Do You Want Your Child To Go To school? Welcome To Court!

Despite the decision of the Supreme Court dated August 27, 2015 which explained Decree # 32 of the Ministry of Education and Science “On Statement of Admission for Studying on Educational Programs of Primary General, Basic General and Secondary Education”, schools keep denying foreign children admission citing this very decree.

The situation is particularly heavy in Moscow where neither the Moscow Government, nor the Education Department have initiated any measures to prevent children without registration from being denied admission. For example, the Moscow state services website still has “registration” in its list of documents required to apply to a school in Moscow and school principals keep asking parents for it. All this impacts the number of cases handled by the Civic Assistance Committee which hasn’t changed much after the Supreme Court issued this decision.

Far not all labor migrants and refugees are ready to defend their children’s right to education in prosecution office or in court. For the most part, they are afraid that their attempts to seek help may negatively affect future communications with Russian migration services. But sometimes their outrage and a strong civic stance overweigh. One of such cases is described below.

School principal safeguarding the denial of right to education

This story began in June 2016 when the Kovpan family who had moved to Moscow from Odessa with Ukrainian citizenship decided to enroll their second child into school №2065 in Novomoskovskiy district. Their older daughter had been going to that school for two years by then. No problems developed during her enrollment so the parents weren’t expecting what happened next.

So, in June the father applied to the school to enroll his second child in first grade. Natalia Stanislavovna Faydiuk, the school principal, didn’t welcome this application and claimed that the Kovpans didn’t have enough documents to enroll the child. Particularly she said that they required registration at place of residence or stay and a temporary residence permit or permanent residency. The parents were surprised by the response but they also knew that such requirements were unjustified so they turned to Moscow Education Department for explanation. At this point the Moscow department re-addressed the request back to the school.

In July the Kovpans received a letter of response signed by the assistant principal of school №2065 S.V. Timoshenko which referred to Decree # 32 and said that foreign students had to prove the legality of stay in Russia and migration registration wasn’t equal to regular registration. The response also mentioned Federal laws “On the legal status of foreign citizens in Russia” and “On Migration Registration of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons in the Russian Federation”. The mystery still remains though as to why the school administration chose to cite and interpret migration laws which are beyond their competence and to ignore guarantees relative to the educational institution, including the Constitution, the Federal law “On Education in the Russian Federation” and the Supreme Court’s ruling.

For example, the latter clearly points out that lack of the parents’ and/or child’s registration “cannot serve as ground for denying enrollment in an educational establishment given that there are vacant spots”. When it comes to the migration status, the Kovpan family pays for licenses, is registered in the migration services, has an official lease for the apartment and cannot be accused of “illegal” stay by even the most captious migration officer. But the school administration obviously had their own reasons to deny the child the right to education.

After the refusal the Kovpans asked the school once again how they could prove the legality of their stay in the country.  The school’s deputy principal F. A. Kniazev told them in person that the requirements remained the same: registration, temporary residence permit or permanent residency which were mentioned by N. S. Faydiuk. Nevertheless, the school accepted the admission application.

The Moscow Education Department answers questions: Is the child living in Moscow? – Yes. Legally? – Yes. Has the right to education? – No.

End of September brought the response to the admission application. The tone of the response changed. It no longer talked about registration or proofs of legal stay, the letter was signed by N.S. Faydiuk herself. It turned out that the child was denied admission because “the applications submission period was over due to the school reaching the maximum number of students per class”. Meanwhile, the school’s classes weren’t full neither in June, nor in July, nor in August when the parents were vainly trying to enroll their child. There are compelling reasons to believe that there were available spots in September as well, since the child’s aunt took a picture of the list of children enrolled in first grade and it had 24 names which means there was at least one available spot. Thus it’s obvious that the “class size” was simply an excuse which N.S.Faydiuk found most appropriate after she had stalled till the beginning of the school year.

