Street Life - Samotechny Lane: Russia's new pay-per-class state schools

SAMOTECHNY LANE was suddenly noisy early last Wednesday with the chattering sound of crocodiles of children processing into school. For them, the first day back is a gentle re-entry, as they waste the morning at a bell-ringing ceremony, then give flowers to the teachers and play until home time.

In some provincial towns, this year as last, unpaid teachers rejected the traditions of the "Day of Knowledge" and went on strike. But the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, makes a point of paying state sector wages on time, and teachers in the capital are not as unhappy as their country cousins.

Talking to friends, I had the impression that parents were the ones who really dreaded the new term. "Pay, pay and pay again, that's what we have to do," said Sveta, for whom the last days of August were torture as she struggled to get her 11-year-old son, Fedya, ready for school again.

A few private schools now exist in Russia. The overwhelming majority of parents, however, still send their children to state schools. "The only trouble is," said Sveta, "that we now have to pay for so much that we might as well be educating our kids privately." First she went to a bazaar in the Olym-pic stadium to buy books and atlases, which in Soviet times the school would have provided. "The queue stretched right round the stadium," she said. "I stood there with Fedya for an hour. When we got to the counter, the customers and assistants were so harassed they were throwing books at each other."

Then she took on the crowds in Detsky Mir (Children's World), the department store only slightly less forbidding than the secret police headquarters next door. In an hour, she spent what her husband, an engineer, officially earns in a month (the equivalent of pounds 37.50) on trousers and a jacket.

Fedya hates the return to school, as it coincides with his birthday and there is never enough money left for a present. Luckily, he had a foreign sponsor to buy him a battery-operated, crawling plastic hand made in Taiwan. "How can you waste money on such junk?" Sveta scolded me.

In some schools, not only equipment but also tuition now costs money. Teachers, whose official earnings average 800 roubles (pounds 20) a month, have taken to giving extra private lessons, without which the child cannot hope to succeed.

Another friend, Pavel, said he slipped $50 (pounds 32) a month to a state school teacher last year so his boy could study English. "Nobody gets paid properly. So the traffic cop earns on the side, so that he can pay the teacher, so that she can pay the doctor. And everyone evades tax."

On Tuesday afternoon Fyodor Maskayev, headmaster of Moscow's Middle School Number 174, sat in his study, enjoying the last moments of quiet before the first bell. At his school, he assured me, the poor could still count on a decent education for their children. All compulsory subjects were taught free, although he admitted that pupils over 16 might have to pay for extra coaching to reach college.

Mr Maskayev said basic textbooks were handed out, although parents were expected to buy other books that might be recommended.

This term, Russian children will also have a new civics textbook. It explains why, if a society wants schools with good facilities and motivated teachers, the first lesson citizens must learn is the importance of paying tax.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
News
news
News
peopleCampaign 'to help protect young people across the world'
Life and Style
tech

News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
i100
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker