Very soon, the educational process will begin in Belarusian schools. Thousands of children will sit at their desks. In the meantime, school buildings are preparing for the reception of children: they are painting, repairing, putting in order corridors, canteens, classrooms. Almost 50% of schools have already received certificates of readiness for the new academic year. However, this does not save from numerous problems in Belarusian schools. It is enough to recall the poisoning of children in canteens, injuries from sports equipment, falling boards and desks, even death in physical education classes. We tell you what dangers await a child at school and who is to blame for this.

Fatal physical education

On April 2, 2016, fourth-grader Seraphim got to the intensive care unit right from the physical education lesson. The school administration didn’t tell his mother, Svetlana, anything about this incident. Only later, she found out that the football gates were not fixed and fell out. The physical education teacher did not control what the pupils were doing and missed when the child came to the gate. In the hospital, Seraphim was diagnosed with an open craniocerebral injury, a fracture of the base of the skull, pneumocephalus. From the blow, a cyst in his head formed, his eardrums fell out. As a result, the boy began to have constant headaches, cramps, pain in the temples. He needs expensive medications and examinations. For two years, Svetlana could not get a trial because the police refused to initiate a criminal case, arguing that it was not the school that was to blame for the fall of the gates but the children. Only in August 2018, the woman managed to receive financial compensation from the school.

Often physical education lessons for children end in death. In 2014, a student of the 10th grade died at a physical education lesson in the capital’s school No. 147. Nikita had no contraindications and restrictions for physical education. Even though the ambulance arrived at the school 11 minutes after the call, it was impossible to save the guy. The autopsy showed that the boy had a congenital heart defect. At the same time, two days before that, medicals at the military enlistment office checked him, and no pathologies were found. He was sent to school and district competitions, even though he already had a heart attack.

In the same year, the death of a schoolboy happened in Pinsk. A student of the 11th grade played football with classmates at a physical education lesson. After a while, he felt ill. The teacher called an ambulance, which on arrival pronounced the young man dead. The teenager had no contraindications to sports.

In 2015, a 13-year-old girl died in physical education in one of the Minsk schools. She was playing football, felt ill and went out into the hall. Neither the teacher nor any of her classmates went to accompany her. As a result, the girl was found in the corridor only after a while without signs of life. And just a few days later, another death occurred in Minsk during a lesson: a 10-year-old schoolgirl died in the Partizansky district. They tried to resuscitate the girl in the medical centre, but they could not save her. The fifth-grader had contraindications for health, and she was engaged in a specific program.

In 2018, a third-grader from the Bykhov district died at a physical education lesson. While jogging, he felt unwell and fell. The eight-year-old boy suffered from heart disease, but he studied together with healthy children.

And in 2019, in Turov, a nine-year-old girl died. In the morning, she went to school on a bicycle without complaining about her health. Next to her was a twin sister -the girls were in the same class. And in the fourth lesson, after jogging, Anya became ill. She sat down and then fell and lost consciousness. The girl returned to her senses, but after a while, she felt bad again. She was taken to the hospital, where after the tests, it turned out that Anya had a high blood sugar level. The nurses could not even put the girl on a drip and decided to take her to Zhitkovichi, 25 kilometres away. But on the way, Anya began to lose consciousness – they had to go back and call an ambulance from Zhitkovichi. The ambulance took an hour to get from there – by this time, all the worst had already happened.

The girl’s mother said that the local health care system is to blame for everything – there is no hospital in Turov, only a polyclinic and a hospital with nursing care. At the same time, according to the standards, the city has an ECG office, X-ray, therapeutic massage, paediatricians, therapists, dentists, surgeons, physiotherapists, a clinical laboratory work. But in fact, there was not even a car to take the dying Anya to the regional centre.

Dinner is served!

Who of the children does not like buns and sausages in the dough from the school buffet? Pupils prefer them instead of “healthy” cutlets and porridges, not listening to stories about gastritis and other stomach problems. In 2019, the state seriously took up school meals: they revised the menu, introduced buffet tables in some schools, banned the sale of soda, chips, deep-fried products, limited the sale of mini-pizzas, sausages in dough and confectionery. And even eating diet food, schoolchildren still risk spoiling their health.

On November 20, 2020, students of Minsk school No. 61 began to complain for feeling unwell. Parents reported that after breakfast in the school cafeteria, many students were sick right in the corridors, moms and dads came to school to take the children home. In the morning, the children ate shawarma, including pita bread, cabbage, carrots, sauce and chicken. At first, the symptoms appeared in junior high school students, then in high school students. Many children lost consciousness in the school building and the classroom. Approximately 280 schoolchildren applied for medical assistance, and 18 of them needed hospitalization.

The cause of poisoning was discovered about a week later – staphylococcus was found in the shawarma. The Ministry of Health reported that the staff of the canteen was the source of infection. The infection happened because of a violation of internal production control and the requirements of sanitary standards. Some of the staff worked without gloves and a mask. After the incident, the food store was closed for several days until all violations were eliminated.

