The Belarusian school has long been a tool for repression. Teachers force students to join the Belarusian Republican Youth Union. Pupils got punished with bad grades for any offence, and teachers threaten to send them to a specific school or even a colony. We are not talking about physical punishments of schoolchildren – we have described several cases here. However, parents also become victims of schools. For their active position, teachers can remove children from the family. Today we will tell you about the resistance of “Our House” to the torture of Belarusian schoolchildren in educational institutions.
In 2015, teachers of the capital’s secondary school No. 72 began harassing third-grader Mark. A group of classmates bullied him from the first grade: they threw stones at him, mocked him. The teacher did not react to this, as did the new headmaster of the school. Mark’s mother Irina appealed to the commission on juvenile affairs of the Partisan police department. However, the boys’ who beat her son parents filed a lawsuit – they said it was Mark who provoked the fight. Irina appealed to the Ministry of Education – after that, the district inspector drew up an administrative report on her son.
In December 2015, in one day, the school administration received four reports devoted to Mark’s bad behaviour from the teachers. Police initiated an administrative case against him for obscene language. It happened because Irina Kravets defended her son, turning to the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education, the Inspectorate for juvenile Affairs. And at the school, there was a physical education teacher whose son was one of those who beat up Mark. The teacher dragged the student by the hair, threw a diary, called him a dog and a liar, threw a tantrum about the absence due to indisposition in physical education. And thanks to the teachers, an administrative case began against his mother.
“Our House” closely followed the case of the Kravets family. We described court sessions, regularly contacted Irina, posted photos of the protocols and the names of teachers, police workers and officials who mocked the mother and son. When in 2016 Mark Kravets was beaten by the husband of his physical education teacher, and Irina Kravets filed a lawsuit for this, we took up the help of her mother. Moreover, Mark was then put on the police register, and Irina got a fine. We attended court sessions, covered the story on the Internet. As a result, in 2018, the court approved the payment of moral compensation to the family.
In 2016, Belarus was shocked by a tragedy at the Vostok-Agro field in the Molodechno district – 13-year-old Vika Popchenya, who came with a class to harvest potatoes, was hit by a truck. The girl’s life was cut short. The lawlessness of school teachers who sent children under 14 years old to hard work also struck “Our House”. Human rights defenders of our organization attended court sessions and informed readers about the progress of the case. We conducted an investigation and found out that the daughter of the head of the education department of the Molodechno District Executive Committee, Inna Drapeza, is also a schoolgirl. The district executive committee declared that only the truck driver who did not notice the schoolgirl was guilty. Not the teachers who sent the children to slave labour, not the officials with whose permission this happened, not the agricultural enterprise that allowed the children to work on their site, but the driver. But it was the school that ignored the order of the Ministry of Education banning the involvement of schoolchildren in agricultural work.
Victoria’s father, Oleg Popchenya, filed a lawsuit against the agricultural enterprise since no labour relations were concluded between him and Victoria. However, two weeks later, it became known that the court refused to satisfy the man’s claim, considering that she did not work in the field but was there as part of educational activities. “Our House” also wrote about this. It is significant that at the end of December 2016, the driver was still convicted – he received three years of restriction of freedom for the death of a child. The court ordered the department of education of the Molodechno district executive Committee to conduct a special investigation of the incident. But the school administration did not answer for the actual murder of the girl.
In 2017, thanks to our efforts, eight-year-old Elvira Mironova was able to return home. The girl spent four months in an orphanage, where she turned up because of the active civic position of her parents. This position turned out to be unprofitable at the school where Elvira studied. When the girl went to school, her mother noted several violations: no seats in the toilets, no toilet paper, no drinking water for children. Elvira’s mother went to the administration of the institution. The director said that the school has no money for such a luxury as soap. She added that parents if they want, can buy everything themselves. Tatiana continued to go to the administration and demand to fix the sanitary conditions. After one of these visits, a local policeman met her on the threshold of the school.
Tatyana Mironova decided to transfer the girl to another school. However, there, a woman with an active position and her daughter immediately turned up under pressure. Elvira’s mother has written an application for homeschooling. And then, the employees of the guardianship authorities came to her and began to claim that she was violating her child’s rights to education. On the eve of the new school year, unknown people came to the Mironov family home and took the girl from her parents. Tatiana filed many lawsuits and complaints against state structures. She went through several courts, but she got refuses to return her daughter home. The human rights activist of the “Our House”, Valery Shchukin, personally visited the director of school No. 217 and was even detained. He was convicted of “insulting” the director, whom he called an incompetent teacher. Only in December 2017, after the attention of the international structures, after the uproar, the girl returned to her family.
