Following today’s press conference in Sakharov Center, where we talked about our struggle for access to education, we publish some basic theses on the subject. It was prepared by Civic Assistance Committee employee Konstantin Troitsky who reviews this issue.
– Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.”
– On the 16th October 1973, the Russian Federation ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where in Article 13 the States Parties recognized that “the right of everyone to education” and that “primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all.”
– On the 16th August 1990, the Russian Federation ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to Article 28 of this Convention the States Parties “recognize the right of the child to education” and “make primary education compulsory and available free to all.”
– Since 1996, the Russian Federation has been a member of the Council of Europe and is obligated to implement the European Convention on Human Rights, where in Article 2 of Protocol No.1 it is affirmed, “no person shall be denied the right to education.”
– Article 43 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation declares that “everyone shall have the right to education”, and “guarantees shall be provided for general acceess to state or municipal education establishments and at enterprises for free pre-school, secondary and higher vocational education.”
In spite of this, in Russia since the late 1990s attempts to establish norms that restrict the children’s right to education have been observed. First of all, these initiatives were applied to Moscow as it is one the most attractive regions in Russia for immigrants.
Among these initiatives were:
– The adoption of resolution № 241-28 (30.03.1999) by the governments of Moscow and Moscow Oblast in Paragraph 5 of which there was an injunction concerning admission to schools and kindergartens. This paragraph permitted the admission only if parents had temporary or permanent registration in these regions. The Civic Assistance Committee challenged this Paragraph in the Moscow City Court. The Court recognized the mandatory requirement of registration for the children admission to schools and kindergartens to be illegal.
– In 2012, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation attempted to prohibit access to school for any child without registration on the territory of Russia. It was made by Decree No 107, dated February 15, 2012, “Statement of Admission for Citizens into Educational Institutions”, which claimed to allow admission to the first school classes only for children with registration in the region where they try to apply for education. Thus, the children of foreign nationals without registration lost access to education. The Civic Assistance Committee drew the attention of the media to Decree No 107. Subsequently the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation published Letter N ИР-535/03 which expounded that this order should not restrict children’s rights to education.
– Nevertheless, on the 22th January 2014, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation issued Decree No 32 that became the main document for denying access to education for children of foreign nationals without registration. In August 2015, Civic Assistance Committee tried to challenge this Decree in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, but the Court decided to neither cancel nor change the Decree.
The following text sheds light on three forms of institutionally organized requirements for foreign nationals that lead to the systematic violation of children’s right to education in the Russian Federation.
- The requirement for registration as a necessary condition of the enrollment in educational institutions; therefore, denied access to education for children of foreign nationals without registration.
- The requirement for proof of legal immigration status as a necessary condition of the enrollment in educational institutions; therefore, denied access to education for children whose parents are not able to demonstrate this proof.
- The requirement for the special health insurance policy if foreign nationals would like to register themselves and their children at public clinics, which have the exclusive right to give medical recommendations concerning the provision of education for children with special educational needs and disabilities; therefore, denied access to education for such children without the special health insurance policy.
As an important subproblem, it should be mentioned the acute shortage of free Russian language courses for children which do not know the Russian language. It leads to serious problems with access to education for children without sufficient knowledge Russian.
- The requirement for registration as a necessary condition of the enrollment in educational institutions
– Since the beginning of spring 2014, the Civic Assistance Committee has witnessed unending appeals from foreign nationals for support because they cannot enroll their children in schools without registration. Head teachers usually motivate this practice by citing Decree No 32 (titled as “Statement of Admission for Studying on Educational Programs of Primary General, Basic General and Secondary Education”), which the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation made on the 22th January 2014. The Decree claims that parents or legal representatives of children responsible for enrolling the child in the first class should additionally submit “the document where is fixed the child’s permanent or temporary registration.”
