contrary, it would be easier for poor families to buy something. After all, the form is significantly more expensive than ordinary things.

The stratification even applies to graduation. I still remember the story when all the children went to the prom, and the mother of one boy had no money, and he was the only one who did not go. When I found out, I was ready to pay myself, because he got serious stress: everyone went except him. Or each parent could give some money. Perhaps it is necessary somehow to provide for such situations by law.

“The program does not really correspond to modern reality”

Unfortunately, the general level of school education is quite low, and high school students have to do a lot of extra work for admission. Not all families can afford tutors, it is expensive. This means that children from low-income families have less chance of higher education. As a result, there is no equality of chances provided for by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The very quality of education raises big questions. The school curriculum does not really correspond to modern reality. There was a case when they wanted to leave the boy for the second year because of dyslexia, he wrote with errors. But we live in the XXI century, now correspondence is mostly electronic, there are programs for spell checking. I think it is necessary to focus more on what is really useful in life, to revise the program and approaches to learning.

Of course, it’s not just about the school system. There are whole conservative movements of parents resisting any changes. These parent committees are very developed, they are against digital education. It’s hard to convince them. In their view, “classical education” is to write with ink on paper, read only paper books. The Internet and LGBT people are to blame for everything.

We are very far behind in terms of technological progress. Not only schools, but also parents themselves. My children are much more advanced on many issues than I am. Modern technologies, if used correctly, have a huge potential for development.

Prepared by Alexey Sergeev

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