After this the parents wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education and Science (Minobrnauki of Russia) asking them to sort out the situation but their application was forwarded to the Moscow Education Department. The department’s officer didn’t bother to provide new valid points and gave a response close the one received from the school in July. It once again talked about Decree # 32 which, according to the Department’s officer, determined that to enroll the child in the school “the parents (legal representatives) had to prove the child’s registration at place of residence or stay at a designated territory”. At the same time the response said that “the notification of the foreign citizen’s arrival at the territory of the Russian Federation meant his or her migration registration and the legality of stay on the territory of the country and could not serve as a document proving registration of foreign citizens at a place of residence (temporary or permanent) on the territory of Russia”.

The Education Department’s letter shows the standpoint the officials are obviously no longer willing to hide, i.e. a child can be staying in Russia and have all the legal reasons for that but still have no right to education!

Is the school above the prosecutor’s office?

Facing such resistance the Kovpan family consulted a lawyer, M.V.Kushpel from the “Civic Assistance” Committee, and wrote to the prosecution offices of Moscow and Russian Federation in October. In their complaint they demanded that their child’s constitutional rights be reinstated, described the circumstances and underlined that the school principal N.S.Faydiuk didn’t encourage the child’s enrollment and even actively interfered with it.

In December the family received the long-awaited response signed by the prosecutor of the Novomoskovsky administrative district. After reviewing the case the prosecutor’s office decided to take sides with the family and confirmed that the child’s right to education had been violated. The response also said that school №2065 administration “wrongfully denied admission of the application and further enrollment” in first grade. The school principal also received “recommendations for addressing the violations of the educational regulations”.

One would think this should be enough. The prosecutor’s office advised the family to wait for the school meeting to be over and for their child to be enrolled. The Kovpans waited till New Year, then till the end of the holiday season but not a sound was heard from the school. It became clear that the school principal was in no hurry to eliminate misconduct. The child’s father finally went to the establishment which was now called GBOU “School № 2120 wherein he was received without enthusiasm. N.S. Faydiuk decided not to make appearance and communicated through her secretary. The latter said there was no decision yet although a whole month had already passed since the prosecutor’s office issued their decision. The father had to leave a written request once again so that the school administration would give an official explanation to the situation. The school principal was in no rush, possibly trying to buy some time. The father went to the school again and left another inquiry requesting to provide an answer within three working days on the child’s enrollment considering the prosecutor’s review of the case. Finally, an official decision from the school arrived in February the point of which was the fact that there were no vacant spots and that admission in first grade was closed.

Will the court uncover the principal’s secret?

Cynicism and audacity of the response are quite surprising. It’s not clear why and what for the principal is so determined to violate the child’s right to education despite its major support in the form of the Russian legislation and numerous international conventions, ratified by the Russian Federation. The principal’s view on the matter can in no way be explained by sheer ignorance, error or misinterpretation. The same can be said about the Moscow Education Department. It’s obvious that this confident interpretation of Decree #32 is no coincidence but an intentional stand communicated in disregard of the Supreme Court’s ruling, The Ministry of Education and Science’s memo and current international and Russian legislation. It appears that N.S. Faydiuk and the Education Department’s representatives believe that their “understanding” of the matter is above the Constitution’s guarantees, the Supreme Court, the UN conventions and agreements. Power abuse would be the right explanation.

Inquiries were sent to the prosecutor and Education Department while this enrollment issue was happening. As a result of reorganizing, school № 2065 was left with only two buildings including the one where wherein the Kovpans applied, the three other buildings were given to a new educational establishment – GBOU «School № 2120». N.S. Faydiuk was assigned as principal in the latter and as chairwoman of MRSD (interdistrict board of principals of educational establishments). But it doesn’t matter since N.S. Faydiuk herself and the Moscow Education Department are featuring as defendants in the lawsuit filed to the Meschansky district court. And if it’s not the case of their personal decision making then they will have to answer a certain question: Who or what is this mysterious and more influential authority that’s telling them that the Constitution, The Supreme Court’s decision, international conventions and the prosecutor’s directive can be ignored?

 

By Konstantin Troitskiy, Civic Assistance Committee