19 October 2021, Tuesday, 3:51
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

School for Lukashenka

School for Lukashenka
Iryna Khalip

Children are waiting for a change.

If I were a dictator, I would also demand that the school has "only one policy - the state one." This is how Lukashenka formulated it. It is clear that he is afraid not only of workers, doctors, IT specialists, the military, but also schoolchildren. And, of course, he wants quiet disciplined schools to work in Belarus, where they do not ask uncomfortable questions, do not have their own opinion, do not argue with their elders, but they walk in formation, sing the anthem, subscribe to the Young Rescuer newspaper and attend the Young AMAP club. I repeat once again: in his place, I would probably like the same thing. Only, unlike Lukashenka, I know how to achieve this.

He makes the same mistake year after year in all his attempts to bring school education to the value of absolute zero. All the lessons of patriotism and Orthodoxy, all military instructors who came to schools as political commissars, all school-wide viewing of propaganda videos, excursions to AMAP, and forced entry into the Belarusian Republican Youth Union will lead to the opposite result. The more pressure on schoolchildren, the stronger the resistance. Previously, they did not write with chalk on the asphalt “Long live Belarus!” Now they do. This is the very opposite result. Children always instinctively resist inertia, hypocrisy, and prohibitions. Children laugh at propaganda. Rather, even like this: laugh, cackle, giggle. So the military instructors who will come to Belarusian schools on September 1 as headteachers for military-patriotic education, I even feel sorry for them: there will be jokes about them, like about a gym teacher and a Design and Technology teacher. And even a gas mask perfectly worn in three seconds will not save you from evil school humor. Just like the retired dictator will not be saved by his portraits, which were placed in schools by order. School is one of the loudest public policy failures.

Okay, fine, I will tell Lukashenka how to win this race. There is only one really effective and absolutely win-win option. There is an extra link in the school education system that does not allow you to win. If it is removed from the chain, removed from the system, excluded from the structure, the school will become exactly what Lukashenka wants. This link is children. You just need to remove the children from the school. And then everything in the empty buildings will be like in a fairy tale about a stable blue-eyed state. No one will add horns to state portraits, write with chalk “Long live Belarus!”, exchange badges with “Pahonia” with friends, teach “Mahutny Bozha” instead of the national anthem. Undoubtedly, children are an extra element of the Belarusian school. It will be better without them.

And it’s in vain that Lukashenka thinks that Telegram channels, the Internet, and foreign universities are to blame. In the USSR, we had neither of these things. Not everyone even had home phones. Nevertheless, during recess, schoolchildren exchanged not quotes from the Pravda newspaper but anti-Soviet ditties and political anecdotes, for which the whole family could go to the Kolyma. My generation of Soviet schoolchildren buried three general secretaries in a row, and we all knew that Brezhnev was in deep insanity, Andropov was in a coma, and Chernenko, "after a serious and prolonged illness, without regaining consciousness, took up his duties." And after all, the Soviet schoolchildren did not listen to the Voice of America, nevertheless, they knew and understood everything. Without any telegram channels, without the Internet, without access to any information. Because children at all times are inherent in critical thinking, unwillingness to blindly believe everything that adults say, and even nihilism. You can earn credibility with them. To impose it - never. Pressure creates not only resistance, but also contempt, as any student will tell you.

So the only chance to build an ideal school for Lukashenka is to get the children out of there. Because in the classroom, you can poison them with propaganda and lies as much as you like. But after the lessons, changes still begin - with their free communication, freedom of speech, and laughter at the stupid weak state.

Children are always waiting for change.

Iryna Khalip, specially for Charter97.org