Expensive education – how to study in school without greasing palms
All parents are now having a busy season, as the school year is closing in. In order to provide their children a proper education, parents are seeking for top notch school and are ready to pay huge bribes to reserve a place for their younglings there.
Technically speaking, all the young Russian citizens have identical rights to free secondary education, but in reality, that is simply not the case. The education level varies considerably in different schools, lyceums and gymnasiums, as does its cost. Parents can be asked to both make voluntary contributions for various needs (school repairs, purchase of equipment), and pay for giving their children the opportunity to study in a prestigious school.
Price tag – 30.000 rubles
Maxim Nikitin is the father of two pupils. This summer, the family moved from one residential estate of the city to another, and he faced an unexpected problem getting his children into school.
- I will not name the school number and the name of the director, because my sons are yet to study there, and I do not want any trouble. But I had to give a bribe, although it is a common educational institution not lyceum or gymnasium. The director simply made it clear that there are no places in the school, the classrooms are overcrowded, and nothing can be done about it – Nikitin said.
The father was at a loss, he did not know how to behave in such a situation. Maxim did not want to outright ruin the relations with the director of the only school in the entire area, so he decided not to refer to the Russian legislation, which guarantees all children the right to education. He spoke with his wife, and they preferred to pay, because otherwise the children would have to travel by bus every day to another district, and it would be quite a cause for even more concerns.
Maxim claims that the headmaster asked for 30.000 rubles. Then the class teachers asked for 5.000 for the repair and infrastructure of classrooms, although parents are skeptical that the money will actually be spent on these purposes.
- We depend on teachers, because we want them to treat our children decently. And the educators take advantage of this, - Maxim said.
Veronika Lepekhina, who will take her daughter to the 1st grade on September 1, 2016, agrees with Maxim Nikitin. She told the CrimeRussia correspondent that a few years ago, with great difficulty and thanks to a solid bribe, she managed to find a place in a kindergarten for her Masha. And when it was time for the girl to go to school, she encountered that kind of issue again.
- Why did education officials fail to note this issue beforehand? After all, it is evident that the children, who did not have enough places in kindergartens at the time, would then also lack places in schools. Or do they create such a fuss on purpose, to get more bribes? - Veronica wonders.
She claims that to get her future first-grader Masha in a usual ten-year school across the street, she had to pay 20.000 rubles. However, the principal assured her that the money would go to the budget of the institution, "...to replenish the fund." Lepekhina was not quite sure what kind of fund the director meant.
However, Margarita Polyanskaya has no doubt that the money collected from parents is spent not on the needs of the schools, but on the personal needs of their teachers.
- My son Sergey is in the 9th grade, and we are constantly paying for the new study guides, the repair of the classroom, student books, or the computer equipment. Somehow we do not seem them purchased. The members of the parent committee, of course, suspect the class teacher, the principal and his deputy of having an ax to grind, but nothing can be done about it. We do not want our children to have problems – Polyanskaya said.
Tapping parents for money
In conversations with the CrimeRussia correspondent, many parents talk openly about giving bribes to principals and teachers of various educational institutions.
- I believe that the education system is one of the most corrupt sectors of the social sphere in our country. Without sufficient funding from the budget, the schools got used to satisfy their needs at the expense of parents, because we are forced to pay almost for everything – Klara Leonidova, a mother of 11-year-old Kristina, said.
She claims that to get her daughter to high school with in-depth study of English and other humanity subjects, she had to pay a total of about 30.000 rubles. Half of it went into the pocket of the principal, while the rest was received by a class teacher.
- She told me that the money would be spent on an interactive whiteboard, but if you collect as much money from all the parents as was collected from me (there are 28 students in the class), you can cover the whole classroom with gold. I am positive that not all voluntary contributions from the parents went to the school needs – Leonidova said.
The parent noted that the director asked her to bring a certificate from work to confirm the paying capacity. This enabled Clare to assume that it would not be the only fee for the school needs and that the parents would be consistently tapped for money.
- I regret transferring my daughter this summer to that lyceum. But now there is nothing to be done, I will have to pay, if that is the case. I hope they will at least teach my girl a proper English – the mother sighs.
Previously, Kristina went to an ordinary school. There, the parents also had to pay bribes to the director and the teachers, but their amount was twice as less. Sometimes, they paid for a new linoleum and desks, but in reality neither one nor the other could be seen afterwards.
However, Leonidova does not blame the teachers. She believes that the government encourages such corruption among them by paying small salaries and allocating insufficient funds for the repair and purchase of new equipment. At the same time, the top notch schools, lyceums and gymnasiums seem to her more like enterprises for extorting money from parents. Striving on the parents attempts to give their children a better education, such schools are making good money.
Klara Leonidova works as a Chief Accountant in a profitable company, her husband is an engineer in a utility company. The school year has not started yet, but the two already have doubts regarding their ability to pay for the daughter’s education in this lyceum.
Corruption taught from the cradle
The teacher of Russian language and literature in one of the schools, Alyona Shikhmatova, told the CrimeRussia correspondent that education institutions have indeed faced the problem of overcrowded classes in the last three or four years.