The independent Internet resource “Belarusian Partisan” wrote about the situation with Elvira Mironova. In the article, the journalists noted the role of “Our House” and Olga Karach in solving the issue. “The European Union told about us, and on December 20, EU representatives discussed our case at the government level,” Tatyana Mironova said. The next day after that, the family received a call from the Commission on Juvenile Affairs and was informed that they could take the child away. The human rights activists of “Our House” were the first who tell that eight-year-old Elvira was at large. And human rights activist Valery Shchukin, who collaborated with our organization, added information about Elvira’s condition: “Elvira spent most of her incarceration in a hospital bed. The authorities have seriously undermined the physical and mental state of the young Belarusian.”
In 2018, the BBC Russian Service published the story of the Shainyuk family – the director of school No. 3 in the city of Gomel, Nina Storozhenko, threatened to put children in a socially dangerous situation. The claim was that children from this family often spend the night with their grandmother, and Antonina Shainyuk has a gas debt. After the publicity, the director of school No. 3 tried to retract her words.
Blogger Artem Shaporov covered the situation. After that, he was prosecuted for insulting the honour and dignity of Nina Storozhenko. There were also complaints about the avatar of the Artem channel, his clothes – Nina Storozhenko indicated in a statement that this was propaganda of Nazism. “Our House” told about the incident with the blogger and called on everyone to come to support Artem Shaporov. And Valery Shchukin commented on this situation:
– The complaint of the director can be the execution of the “order” of securities. They decided to put pressure on Artem Shaporov with fines. As for the situation with the threat of being placed in a socially dangerous position, I do not understand why people let school principals and teachers into their apartments. There are no grounds and no law that allows them to enter the apartment. When they start looking at the wallpaper, they climb into the cabinets and the refrigerator. And this is not part of their duties. They should work with their family – let them work on neutral territory or at school.
In the same year, we have told about how the director of secondary school No. 7 in Minsk, Natalia Borovik, puts pressure on students, giving them a score of “zero”. It happened to Nikolai Sabiryanov, an ordinary schoolboy. Neighbours of his mother wanted to evict her from the apartment. Even though the order of the Ministry of Education No. 674 prohibits putting grades below “one”, Natalia Borovik evaluates the student’s knowledge at “zero”. We clarified that there are no criteria for “zero” in the Ministry of Education order and on the Internet.
On September 11, 2018, on the porch of Pinsk Secondary School No. 18, two students of the 5th and 9th grades of the neighbouring school No. 10 were riding a skateboard and a scooter, which interfered with the movement of other students. Employees of the school turned to the director Fyodor Radion for help. He inflicted bodily injuries on the boys. The mother of one of the victims managed to record what was happening on the smartphone camera.
“Our House” visited the court in the case. It took four court sessions to prove the director’s fault. As a result, he got an administrative punishment. It was impossible to avoid it because of timely collected evidence, examinations, audio and video materials.
In 2019, we drew attention to the story that happened at secondary school No. 15 in Gomel. The teacher brought the furniture over the head of one of the students and cursed him with obscene expressions. The child’s classmates captured this episode. However, Lukashenka approved the teacher’s actions and restored her to the workplace with the words “I would turn the head of some puppy” and then banned mobile phone using in schools. Thus, the children were made defenceless in front of teachers who can do anything in the classroom.
Our activists have prepared an open complaint against Lukashenka. “By publicly insulting a 9-year-old child and his parents, you have insulted all of us, demonstrating a disrespectful attitude towards us, citizens and our children, pointing out to us that for some reason our children – the future of our country belong to you,” “Our House” stressed. The signatories noted that by the Labour Code of the Republic of Belarus, the head of state has no right to interfere in the labour relations between the employer and the employee. They also stressed that following the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Education: teaching staff are obliged to comply with legal, moral and ethical norms; to respect the honour and dignity of students and other participants in the educational process.
“If the “puppy” behaved inappropriately during the educational process, then the “poor teacher” should have immediately informed the school management. She could have called the inspector, parents without making the horror beyond good, evil and the Law. We explain that the “poor teacher”, carrying the desk across the classroom, over the heads of children, created a dangerous situation for children, which, of course, she had no right to do. Therefore, we consider the decision to dismiss the teacher of secondary school No. 15 of Gomel, made by officials of the Gomel City Executive Committee and the Regional Executive Committee, to be justified and correct,” our activists stressed.
And now we continue to protect the rights of children who have come under repression because of their teachers. The topic is more relevant than ever: just this month, the coach of the hockey team hit his student, and this winter, schoolchildren in Chechersk and Baranovichi suffered from their teachers. The Lukashenka system continues to cripple the bodies and souls of Belarusian children, starting from school years, which means that our work is necessary. We want all the children of our country to be able to study in a school where there is no fear, coercion, obscene language, disrespect, slave labour and violence.