Digest of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's Office on Education and Science, July 2022 / Issue 12

Please send any information concerning education in Belarus to our safe and anonymous Telegram chatbot @eduOST_bot. Please send us news from your educational institution or government agency about repression and various forms of pressure from the administration, corruption and new orders that seem unreasonable or irrational to you. We also invite you to share your ideas and proposals for reforming the education system.

We have launched a website  www.asvetaby.org where you can find all issues of the “Asveta” digest in Belarusian, Russian and English.

Repressions

  • Danuta Pyarednya, a 20-year-old student of Kuliashou Mahiliou State University, was sentenced to 6.5 years of general regime colony. On 1 July, the Kirau District court found her guilty of actions aimed at inflicting harm to the national interests of the Republic of Belarus. The conviction was based on Danuta’s repost of a publication to the Telegram chat. The post condemned the actions of Putin and Lukashenka and unleashing war against Ukraine. She was also put on the KGB list of “persons involved in the terrorist activities”.
  • On 15 July, political prisoner Kanstantsin Rudnitski, a 23-year-old software engineering student at Brest State Technical University, was sentenced to 6 years in a strict regime colony and a fine in the amount of 3200 roubles (1222 euros). He developed one of the functional elements of the “Black Map of Belarus”, a resource which contains personal data of those responsible for repressions. It has been treated by the prosecution as “aiding and abetting in hate speech” and “assisting in unlawful actions with personal data”. Judge Katsiaryna Hruda found him guilty. It is known that Kanstantsin holds the title of Master of Sport, and he was expelled from the university during his imprisonment.
  • 18-year-old Pavel Piskun from Homel was sentenced to 3 years in general regime colony for numerous recordings of the Russian military equipment movement on the territory of Belarus and sending the information to a Telegram-channel contributing to the defence of Ukraine against Russian aggression. Judge Aliaksandr Piskunou, known for passing politically motivated judgements, has found Pavel guilty of “assisting extremist activities”. During his arrest, Pavel was still underage.
  • Music teacher and political prisoner Aksana Kaspiarovich has been released from Hrodna Prison №1 after the end of her prison term. A court found her guilty of “inciting hatred” due to commenting on a post about the death of a KGB officer during the attempted raid on Andrei Zeltser’s apartment.  She spent almost 9 months in custody and was put on the KGB list of “persons involved in the terrorist activities”.
  • On 13 July, during the mass arrests in Ivanava, teacher Alena Putsykovich was detained once again. She had already been sentenced to 2,5 years of house arrest for reposting information about the police officers.  She was already serving five-day detention in a prison cell at the end of June for allegedly violating the conditions of the home arrest for the third time in a row, and was charged with reposting information from Telegram channels, which were considered extremist by the Belarusian authorities.  During the arrest, law enforcement officers shot Alena's dog with a rubber bullet, after which the animal required veterinary care.
  • On 5 July, Jury Shyroki, a psychology student of Kuliashou Mahiliou State University, was allegedly detained. He is accused of participating in peaceful protests in 2020 and “distributing extremist materials”.

Regime's policy

  • It has become known that from 1 September, the tuition fees at Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics and Belarus State Economic University would increase by 10%, despite the fact that in April the head of the main department of professional education of the Ministry of Education Sergei Kaspiarovich claimed that “the applicants will be informed about the increase in tuition fees in advance before the admission campaign starts”. Additionally, there is also information about the increase in tuition fees at BSMU. According to a statement by Minister of Education A. Ivanets, it is likely that tuition fees at other universities will also be increased soon. He says that the last year has set many preconditions for this increase.
  • As of the new school year, the cost of meals for children in schools and kindergartens will be increased by 10%.
  • Next year, it will be possible to be admitted to the degrees with a shortage of applicants (e.g. Degree of Education) based on the results of in-university competition without passing the Centralized Testing. It is planned to be implemented mainly in regional universities.  Thus, it will create “an additional stimulus” for young people to choose a career path that “our economy really needs”, states the Ministry of Education.
  • Belarusian propaganda showed news about “17 military-patriotic clubs and 146 camps” recently opened at military units under Lukashenka directive №160 for “ideological education” of children. According to a commander of one of the military units, they “actually have a lot of people who want to join the club”. According to the news, children are taught to use weapons, live in the military camps, and engage in various types of combat, “to understand who a real patriot is and what a state is”. The children are also shown propaganda videos about Russia and taken on excursions. In addition, the news reveals that there are field training camps organised this summer for high school students, and university students are recruited into law enforcement units.
  • Members of the military-historical club “The 53rd Motorized Rifle Regiment of the NKVD”, consisting of employees of the Homel Heating Networks enterprise, are visiting children's health camps and sanatoriums in the Homel region wearing Soviet military uniforms, holding activities for children, and taking pictures with them.
  • The teachers of Babruisk schools were obliged to be on work duty at beaches (including out-of-town ones), take photos of underage children and threaten parents to call social care if they found that families with children spent time near places prohibited for swimming. According to one of the teachers, the instructions to organise shifts that are not part of the teachers' job duties were given by the deputy head of the district education department, Aksana Barysevich, who, in turn, claims that the shifts are voluntary and denies any schedules of duty distribution.
  • Colonel Uladzimir Dunayenka, commander of the 6th police brigade in Homel, was transferred to the Military Academy to teach at the Internal Troops Department after the publication of evidence of his improper conduct and alcohol addiction.
  • Until August 1, schools have to determine what will be an obligatory part of school wear in the new school year. It will likely be centrally produced and will include emblems of schools.

