6 July 2020, Monday, 20:50
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Girl With Golden Pencil Case

Girl With Golden Pencil Case

Why does the list of basic school supplies to September 1 differs so much in different regions of the country?

Sometimes I think nothing can surprise us anymore. No decrees, no ordinances, no initiatives - nothing at all. Hardly have our officials or those who support them started speaking, we already know everything they are about to say in their reports. We are sick and tired of their marasmus. We know everything about them. We look down on those who are still surprised or outraged, like, you guys know nothing about this life. It seems that even if all Minsk officials will go dance Samba in the streets naked, we will not be surprised. But then, at one moment, they suddenly say or do something, and here we go again, gulping the air, unable to breathe normally, gasping ''This can't be so!'' It can, actually.

This Wednesday, official trade unions held a meeting of the expert council on the issue of prices and tariffs. The council was created back in May under the initiative of the mentioned trade unions with the involvement of the National Bank, the Ministry of Trade and the Belarusian Statistical Committee. They vaguely explained that they will effectively control prices together. In the reality, the purpose of this tacky company was to watch so nothing would appear cheaper someplace than everywhere else. To watch so it would be equally expensive everywhere, so that all Belarusians would live equally bad.

So, on Wednesday, the expert council discussed the expenses of an average Belarusian family for a preparation to sending a child to school. Trade union organizations throughout the country monitored the prices for school supplies. In the official message of the trade unions' press-centers the list of supplies was even quoted: ''A jacket, a vest, two suits: a two-piece and a three-piece, a sports uniform, shoes, sports shoes, sneakers, a shirt and a blouse, long-sleeved and short-sleeved, office and writing supplies for the students of different age groups, in a word - nothing extra.''

Let us say directly: it's not just nothing extra, the list lacks something: starting from the clothes and footwear for change (where have you seen a school student with one shirt?), ending with ''parents, donate for linoleum!''. So, the vigilant state trade unionists have learnt, that, it turns out, parents in Minsk spend more on school supplies than the residents of the Brest region.

Minskers, for instance, will have to spend BYN 1192 on their daughter in high school before September 1, while the residents of a district center in the Brest region - BYN 744. Trade union leader Mikhail Orda is outraged: how come? Why such a difference in prices? Why does it happen so that, in different regions of one and the same country the basic set of school supplies to September 1 differs so much? Other participants of this party shrug and promise to ''equalize'' all prices so it will be the same amount everywhere, in Minsk and in Kobryn. The price difference is the only thing they found unfair.

BYN 1192. Almost $600, in order to send a girl to high school in Minsk. And no reaction from either trade unionists, fatty officials of the Trade Ministry, or the National Bank workers. As I came back from vacation only two days ago, I thought I probably missed something. Probably, there was some breakthrough in the economic development, and our wages are like in Europe now. Otherwise, how come it is considered normal to spend $600 on school dresses, shoes and copybooks, and nobody of the officials is outraged, and Lukashenka is not threatening to jail everyone who's guilty? Everyone calmly and openly voices such figures - I've certainly missed the moment the country started flourishing. However, the official statistics reported on the average salary being 1080 now in Belarus. It's less than sending a conditional girl to school.

I started asking the people I know, who live in different countries, from Poland to the United States, how much they spend on school supplies each year. The answer was nothing. Some responsible mothers, however, made an effort and recalled having purchased a notebook with a funny picture at their kid's request. That's all. Many didn't get what I was talking about. So, I didn't have the courage to ask about the linoleum and lockers the parents are supposed to pay for, as it seemed to me that the cultural misunderstanding could become fatal. However, it's all pretty clear without asking.

So please, dear officials and their trade union representatives, do not say anything out loud. Hide with your expert councils, boards and commissions under the blanket, switch on a flashlight and speak in a quiet whisper, make sure we don't hear anything. As this is unfair, you disgrace yourself, and we feel ashamed. We are very much ashamed for having put up with all this for so many years.

Iryna Khalip, specially for the Charter97.org