Children of the North our pain

Aleksandr Skryagin, Palana, Koryak Autonomous Okrug

A person’s genetic inheritance is evident from an early age. Unselfconsciously, the child acquires from the world around it , from tutors , the knowledge and skills which later form the basis of his or her mentality. In fact , an individual’s mentality already begins to develop in the mother’s womb. By the fifth month from the moment of conception the fetus already has a personality , with a temperament and the main features of a nervous system.

Parallel with the early development of mentality, most illnesses are formed at an early age. The health of the child depends very much on the health of the mother. This is so for us in the Koryak Autonomous Okrug as it is for the entire country. There is a high increase in miscarriages and in parents’ death rates; hundreds of women carry out heavy physical work , the birth age of mothers has decreased (not unusually they are as young as 16 years); almost 3% of births are premature.

Pediatrists have coined a new term: often ill children (OIC*). Twenty to 30% of all children in kindergartens of the Koryak AO are OIC. At an average across Russia a child is ill two times a year. When school starts 10-15% of the children are already “chronicles”. This percentage increases considerably with each passing school year. School stress” already develops during the first months of learning for many children. Over half of the pupils have a weakened health. From the first up to the tenth class the quantity of children with sight impairments increases by a factor of seven. Sixty to 65% of the graduates have a  poor posture, 40% suffer from circulatory disturbances. Almost 25% of pupils develop “school neuroses”, a significant portion caused by the teachers.

It has been known for a long time that a significant portion of pupils have bad habits that negatively impact their health. In the sixth class 7% of pupils smoke; in the tenth class almost one out of two does. Children probably do not know that the lung cancer rate doubled in our country over the last 20 years, and forecasts for the next decade say that about one million people will die of this illness, in other words, largely from smoking. In the seventh class experiences in connection with binge drinking increased for schoolchildren from 42% to 74%, and those who tried drugs and stupefying substances from 5% to 15%.

When I worked at Palana High School as a physical education teacher I struggled against pupils smoking in toilets and attics, referring to the federal law prohibiting smoking in educational and public institutions as well as  the school charter, which prohibits smoking in school by both employees and pupils.

Alas, my efforts have been in vain. There was no understanding among colleagues. Most of all I am disturbed by that fact that in kindergartens, and possibly also in preschool, children do not learn not to smoke – this is definitely bad. Starting school they see the following scene: senior pupils stand around with cigarettes between their teeth during every break. Bad examples are infectious.

It is not surprising, that children cannot run two kilometers without resting, have studied up to the 11th class, but not having learned to ski. As we see, children do not learn to protect their health. At school there is no such subject as “health education”, to teach students how to follow a healthful way of life. While they learn about astronomy, for example, they do not learn how to stay healthy. Health is no priority; priority is only given to education.

It is evident that the educational authorities, including the Ministry of Public Education, do not show responsibility. At certifications of teachers these facts are not considered. As a result, the quantity of healthy children decreases by 4-5 times from the 1st on 8th class, and after they leave high school there are only about 20% who pursue higher education, and 58% of the graduates are restricted in their choice of profession due to health problems.

So what can be done now? To move, create, function – a person has to have a certain lavel of well-being. In other words: physical training must again become an integral part of our culture. It is established knowledge that, if muscles do not work, the organism “stagnates”. Deficiency of movement is reflected in the general development of children. In fact, motor skills and intellectual skills develop together. Children who start to walk, swim, and run early have a good foundation for their future development.

The educationalist couple Nikitin have shown that early physical exercise makes kids much healther: they get ill 8-10 times less often, and almost do not catch colds at all. A very small child should run 30-40 steps in a day, and in kindergarten he or she should run two to four thousand. It is known, that coordination of movements is necessary for a good development up to 5-6 years of age. In our district, day nurseries and kindergartens are not few, but only 15% of them have facilities for physical training. The unique swimming pool in the district center of the Koryak Autonomous Okrug – in the kindergarten “Rabinka” – was closed 15 years ago due to lacking finances for repair. I do not think that we should save money at the expense of children. We have no domestic sports grounds and an insufficient quantity of skiing equipment at the district schools. Where should children be trained in the motor skills?! Are we really not capable of understanding that the future of the nation depends on health?

Educational institutions look generally horrible. When a child starts in the first class, its physical activity is halved at once. Up to 30% of the pupils have no access to sports halls. In our district, 95% of the children are not able to swim. Regional and district games between schoolchildren have ceased. It is not surprising that the quantity of army recruits with a poor health has noticeably increased.

The programme “Physical training and youth policy” only exists on paper. In the Koryak Autonomous Okrug children have no place to train. District branches of the Children’s Junior Sports School in the settlements of the district are getting fewer, stadiums are absent, and the training staff is growing old. The “Goskomsporta” (State Committee of Sports) system does not work for us.

In 1997 in the national village Ust-Khayryuzovo the school burned down; since then children are housed in two modified emergency buildings. The rooms do not meet sanitary standards, nor do the outdoor areas, the furniture, the illumination and other things. During all this time children have had to study under difficult conditions, which is reflected in their health and also in that of the employees of the school. During the school years 2000-2001 alone pupils lost 2187 school days and teachers 412 working days owing to sickness.

All the government authorities, including both the district and federal governments, know about the situation in the village of Ust-Khayryuzovo . The Deputy Minister of Education of the Russian Federation , L.S. Grebnev wrote in his letter (No. 6563/26-08-702): “The reconstruction of the school, which is municipal property, should be carried out with local budgetary funds, funding of sponsors and other unofficial sources of financing. The Ministry of Education has no opportunity to allocate funds for the reconstruction of the school".

Where can 200 million roubles be found in the local budget, and where are the sponsors that will help?! In my opinion our government is indifferent to the problems of children of the North; it does not understand the severity of the problem. The lack of schools for children of the North in 350 places is an infringement of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Who will help the children of the North? Where is the policy of our state?! How is it possible to state that the destiny of the children has not appealed to the government, the President, deputies of the State Duma, members of the Federal Assembly?!

We only can express our wish that a child who has been born in and grown up within the vast open spaces of the North should have access to an education under good conditions.

* from Russian ЧБД (часто болеющие дети)