Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Undocumented Students

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) -- A recent ruling by the Russian Supreme court failed to annul a law passed in 2014, order number 32, which strictly stipulated that children can't study at Russian schools unless they have proper 'registration' or the right documents. While the court decision readily
acknowledges that children should not be denied the right to a school education because of an
absence of registration, the court refused to cancel the notoriously dreadful order number 32, thus disappointing the hopes of migrant parents whose children have been denied the right to study at schools by headmasters. Anastasia Dennisov, a human rights activist, claims that she has received 57 letters from parents who have suffered from order 32, and claimed, 'Soon, headmasters will continue to demand registration'. The latest court decision may be misconstrued as a green light to continue denying the children of migrants and refugees the right to education.

            DESIRE TO LEARN

            ' My daughter is very upset as she very much wants to learn. This order (32), does not give my child the right to education. My daughter speaks fluent Russian . She learnt it at the Centre of Adaptation , run by Civil Action where they teach refugee children. I went to a school near my home but they refused to let my child study there. Later, I went to the education         authorities, and afterwards to the Ministry of Education but everywhere they refused to allow my child to study at school. They told me that I needed registration for a year. But the landlord of my apartment refused to registar me. I tried to give a simple address and telephone number but
the authorities would not accept it.Now I'm moving to Pushkin, and I'm afraid that I'll come across the same problems.

            I don't want that my child is left without an education and forgets her Russian. I want her to beable to study, read and write,' stated a Syrian refugee, Nasser Kavtkhar, whose 8 year old daughter Duaa, was refused the right to study at school number 1374  because she had no registration.

            Nasser Kavtkhar, along with the support and assistance of human rights activists, had taken the education authorities to court in an attempt to not only champion her daughter's
right to an education but perhaps hundreds of refugee and migrant children. Nasser Kavtkhar can't return to Syria as her town in currently occupied by the ruthless Government of Islam. However, it is not just a case of children being denied the right to begin school but children who have currently been studying at school have been expelled! A migrant from Uzbekistan, Nurbek Kurbanov, whose two sons were in the 8th and 10th forms, were driven out of school. They were not allowed to continue their education regardless of their time of study.

            The Committee for Civil action states they have obtained about 50 complaints from the parents of refugees and migrants stating their children had been refused the right to study at local Russian schools. According to one coordinator of a human rights committee, Anastasia Dennisovoi, of Civil Action, 'They came to Russia legally , but have not yet obtained registration documents. Some refugees have attained provisional stay or the right to residence, but the
status of their children has not been regulated. Finally, there are migrants from Uzbekiststan ,Tadzhikistan and Moldova, who have received labour permits but they can't registar their
own children. ' Why can't they registar their children? A chief reason lies in corruption where officials insist on parents paying absurd sums of money or fees. Even if they pay this money
officials can easily break their promises or always provide 'temporarily residence or registration 'which soon runs out.'

            In fact, registration must be granted free according to existing legislation!


            The law passed in January 2014 insisting that children must have registration if they want to enter education is far from being unprecedented. Such  laws were passed in 2000 and 2007 but were later overruled by the Supreme court as unfair and unconstitutional. For years rights activists and officials have battled it out against each other over the right to education.

            Nevertheless, this recent law, order 32, bluntly violates a lot of Russian and international laws which Russia is under strict obligation to observe to the very letter. Article 43 of the Russian constitution declares that 'Everyone has the right to education' and that nationality or race can't hinder this access. The Law relating to Russian Education also reaffirms this principle not to mention the European Convention of the rights of Children which Russia signed. In fact, in 2011, the Deputy Minister of Education, Igor Remorenko, in a letter stated, 'that absence of registration can't be used to prevent children from entering education.' His letter was actually used by volunteers to reach an agreement to persuade headmasters to allow children to study in their schools. This letter has been forgotten by educational officials such as Olga Fedorova who states parents must provide proof or witnesses to the birth of heir children.'

            The judge in yesterday's court ruling refused to cancel order number 32, only stating that the order had been misunderstood by school headmasters and mistresses in the regions of Russia who failed to understand that the only single reason for refusing a child a school education is a lack of free places'. If that is the case then why don't they follow the logic of their own words and cancel order number 32?  Why stubbornly refuse to dissolve this senseless law?  The court claimed that the headmasters had not violated constitutional law but only 'misinterpreted the words.' In fact, they grossly violated this law and they forget that it is not the role of teachers to act as Migration officials. The law concerning registration and right to
study are separate. Federal Migration Service officials have no right to intervene in the education of children. It is legally beyond their authority just as it is beyond the authority of
teachers to say that propeeska is a requirement for getting an education at school.

            Many of the children who have been refused the right to study have been taken under the wing of a Centre for Adaptation, which was formed in 2000 to help educate  the children of
migrants and refugees. The centre has around 50 volunteer teachers who cater for  73 students. However, even this centre came under pressure from officials who threatened to close it down and accused the organisation,  'Civil action' which organises this centre as  being 'Foreign agents'!

            The centre was forced to take up new premises. When I visited the centre it seemed to be a hive of frantic activity. 

           A volunteer told me, 'I have heard nothing about this court case'. Perhaps this is just as well. Ignorance can be a form of bliss! When I left the centre where African and Arab students appeared to be visiting I accidently bumped into a famous psychologist Vladimar Shakhidjanyan, who is currently running a 'community of good people 'whose role is to do good deeds'. His card proclaims 'let's work together to make our lives betters'. When asked what he thought about order number 32, he replied 'I think it is disgusting. Children should be allowed to learn whether they are the kids of migrants or not'. He is not alone. Many regard order number 32 as not only inhumane, but beyond the pale of proper reason.

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