After this incident, authorities dismissed the head of the school canteen and all the cookers on shift. In schools, as the authorities assure, they evaluated the food units and began to treat the cleanliness in the canteens even more carefully: everything was disinfected and washed several times. However, it was impossible to avoid a repeat case: on May 27, 2021, 15 first-graders were poisoned at Minsk school No. 66. For breakfast, which the students ate, they offered an omelette, sausage and cocoa. Among the poisoned, there was a child who ate only the sausage and drank cocoa. He became ill at home. Later it turned out that not only first-graders but also older pupils were affected. But the Ministry of Health denied mass poisoning.

According to the investigation, it turned out that four poisoned people had an acute intestinal infection. They returned to hospitals. By the way, later it turned out that the pupils of the neighbouring kindergarten also suffered – one of the employees of the kindergarten also fell ill. The management of the institution said: there is no mass poisoning in the kindergarten.

From a teacher to a paedophile

Paedophilia is not a common occurrence in Belarusian schools. Usually, the authorities prefer to hide the cases and solve them in executive committees and the police. The state propaganda says that paedophilia is a problem of the “decaying West”, not Belarus. But in cities and villages, word of mouth is transmitted that among the teachers in schools, some are not indifferent to children – in sexual terms.

In 2012, a teacher-psychologist of one of the Minsk schools was detained. However, not his pupils suffered from his actions, but other teenagers. The teacher tried to make friends with the boys, and the victims even introduced him to his parents, introducing him as their friend. It was striking that the age difference did not alert the parents. The mother of one of the victims who noticed that something was wrong with her son helped to find the paedophile. Later, it turned out that the 23-year-old man even photographed the participants of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Minsk in 2010 because he wanted to be closer to children. The paedophile teacher met his victims on the Internet, near schools, in parks, on skateboard sites, then took them to the river, the water park, and other regional centres, where acts of violence took place. The man got a sentence of 13 years in a penal colony.

In 2019, the director of one of the rural schools was detained in the Vitebsk region, who raped underage boys in his office. He took the guilty students to his office and there committed sexual acts with them. At least six students suffered from such actions of the would-be teacher.

In the same year, a teacher-organizer of one of the Orsha schools was arrested. A 25-year-old man got a job at an educational institution after graduating from a local teacher training college. The victim of his actions was at least one 13-year-old teenager. The teacher met him on social networks, invited him to his home and committed violent acts. The child’s mother found out about this and reported it to the police – then a criminal case was opened against the Orsha citizen.

High-Security School

In terms of the number of responsibilities and pressure on students, schools can be compared with colonies. Teachers do not shy away from forcing children to go to parades, create mass participation at hockey, football, basketball matches, join the Belarusian Republican Youth Union and the Belarusian Republican Pioneer Organization. Such pressure has been applied to schoolchildren for many years – and children began to record absurd demands on dictaphones and videos.

In 2016, students of Belarusian schools were offered to make valentines for their idols on Valentine’s Day. However, the list did not include famous singers, actors, athletes and bloggers – but there were Lukashenka, ministers, the head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus Mikhail Orda, the head of the CEC Lidia Yermoshina, deputy ministers and other officials.

In 2018, a recording of a conversation between a Minsk teacher and pupils appeared on the Internet. The teacher said that it is possible not to join the BRYU only if pupils would be excluded from the class. To the children arguments that their parents are against joining the organization, the teacher said that they are already 14 years old, that they are obliged to make an informed choice, stand for the honour of the gymnasium, that it is their patriotic duty. She asked teenagers whether they support the policy of Lukashenka and also told them to “forget, shut up and sit quietly.” The teacher used manipulations and obscene words. And students were also threatened to spoil their certificates with bad grades.

In 2020, in one of the schools of Lida, pupils were forced to hand over 3-5 rubles for a subscription to the newspaper “Young Rescuer”, published by the Ministry of Emergency Situations. There is no interest in the newspaper among schoolchildren, but this practice is familiar to educational institutions. By the way, Minsk teenagers also faced this situation. In general, compulsory subscriptions to state publications are used in schools, enterprises, hospitals and state facilities to make the necessary numbers of the editions.

At the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, when the whole world was in quarantine, Belarusian schoolchildren were forced to go to classes without masks and antiseptics. Only those who are a contact of the first or second level, or have a certificate of illness, were allowed to stay at home. For example, in the Grodno city Gymnasium, all children who are not in contact or are not ill were noted in the magazine as truants for home education.

And after the 2020 elections, state propaganda switched to full-power mode. On January 20, 2021, Minsk schoolchildren were forced to participate in a patriotic event for money. Participation in the viewing of a propaganda film about Belarus cost 5 rubles. “They showed Belarusian sights, history, footage about the memory, honour and dignity of Belarusians. We decided to show the children a beautiful country where they live. I do not regret at all that they watched this film,” said the director of school No. 47. The collection of money for an ideologically correct movie, she explained by the need to pay for the rental of equipment for showing the film.

It is unlikely that the modern pupils will not remember the Belarusian school with informative lessons, fun concerts and joy. The memories of poisoning, endless humiliation, fear, unfair grades will remain much stronger. And the reason for this is the Lukashenka system, built on the suppression of everything opposed to the government. But there is no one to take care of the weak psyche of children.