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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower