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Russia - Maria Lvova-Belova: How to support a family and an orphan in difficult times

Russia (, - On Wednesday, January 26, the XVIII Congress of Commissioners for Children's Rights will begin its work. For two days, children's ombudsmen from all over the country, ministers, experts and officials will discuss the problems of modern education online. Can a disabled person become a university student? Should I be afraid of digital education? Who will help a troubled teenager today? Children's Ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova told what questions the participants of the congress will answer.

The match between Russia and Canada started an hour later

Maria Alekseevna, will the Congress of Commissioners provide an opportunity to find answers to questions that concern society? Will the meeting take place live?

Maria Lvova-Belova: I was hoping to meet with the regional commissioners in person, but, unfortunately, the pandemic has changed plans, the congress will be held online. The theme will be education.

And this is not only studying at school, relationships between peers, hot meals, affordable clubs, but also affordable education for children with disabilities, orphans, teaching children who are on long-term treatment in hospitals, etc. The quality of education determines the level of the future life of the child, so we have a lot of questions. Preparing for the meeting, we proceeded from the requests of the regions.

It seems that everyone has the same problems, but in each subject of the Russian Federation they are perceived very differently.

The commissioners prepared a lot of questions addressed to the Minister of Education, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Health.

Maria Lvova-Belova: One of the most important topics of the congress will be teenagers and everything related to them - specialists in working with difficult teenagers, bullying at school, an alternative to colonies for delinquent teenagers. A large-scale media project will be dedicated to children's safety. There are no other people's children, the life and safety of the child often depends on our attentiveness. The tragic story in Kostroma is a vivid confirmation of this.

Will this convention be different from the previous ones?

Maria Lvova-Belova: Yes. It is very important for us to hear the voice of our children and we will give them the floor. What do children expect from education? - the results of surveys show that the expectations of adults and the expectations of children do not coincide in many respects.

You are known for your projects for young people with disabilities, will the commissioners discuss the problems of disabled children and their parents?

Maria Lvova-Belova: We must develop a roadmap with infrastructure and resources for every family that has a child with a disability. So that the family understands where and what to look for (rehabilitation, treatment, education, etc.). Another important topic for such families is the creation of day care centres. Many mothers complain that they do not have an elementary opportunity to go out somewhere, because there is no one to leave the child with. The day care center should become not only a place for finding new social connections and development of the child, but also an opportunity for respite for the mother. An exhausted mother, unable to cope with the hardships of life, a father leaving the family - all this clearly does not contribute to children's well-being. There are also very sad stories when parents cannot stand it and send their child to a boarding school. To prevent this from happening, we must support such families.

Recently, community organizations have come together as a community to help families in crisis.

Maria Lvova-Belova: We will also discuss this topic. What needs to be done so that the child does not end up in social institutions? How to work with alcohol dependent parents? Now we are directing all our efforts so that if it becomes necessary to send them to an orphanage, then the child is there temporarily and does not "hang" in the system. We will also discuss work with foster families, cases when it is impossible to return a child to a birth family.

How will the meeting be useful for regional children's ombudsmen?

Maria Lvova-Belova: Each authorized person will receive a specific action card for each direction. Perhaps these are small steps, but if we aim globally, everything can remain on paper. For example, the congress will discuss the unreasonable hospitalization of neglected children - child refusers. A child from a dysfunctional family or found on the street often ends up in the hospital. Then loud scandals begin. Remember the story of the girl who was dragged by the nanny by the hair. We can reduce the mechanism for moving children from a family to a social institution. The algorithm has been developed, it does not work in every region, and even where it works, there are still cases when a child ends up in the hospital for a long time. I'm not talking about how he feels at the moment when he is left completely alone in the hospital with all his experiences and thoughts about an incomprehensible future. Therefore, we will try to develop specific steps to avoid such situations.

In Irkutsk, kindergarten teachers committed a heroic deed - they recaptured a six-year-old child from a man who was dragging him to the entranceDigital education - a topic that most parents treat, if not with fear, then with obvious prejudice - will be discussed?

Maria Lvova-Belova: Of course. We had a whole wave of appeals on this topic. And although Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov has repeatedly noted that there can be no question that all studies will necessarily switch to a remote format, parents still feared that the digital educational environment is about eternal distance. No, the digital environment is about an additional resource of education in general, about distance learning as an alternative to full-time study during a pandemic, about the opportunity for children with disabilities in remote areas to receive education, about the chance to take additional courses in different areas.

Of course, there are a number of points that are troubling. For example, there are both positive and negative points in the abolition of paper media and the use of electronic publications by children. I can see from my children - they carry heavy backpacks with a bunch of textbooks. Electronic publications would simplify this problem. But everything related to digitalization has pros and cons, and you need to approach this topic very carefully. A large number of parental experiences are associated with the personal data of schoolchildren and the lack of their reliable protection. We have data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs about hidden chat rooms inaccessible to parents and teachers, where children can communicate with each other. How and why this happens remains to be seen.