– In 2015, the submission of applications by means of a special website on the Internet became the only way to enroll children in any Moscow state school. Moreover, the website subsection “Enrollment in the First Class” has the paragraph “Who Can Apply for the Service” where it is mentioned that this service is available for “parents (legal representatives) whose children are permanently registered on the territory of Moscow by state agencies of registration” or “whose children are temporarily registered on the territory of Moscow by state agencies of registration.” In the paragraph “List of Required Documents” it is indicated “Address of permanent or temporary registration on the territory of Moscow”. The website subsection “Enrollment in All Classes” (meaning in any class except the first one) has also the paragraph “Who Can Apply for the Service” which includes no requirement of registration. However, the paragraph “List of Required Documents” includes this requirement. It has the following form: “For applying it is necessary to have information concerning the date of birth and child’s registration in Moscow.” At the same time the submission is technically organized in such a way that parents cannot apply for admission of their children to school without filling in the registration field. In other words, it is obligatory to fill in the field regarding registration on the electronic form. The last one does not depend whether parents want apply for getting admission to the first class or to any other class.
– On the 1th February 2016, on the official site of the Moscow Oblast government a similar system for applying to school was launched. On the main webpage it is noted “Parents and legal representatives have a right to submit an application for the admission of a child to the first class. But for applying the child should have permanent or temporary registration on the territory of Moscow Oblast.” Currently, unlike the situation for Moscow state schools, the submission of applications by means of the website on the Internet is not the only way for enrolling children in the state schools on the territory of Moscow Oblast. Therefore, it is possible to apply directly to schools without fulfilling electronic procedures. In such a situation the decision concerning the admission of a child to school depends on the local state administrations and head teachers.
– The current situation is as follows: foreign citizens or stateless persons without registration cannot enroll their children in any state school in Moscow. This concerns: a) asylum seekers, b) foreign citizens or stateless persons granted refugee status and temporary asylum but who are not able to execute domicile registration in Moscow, c) foreign citizens or stateless persons who appeal against the refusal to grant them refugee status or temporary asylum, d) all undocumented immigrants. It is worth mentioning that in some cases head teachers require at least one-year of registration and refuse to take children into schools if they have only three months registration.
- The requirement for proof of legal immigration status as a necessary condition of the enrollment in educational institutions
– The requirement for proof of legal immigration status, if foreign citizens want to enroll their children in schools, is fixed by Decree No 32 as mentioned above. This Decree claims that the parents of children, if they have foreign citizenship, are obligated to present a document “which proves their right to be on the territory of the Russian Federation.” This requirement makes it impossible for any child of undocumented immigrants to receive free education throughout the Russian Federation. The same applies to foreign citizens or stateless persons who apply for refugee status as well as temporary asylum or who appeal against the refusal to grant or extend them refugee status or temporary asylum. The appeal procedure may last up to several years, during which the children of refugees remain without access to education.
– A particular problem is when the state agencies which carry out migration control use schools as a source for detecting so called illegal immigrants. This problem is especially acute in Moscow, Moscow Oblast and Saint Petersburg. For example, since 2014, the Civic Assistance Committee has been providing legal aid to the community of Syrian refugees in Noginsk (a small city in Moscow Oblast). The head of the local education administration, Natalya Sergeevna Asoscova, took an extremely tough stance on the issue of access for foreign children without registration in the schools under her jurisdiction. Referring to Decree No 32 mentioned above, Asoscova provided no assistance to the Civic Assistance Committee’s workers when they tried to enroll Syrian refugees’ children in schools. Moreover, when one attempt succeeded she made an official reprimand to the head teacher who had decided to take the Syrian girl without registration. For this reason, at the time of writing (June 2016) most of the Syrian refugees’ children are not receiving education in the schools of Noginsk.
