Staunton, March 24 – In most parts of the Russian Federation, schools are closing and being consolidated because the number of pupils is declining so precipitously, but in the North Caucasus and some other non-Russian areas, the number of pupils has risen so fast that schools operate on double or even triple shifts.
(On school consolidation in Russian areas and multiple shifts in non-Russian ones, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/closing-school-and-medical-point-enough.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/09/more-than-third-of-schools-in-chechen.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/09/nearly-half-of-schools-in-daghestan.html.)
Now, education minister Sergey Kravtsov has promised not to end consolidations in Russian areas but to eliminate at least the third shift in schools in non-Russian ones by building more schools over the next four years (interfax.ru/russia/757318, lenta.ru/news/2021/03/23/thirs_smena/ and tass.ru/obschestvo/10970549).
He told a Duma committee that Moscow plans to build 500 new schools over that period and thereby provide “more than one million” new places for pupils. That will allow the government to end the hated practice of a third shift in which some pupils don’t start school until mid-afternoon and go into the evenings five days a week.
Kravtsov said that the education authorities had eliminated third shifts in most places but demographic pressures have prevented it from doing so in four republics, Buryatia, Daghestan, Tyva and Chechnya. These presumably will be where the new schools to be built before 2025 will be concentrated.
On the one hand, this is simple justice. School children should be treated equally throughout the country. But on the other, it is certain to generate anger among many Russians who will point out the obvious: closing schools and consolidating them in regional centers is one of the quickest ways to kill off Russian villages.
In the eyes of many Russians, that represents a threat to their nation; and Moscow’s decision to spend money on Chechen pupils but not on Russian ones is likely to become another source of anger among Russians at the Moscow authorities who in this case appear inclined to defer to non-Russian minorities rather than the country’s ethnic Russian majority.
And because that is so, Kravtsov’s words about what Moscow plans to do over the next four years should be viewed as just that “plans.” What will actually happen is likely to be the product of intense politicking; and in the course of that, non-Russian areas may lose out as they have in the past.
Indeed, the continued existence of two and even three-shift programs is evidence of the way in which actual as opposed to proclaimed policies look on the ground.