7-year-old Muhammad had been waiting for admission to a kindergarten for three years, but did not receive preschool education and began to study in school. The lawyers of the “Civic Assistance” Committee have been seeking justice in courts all this time and have finally broken through the wall of indifference: on December 10, the Supreme Court admitted that the child’s right to education had been violated and sent the case to the court of first instance for a revision.
The Russian Constitution guarantees the right of every child to receive preschool education, regardless of their migration status, but in practice, tens of thousands of children registered at the place of residence have to wait for admission to kindergarten for years. The priority system was introduced by the Moscow authorities in 2013, when the interim rules for registering applications for registering children were adopted. These rules established the priority of enrollment in Moscow kindergartens depending on the type of registration, essentially dividing children into two categories: those who are worthy of getting an education, as their parents have housing in their property, and everyone else who has to wait in a long queue. At the same time, the document does not provide any restrictions on the period of waiting in the queue, effectively depriving children of the right to preschool education if they do not have permanent registration in Moscow.
One of these children is Muhammad from a family of Afghan refugees, who have been living in Russia for many years. The boy’s parents have official temporary asylum status and registration at the place of residence in Moscow. Muhammad was born in Moscow. When the boy was three years old, his father tried to enroll him in a kindergarten that was assigned to their migration registration’s address. But since 2016, the line did not move forward in any of the three educational institutions to which he applied, having stopped at the third hundred.
Addressing this with the Moscow Department of Education did not bear fruit. The officials considered the request, but did not give any substantive decision and refused to perform their direct duties, namely, to assist the enrollment of the child in the kindergarten. All these years, the child was forced to sit at home without the possibility of getting an education and communicating with peers.
The lawyer of the “Migration and Law” network, Maria Krasova, who works together with the “Civic Assistance” Committee, has been seeking justice in Russian courts for several years. She did not give up and applied to the cassation instance of the Supreme Court, which admitted that the child’s right to preschool education had been violated.
“The Supreme Court sided with the children, confirming that the establishment of a sufficient number of places in kindergartens is the responsibility of the territorial executive authorities, in particular, the Moscow Department of Education. Our applicants’ child had been waiting for a place in a kindergarten for almost 3 years, and, having never managed to get there, he was enrolled in school. The “Civic Assistance” Committee insists that the absence of a restriction on the period of waiting in line for enrollment in a kindergarten is a violation of a child’s right to pre-school education. For migrant and refugee children, socialization and communication in Russian are key to successful schooling and integration into the Russian society,” commented the lawyer Maria Krasova on the decision of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court essentially agreed with its own decision of August 13, 2014, which said that not providing a child with a place in a kindergarten is illegal: “Securing the right to public, free preschool education in state or municipal institutions, the current legislation defines the obligation of the state and municipalities to ensure admission to schooling in basic general educational programs for all citizens entitled to receive general education of the appropriate level ”(a definition of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on case №35-KG14-2 from 08.13.2014).
According to Maria Krasova, the Supreme Court’s decision on the cassation appeal of Muhammad’s father gives a chance to win the dispute in the court of first instance and to receive compensation.
Illustration by Ezra Smith
Translated by Daria Gorbacheva