– The state agencies aimed at migration control do not hide their close cooperation with schools. For example, in an interview to the biggest newspaper of Saint Petersburg the Deputy Chief of the Federal Migration Service of Russia (FMS) in St. Petersburg and Leningrad region, Dmitriy Nikifirov, openly declared: “We must pay tribute to the Committee on Education and schools on their part is being closely monitored the immigrant pupils’ legality of staying in St. Petersburg.” In light of these facts, the Civic Assistance Committee is concerned about attempts aimed at the detection of foreign nationals in the schools of the Russian Federation. For instance, according to the directive of the Deputy Head of the Moscow State Department of Education, Marina Smirnitskaya, the head teachers of the state schools in Moscow should fill in the field regarding the nationality of children in the database of the Department.
- The requirement for the special health insurance policy if foreign nationals would like to register themselves and their children to public clinics. Denied access to education for children with special educational needs and disabilities which have no the special health insurance policy.
– In 2015 Human Rights Watch (HRW) published an extensive report on some of the serious problems with which children with special educational needs and disabilities face in the Russian Federation. These problems concern any child, including children with Russian citizenship. But children with special educational needs and disabilities without Russian citizenship are at risk of encountering problems that are not presented in the report of НRW. In addition to registration and proof of their “legality”, for receiving oriented on them education they have to undergo a special medical examination. The latter is organized in such a way that to get it almost impossible if a child is not “attached” to the local public clinic which is permitted only for Russian citizens and foreign citizens who have refugee status, temporary asylum, temporary or permanent residence. At the same time several categories of foreign citizens cannot be “attached” to public clinics and therefore undergo the special medical examination for their children with special educational needs and disabilities. This concerns such categories of foreign citizens as: a) migrant workers with patent or work permit, b) those who are on the territory of the Russian Federation with student or any other form of visa, c) those who ask to be granted temporary asylum or who appeal against the refusal to grant or extend their temporary asylum, d) undocumented immigrants.
Subproblem. Serious problems with access to education for children without sufficient knowledge of the Russian language
– The lack of funding as well as the specificity of migration policy in Russia is the source of problems and sometimes even the impossibility of receiving a free education for children if they do not know the Russian language. For example, at the beginning of 2016 there were only two schools in Moscow, where children were provided free courses of Russian as a foreign language along with other general educational courses. According to some reports, during the 2014-2015 academic year only 262 children could participate in the courses in these schools, another 327 children were involved in courses of “Russian as a foreign language”, which were provided as additional education in other schools. At the same time in Moscow there are around 750 schools and, according the statistic data of the Federal Migration Service, on the 5th April 2016 in Russia there were 805 468 children (17 years and younger), who had no Russian citizenship and who had stayed in Russia more than 6 months.
Considering the facts mentioned above, we can conclude that in the Russian Federation there are serious and systematic problems with the realization of the right of children to education. It is also possible to say that some children without Russian citizenship face institutionally organized violations of their right to free education. Among such violations are the following:
– In Moscow, which is the most attractive Russian region for immigrants, children without registration cannot enroll in school;
– According Decree 32, issued by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, throughout the Russian Federation children whose parents are not able to present proof of legal immigration status are not admitted to receive free education;
– Throughout the Russian Federation, if foreign nationals would like to “attach” themselves and their children to public clinics, which have the exclusive right to give medical recommendations concerning the provision of education for children with special educational needs and disabilities, they should have the special health insurance policy. The latter is available only for some categories of people. As a result some categories of foreign citizens cannot provide education for their children with special educational needs and disabilities;
– Children without sufficient knowledge of the Russian language face the acute shortage of free Russian language that for some results in the impossibility to receive education.
– To establish in Russian legislation that proof of registration is not necessary for enrolling children in school. According to this provision, to modify existing rules for admission to school and online systems;
– To eliminate the requirement for parents (or legal representatives) to present proof of legal immigration status for enrolling their children in school;
– To postpone attempts to introduce any procedures aimed at identifying the citizenship and immigration status of children in school where there is no guarantee that this information will be not used for their expulsion from Russia or other penalties;
– To guarantee medical examinations, which are necessary for the organization of education, for any child with special educational needs and disabilities regardless of immigration status;
– To motivate state schools to create free courses of Russian as a foreign language.
By Konstantin Troitsky, Civic Assistance Committee