20 July 2019, Saturday, 23:50
We are in the same boat

Swap Out the Minister for a Sack of Potatoes

Iryna Khalip

The life of authorities resembles one on a resort - seasonal.

In autumn and spring they fight with activists, in summer they jail doctors, and in winter, when one may relax under a blanket till spring - they all don't need to work - they come up with a fight against parasites or with reforms in the education system.

And now, compatriots could barely put away their Christmas trees, a quarter-century-old character says them on TV: our school curriculum is very complex. Poor things solve tasks in mathematics in the secondary school that we had only in universities. And if the minister doesn't understand that, then he's not a minister at all. Familiar rhetoric, there is nothing new. Instead of "minister" one can use "prosecutor", "head of administration", "governor", whatever. Regarding tasks for the secondary school, which are not his speed, I'd like to say something like "speak for yourself". Although he did not solve any tasks in his institutions. But students solve these tasks which are sometimes not understandable. And it's not about challenges of the school curriculum. It's about another thing.

If teachers had time to teach, no one would have any problems in exploring STEM and natural disciplines. But teachers of Belarusian schools have completely different duties. They have to collect money for the Young Rescuer subscription. Being the head teacher, they have to visit all students at their home (although it was done by the previous one and the report was written) and to study the situation thoroughly: if there is anything in the family which falls behind the state scheme. Together with students they ought to learn speeches, songs and dances for a solemn meeting or ministerial visit. They have to go to a hockey game instead of lessons. They have to ensure presence at all public events, where, according to the scenario, smiling schoolchildren should be. They must keep track of the number of people who came to the canteen and to mark everyone in a special notebook. They must collect signatures for Lukashenka and serve election commissions. Now, by the way, they have to drop into "parasites" asking "why do you have no job?".

Now tell me, when can a teacher teach? They just have no time. And this, already absolutely insignificant, part of their work will not cause any fatal results: parents will eventually hire a tutor who will "drag out" their child. They will not scandal at school. They may grumble a little on the parents' chat, that's it. Parents have no time either. And the teacher knows about it. But if the plan for mandatory subscription or presence at a hockey game is not met, the teacher will be dressed down by the vice-principal, the vice-principal by the principal, the principal by the district education department and so on. The teacher is at the bottom of this food chain.

I know, I know, that you will argue and say it was their own decision, they do not resist, but do what is ordered. You're right, but now it's not about teachers (there are really brilliant specialists who have talent to teach, and each of you will easily name some), but about the system. It's unwise to treat the school curriculum as a trouble spot. If the state had had the task for schools to teach, everything would have differed. But first of all, schools must control and suppress personality. Speeches, mobs, pioneers, quick march - only this matters. If you don't want to, we'll make you. If you don't give in, we'll turn your life into hell, and the life of your parents. Such priorities of school education make it possible to study the multiplication table in the secondary school- all the same, students will be confused. Not because of misunderstanding, but because of hatred.

And the resignation of the Minister of Education, thrown the other day by a great expert of Bykov's poems, will not bring anything. If the system remains, one can endlessly rewrite programs and textbooks, replace ministers and minor officials, but no improvement is reached. However, the current minister can be swapped out for a sack of potatoes, it will bear less harm.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org