Sanctions

  • The portal dev.by published testimonies of Belarusian students about discrimination on ethnic grounds in Czech universities. According to them, the universities reduced a number of scholarships for Belarusians, several universities refused to accept Belarusians for studies, required signing a waiver for lectures in “tactical” degrees or confirming on paper their opposition to Russia's actions against Ukraine. According to the evidence, discrimination against Belarusians in the Czech university environment is not commonly widespread; it is initiated only in a few universities by internal decision of the administration, and concerns only certain technical degrees.

Civil society and education

  • The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has published a checklist for parents whose children are bullied at school or are being bullies themselves. It explains how to recognise that a child has been bullied, what to do first, where to seek help and whether children and their parents can be prosecuted.
  • On 7 July, an online conference “Higher Education in Belarus: Between the Bologna Process and Russian Colonisation” was held, where prominent Belarusian education experts spoke: Chair of the Public Bologna Committee Aliaksandra Kuzmich-Lebiedzeva, representative of the Institute for Development and Social Market in Belarus and Eastern Europe Andrei Laurukhin, Professor and member of the Belarusian Independent Bologna Committee Pavel Tserashkovich, Professor of the National Research University of HSE Ilya Inishev and co-founder of the BSU Independent Professors' Trade Union Committee Roza Turarbekava. The participants shared their views on the consequences of the disruption of the connections of the Belarusian education system with the European civilisation, and the problems students and teachers should expect due to the withdrawal of Belarusian universities from the Bologna process. The recording of the conference was published on the Belarus Christian Democracy Party channel.

International opportunities

  • EPAM School of Digital Engineering (EPAM) in cooperation with the European Humanities University is launching an undergraduate degree programme in Computer Science for future IT professionals. Applicants will be accepted on a competitive basis according to the Centralized Testing results. Tuition is obligatory (both full-time and part-time forms are possible). Admission to both forms of education is open from July 19th to August 20th, 2022.  The studies start in Vilnius in October 2022.
  • The University of Cologne and the University of Bonn have launched an “Academy in Exile”, a programme to support teachers from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. In the framework of the programme, teachers and researchers affected by persecution or war will be provided with offices with equipped places to work in German universities to conduct research, support in dealing with administrative issues and in applying for individual funding from external sponsors (no scholarship is available), and the opportunity to participate in summer school and seminars to establish connections with the European academic community.
  •  It is important that the research planned by the applicant covers the legal or historical sciences, political science, cultural studies or linguistics and is also related to Europe (European values, history of Europe, comparison of political and legal systems, comparative linguistics). According to the organisers, the programme lasts for 2-3 years. The application deadline is 31 July 2022.
  • Prague Civil Society Centre invites public figures, journalists, researchers and experts for a 3-month internship at the end of 2022 and in the second half of 2023 (optional) in Prague to prepare for their project in one of the proposed fields: war and national identity, civil society mobilisation during war, media and propaganda, digital security, anticorruption and war crimes investigation, women's leadership, online education, environmental protection initiatives and landscaping, NGO’s working policy in current conditions. The organisers provide the costs of travel, accommodation, workplace and visa support. The application deadline is 12 August 2022.
  • The Eastern Europe Studies Centre, in cooperation with the Belarusian Association of Research Centres (BARC), has announced a call for grants for Belarusian researchers, scientists and experts to travel to one international conference or meetings in Europe covering any socio-political topic where the Belarusian perspective can be valuable and which allows establishing contacts with the European researchers. The grants are aimed at those who will present a paper at the event. The grant will cover the costs of travel, accommodation, and fees. A conference that meets the criteria must take place before 1 October 2022. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
  • The Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at the University of Oxford invites young researchers, undergraduates and doctoral students from Central and Eastern Europe to three-day seminars in Warsaw, Zagreb and Oxford on an all-expenses-paid trip (up to $2,000). Participants will have the opportunity to discuss their theological or philosophical research with eminent scholars and receive financial support (up to $5,000) to pursue their research. To learn more about the conditions for participation, please visit the organiser’s website. The deadline for applications is July 29, 2022.
1 August 2022 в 12:50