And it is necessary to explain everything to parents as much as possible - the lack of information in the parent community leads to an aggressive perception of innovations. Therefore, it is important for us that the Ministry of Education outline the full range of upcoming reforms and clarify difficult points.

A lot of indignation in parents causes additional education. Not all families can bear the cost of circles and sections.

Maria Lvova-Belova: Electronic certificates are now being introduced in the regions to pay for circles and sections. But, unfortunately, they involve paying for one to one and a half circles and limit the possibilities of children. Another topic for discussion is that 30 percent of the regions have a shortage of additional education teachers.

We can talk endlessly about the problems of the modern school. What do you feel about your children?

Maria Lvova-Belova: It seems to me that modern education lacks an individual approach. From my children, I see that in the general format, the situation of success is often inaccessible to them. Each child has their own strengths that the school could play to motivate learning and further development.

Another sensitive topic is school meals. Why, in the presence of federal money and the active participation of absolutely everyone (public organizations, the parental community, the children themselves), is it not possible to finally fix everything? Each region is looking for its own solution, either a multi-level control system, or a single menu standard, but we still regularly receive complaints from schoolchildren and parents. An important topic is relationships in the team. Bullying. Sometimes the parent community says, "There's nothing wrong with that," but that's the wrong approach. Bullying happens not only between schoolchildren. We recently analyzed a case where a teacher openly bullied a seventh grader. But there are many examples of students bullying teachers. Today, bullying is being talked about openly. I was at the opening of the "Big Break" in "Artek" and saw a performance by a schoolgirl who told about a personal history of bullying. When the moderator asked those affected to raise their hands, two-thirds of the audience raised their hands. Today, reconciliation services operate in some schools, they need to be actively developed. At the meeting, we will discuss in detail other ways to prevent bullying.

Recently, in the news bulletins, messages about children who died due to the indifference of their fellow citizens are increasingly appearing. Would a Soviet citizen walk past a crying child? Have we become so inattentive to each other?

Maria Lvova-Belova: I would not romanticize a Soviet citizen and say that then society was more attentive and more humane. Let us recall at least the horror that happened in children's closed institutions. Read "Salty Childhood" by Sasha Gezalov about the life of orphans in an orphanage in the blessed 70s. We were human in those areas that were accessible and visible. Today I know many situations when our contemporaries manage to prevent a tragedy. In Irkutsk, two kindergarten teachers committed a heroic deed - they recaptured a six-year-old child from a man who was dragging him to the entrance. But, unfortunately, this is not particularly talked about. Every morning I receive about 80 messages on social networks from people who consider it their civic duty to "highlight" the injustice they have seen - here the family was offended, there guardianship did not behave that way. And how many volunteers during the pandemic supported those who had nowhere to wait for help! People brought food to the lonely, the elderly, the disabled, without fear of getting sick. Are we inattentive to each other?According to the results of a sociological survey, 30 percent of Russians believe that the quality of knowledge of ordinary children will decrease due to joint education with children with disabilities. Are we ready for inclusive education?

Maria Lvova-Belova: We had a time when children with cerebral palsy were considered unteachable. Now we see that it is possible to educate a child with any disease. There are adapted programs, including those for children with severe mental retardation. More and more examples of resource classes. There are specialists in the field of inclusive education. But we do not see a continuation after school - neither in vocational educational institutions, nor in further employment. We are developing the virgin lands, and this is a long process, in which small solutions will be found first. But most importantly, we understand that inclusive education needs to be developed. Today, society is slowly beginning to get used to the idea that children with disabilities can study together with everyone. Within the framework of our project "Guidance through life", we are creating a coordinating council, with the help of which we will try to form a holistic picture of the integration of such children. In the Penza region, we had a situation where the child was ready to study, but the university was not ready to accept him.

Bulling happens not only between schoolchildren. Recently, a case was analyzed when a teacher openly poisoned a seventh grader. But students also poison teachers

How is this possible?

Maria Lvova-Belova: And how to take an adult in a wheelchair to the toilet if the toilet is not adapted for this? Together with the rector of the institute, we found out whether it was possible to increase the doorway, adjust the height, excuse me, of the toilet bowl. What about peer perception? He comes, but classmates do not accept him. We came up with "understanding lessons" to make it easier for students to understand children with disabilities. Another problem is teachers who do not ask these students for fear of embarrassing them. One of them said so: "He's going to faint here, and then I'll be responsible for it." And this is a university. And at school, parents with their stereotypes: "Why should my child study with "him", transfer "him" to a special class. Classes do not want to move from the fourth floor to the first because of a student in a wheelchair: "Why should we do this?" And all this must be overcome. Methodical materials, study space, our consciousness - everything is designed to ensure that there are no disabled children either in colleges or universities. But our task is to cut a window into this world for them.

About motivation

Is it difficult to be a children's human rights activist?

Maria Lvova-Belova: I really appreciate that the president entrusted me with this position. When you do what you love, when you realize that something is gradually changing from the work of your team, you don’t think about difficulties. Think about what you can do here and now to change the world for the better.

Russia - Maria Lvova-Belova: How to support a family and an orphan in difficult times