Report of Education Minister Igor Karpenko

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All children should be prepared for a new school year, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he heard out a report of Belarus Education Minister Igor Karpenko on 26 August.

“Children will go to school soon. My major requirement is as follows: all children should be equal and well dressed (I don’t mean that they should wear the same clothes, but they should have good clothes). Cheaper or more expensive. We can’t make rich people buy simpler clothes for their children. If they want more expensive clothes (suits from imported fabrics, different shirts and ties), they can do it. But all children should be well dressed, have good school bags and so on,” the head of state said.

The President instructed to pay special attention to children from low-income families in the run-up to the new academic year.

Using the opportunity, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that he traditionally pays a lot of attention to school education. “Children will go to school. And my requirement is quite ordinary. Our opposition shouldn’t think that the President is holding a pre-election campaign or anything. Using the opportunity, I just want to say that I am not going to stand for election to the parliament. Therefore, the President cannot hold any pre-election campaigns,” he stressed.

“The parliamentary elections will take place in the country, and I have to draw attention to these political things as the head of state (no one has liberated me from this obligation). At least, I have to coordinate this work. It is not a secret for anybody. I’ve said all this because I don’t want our opposition to turn this meeting in a campaign as well. I always want to be in the know about the situation at schools. And I am doing it publicly in various forms,” the Belarusian leader added.

According to the head of state, he plans to visit schools and address school issues once again on the occasion of Knowledge Day. The President mentioned the problem of overcrowding at schools and added that eight new schools will be commissioned by 1 September. There are not enough kindergartens, and this issue is in the spotlight too. “It is even good that we don’t have enough kindergartens. Dozens of pre-school facilities are commissioned and will be commissioned. We need more children, and we must take care of these children,” the President said.

In this context he remarked that certain mass media describe the construction of educational facilities where a kindergarten and a school are located in one building in Belarus as an achievement. However, this policy was introduced long ago, and the President supports it. This approach has been used in many agrotowns, villages, district centers. “We have been doing it for more than a decade. And we should continue doing so,” he said.

The President asked the education minister to outline issues at all levels, from pre-school to university education. “I want to know about issues concerning the new school year. Of course, there are a few. Please tell me what the Education Ministry and you personally think about these issues,” the head of state said.

He also spoke about possible improvements in the university admission process. The head of state recalled the instruction to raise salaries in education, spoke about the workload of students and the role of teachers in the Belarusian society. The participants of the meeting discussed the quality of school of books which is often criticized. All these and other issues will be discussed in detail at a big conference with the participation of a wide range of experts. The conference will focus on the development of the education sector. The event is expected to take place in November or December after the parliamentary elections. “Plans have been made to hold such a serious brainstorming event after the parliamentary elections this year,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“These are the issues I am concerned about right now, at the beginning of the school year. I have to deal with these issues regularly as a father. There are students in our big family (my grandchildren), and I often ask them how they are doing. And I don’t doubt or criticize the system of education in general in any way right now. In my opinion, it is good to have even small positive dynamics. But we cannot neglect existing drawbacks. Otherwise, it will be more difficult to eliminate them. I want you to report on drawbacks and issues of concern in your today’s report,” the President said.