6 October 2022, Thursday, 10:27
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Schoolchildren Marked With Yellow Tags

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Schoolchildren Marked With Yellow Tags
Iryna Khalip

Soon there will be no teachers or students left in Belarusian schools.

My fellow citizens, have you already bought your children a new school uniform with a distinctive element, as the ministry requires? Did you sew a yellow tag on their sleeve? Haven't sewn yet? Too bad. Everything is going to this point, so it’s better to do it today, otherwise tomorrow everything will be bought out in stores, and you will have to run around the city in search of at least the longest unsold tag. Otherwise, your flesh and blood will not be allowed into school, and the parents, on the contrary, will be called and scolded properly. They will hint at a bad certificate, lack of career prospects and threat that their children “will be waving a broom all their lives with such a parental approach.”

September 1 for parents of schoolchildren is always a nightmare, an empty wallet and a glass of valocordin is needed to endure all this. There has not yet been a single year that would have gone without surprises from the state. One year, the start time of the lessons is changed, because Lukashenka decided so, then specialized classes are closed, then gymnasiums are transferred to the territorial principle of recruiting students, then military instructors are made head teachers, then Orthodox electives and mandatory political information are introduced. They change programs like gloves, exclude books potentially harmful for patriotic education from the list of literature, and reduce the number of hours of a foreign language. And every time the parents of schoolchildren wait with horror for September 1, not knowing what to prepare for their children.

There are a lot of new things for kids this school year. At the beginning and end of each quarter they will sing the anthem and raise the flag. True, the Minister of Education, speaking with delight about this coming miracle of progress, did not specify which flag and where to raise it. I don’t remember flagpoles in front of Belarusian schools. Maybe now home ec. teachers, with physical education instructors, under the guidance of head teachers-military instructors are hastily mounting them so that by the beginning of the year the members of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union will solemnly hold a flag-raising ceremony? Yes, it is probably so. Children in school uniforms with distinctive elements will gather in the yard, sing a hymn, brush away an unwelcome tear at the pathetic moment of raising the flag and go to classes to study the law “On the genocide of the Belarusian people” — from September 1, this is an obligatory part of the curriculum. And in the evening they will come from school and begin to tell how the day went. And the parents will again reach for valocordin — if, of course, they will still be at home after the morning raids of GUBOPiK. And if they still have money left for valocordin after buying a school uniform with distinctive elements.

However, the distinctive elements are just the beginning. From next year there will be a full-fledged school uniform, with all the components. Many schools have already posted pictures and requirements for the future on their websites: this is what our students should look like. For example, boys need trousers, a shirt, a vest, a jacket, a tie. I have nothing against trousers, of course, but four items — a shirt, a vest, a jacket, a tie — are easily replaced by one hoodie or jumper. Why would a boy put on a bunch of meaningless things in the morning, except for the sake of satisfying the aesthetic needs of officials, I don’t know. However, I can guess. A couple of breaks with a ball in the school yard, a couple of hours at the stadium with friends after school — and this entire wardrobe ensemble will become completely unusable. So, parents will have to pay for a new one. Then more. And so on. And for the spare one, if this one, after a game of football with classmates, requires only washing, not a trash can, exceeding aspirations. So the parents of schoolchildren will run in friendly ranks to save the domestic light industry. By the way, I carefully studied the school uniform catalog on the Bellegprom website. For some reason, I immediately remembered “The Boy Motl” by Sholom Aleichem: “The pants are made — I don’t know from what material myself: put them straight — they stand, you walk — they make noise. Amazing pants! Previously, this standing pants issue was overcome quite easily — by shopping trips to Khmelnitsky, to Białystok, to Vilnius. Now the pants went on the attack along with the Ministry of Education.

With such an educational concept, the ministry will easily achieve that no one will come to schools by the next September 1. Children will fly away with their parents to where going to school in jeans and T-shirts is normal, where no one sings hymns in the morning, where there are no military instructors, and where parents are not taken away for several years from home for a Sunday walk that had happened two years ago. And then grace will come for officials: in empty classrooms, teachers will calmly write reports and fill out forms, and school administrations will report to the education departments about the ideal state of the workflow. However, with such inputs, there will be no teachers left in Belarus by next year either. Education in Lukashenka's Belarus is a completely superfluous thing. For service in the riot police, it is certainly not needed.

Iryna Khalip, exclusively for Charter97.org