- By law, we must admit all the children living nearby, but it became problematic. We have three shifts in primary classes, each of them has more than 30 students. And sometimes my colleagues have difficulties coping with so many children - the teacher said.
The teacher claims that there is only way out of this situation – to construct new buildings and expand the already available ones. Shikhmatova admits that some of her colleagues could easily take advantage of the buzz associated with the lack of places in schools, to demand money from the parents, promising to solve this issue.
- I know that people paid 15.000 to 30.000 rubles to get their children into kindergartens, so I will not deny that those in the office can fail resist the temptation. But I am confident that no real teacher will ever act to the detriment of the child. And in any case, even if the parents do not pay, the schools will take all the children living in the surrounding area. After all, children need to learn, - she said.
The teacher also confirmed the rumor that not all the funds that the parents pay for the repair and development of classes are spent as intended.
- The school management forces us, we have to give some part of the money to the principal and his deputy, but the rest really goes for the purchase of equipment, training books, and finish materials. I have never took the money collected from parents for myself - the teacher with 20 years of experience said.
At the same time, a physics teacher Alexey Muravyenko is sure that the lack of places in Russian schools is an imaginary problem. He claims that if the parents had not offered bribes to headmasters and teachers, the latter would have had no need to create such a stir.
- That is all about the mentality of our people. They think that if they pay, their offspring will be all right at studies. In the last twenty years, the parents have grown so accustomed to widespread corruption, since kindergarten, that it is not really surprising. It has become a habit, - he said.
Those behind bars
Despite the massive scale of the problem, parents rarely go to the police to complain about extortion from school principals and teachers. This is understandable, because no one wants for their children to have problems thanks to the truth-seeking aspirations. Bearing in mind the power the teachers have, that they not only can give bad marks, but also bully disliked pupils, parents try to maintain a good relationship with the teachers.
However, sometimes corrupt teachers still can be brought to justice. For example, this summer, former headmaster of the gymnasium № 25 of the city of Stavropol Vladimir Zubkov was convicted under part 2 of Art. 290 of the Russian Criminal Code (Bribe-Taking).
The court established that in June 2015, the accused was approached by a man, who asked to admit his two children into school, and offered 50.000 rubles for it. The principal agreed to take the money, but the generous visitor turned out to be a member of the MIA Department for Economic Security and Combatting Corruption in Stavropol. The police officer was working undercover. As a result of that special operation, the illegal activities of the director were proved.
Vladimir Zubkov received two years of suspended sentence and had to pay a fine of 250.000 rubles.
The scale of corruption, which thrives in the Russian educational institutions, exceeds all limits. No one is surprised by the fact that parents have to pay to get their children into kindergartens, schools and universities, even though it is illegal.
According to Art. 43 of the Russian Constitution, everyone has the right to education. The basic law of this country ensures accessible and free pre-school, basic and secondary vocational education in state and municipal educational institutions. Moreover, the parents (or persons substituting them) are required to ensure school attendance of their children.
The universal right approved by the Constitution is supplemented and specified by the federal law "On Education in the Russian Federation" dated December 29, 2012 № 273-FZ. In accordance with para. 1 of Art. 16 of this document, the state and municipal schools shall admit all children, who live in the adjacent territory.
If the parents decide to transfer the child to another, more prestigious school, which is located, for example, in the neighboring district, then the pupil shall also be admitted, if there are remaining free places after all the children from the surrounding territory have been enrolled in this school. In reality, these matters are resolved for bribes.
Parents should remember that their right to choose a school for their children is stipulated by para. 1 and para. 3 of Art. 52 of the aforementioned law "On Education in the Russian Federation." Moreover, the management of the chosen municipal or public educational institution is obliged to admit the child to study at any time. Excuses such as "you are late, the classes have already been formed" and "you should have entered the queue earlier," as well as these queue in general, are illegal. The child shall be admitted to the rest of the pupils, regardless of when parents first brought him to the school – on September 1 or on November 10.
In the event that the principal does not want to admit the child, extorting a bribe or simply hinting at a similar solution to the problem, the parents should ask for an official document establishing the fact of refusal in admission. It can then be taken to court, where the parents may challenge the illegal actions of the institution's administration.
Demanding salary certificates from workplaces or any additional guarantees and contributions is illegal. It is noteworthy that in some schools, parents are requested to complete a questionnaire, which contains questions about the monthly income of the family and their willingness to "help the school." It is up to the parents whether to answer them or not.
In today’s Russia, corruption in education is a common thing. If children in kindergartens are yet unable to realize what a bribe is, those more adult quickly grasp how their parents solve a lot of issues. Later, in the universities, the students themselves do not hesitate to offer bribe to the professors in exchange for good grades in tests and examinations.
It is in school that children learn the basic concepts of acceptable and unacceptable behavior in society. And if they see dishonest educators who are pick-pocketing money from their parents, then they begin to consider such behavior acceptable. This is the greatest danger of corruption in education.
The strengthening of responsibility for violations must go hand in hand with an increase in teachers' salaries, construction and development of schools, as well as an increase in the professional skills of teachers.
And this is the right moment to recall a recent statement of the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.