| Convinced that the devil finds work for idle hands, the
education committee has hatched a plan to keep children in school until
to 10 at night.
Starting in September, 219 of the city's 1,600 schools will offer an
experimental program in which schoolchildren will have the option of trying
their hand at sports, music and other extracurricular activities instead
going home after classes.
"Some schools will be open until 5 or 6 p.m., but others will
be open until 10 o'clock in the evening," said Yevgeny
Bunimovich, a Moscow City Duma deputy who advises City Hall on education
issues and is a prize-winning math teacher.
Children in grades one through three attend classes until 12 to 12:30
p.m., while older students get out at 3 p.m. But, as in Soviet times,
students have the option of staying for the so-called prodlyonka until
p.m., during which they get help with their homework.
The difference between the prodlyonka and the new program is that the
latter is more structured, Bunimovich said. "Schoolchildren will
not only be
offered help with their homework, but they'll also be offered a series
after-school activities," he said.
The main aim of the program is to keep latchkey children busy and
"away from the dangers of the street," he said.
"Many schoolchildren have parents who are engaged in two different
jobs in order to make ends meet and who don't have time for their children.
With this new program, City Hall is trying to help those parents and their
children," he said.
The city has pumped 600 million rubles ($19.8 million) into setting
the program, which will be offered to students for free.
The plan, however, is being met with some skepticism. "Everybody
agrees that something should be done about schoolchildren, but you don't
solve their problems by dropping them off at school all day," said
Birukova, editor of September 1, a biweekly publication focusing on school
Birukova said schools lack the resources to help older students deal
with serious problems. "But with schools open all day, parents will
encouraged to leave their difficult children at school instead of really
helping them overcome their problems," she said.
What's more, she said, a full day at school could be very tiring for
Oksana Vlasova, whose 12-year-old daughter will start the fifth grade
next month, agreed. "Children are so overloaded with homework now,
afraid that if they begin the after-school activities they won't have
time left for themselves," she said.
In this way the experimental program seems to contradict Education
Minister Vladimir Filippov's ambitious plans for school reform. Filippov
repeatedly said students are assigned too much homework and they do not
enough free time.
"It is an old quarrel between Filippov and me," Bunimovich
are not going to force schoolchildren to study math all day."
Natalya Orlova, the mother of a 9-year-old boy, said she might put
into the new program -- even though she hired a babysitter rather than
him in the prodlyonka last year.
"He only got tired there. He did not learn anything new,"
But if the after-school activities are better organized, Orlova said,
she would be happy to have her son take part. "He could learn music
school and with the other children," she said.
The economic turmoil of the 1990s led to huge cutbacks in state-funded
social programs, like sports and cultural centers, which previously provided
a gathering place for young people. City lawmakers say the lack of organized
activities has left many children with too much free time on their hands
helped contribute to an increase in drug abuse and crime.
City Hall for some time has been considering opening new sports fields
and youth clubs in an attempt to deal with juvenile delinquency, but tight
budgets have prevented any of the projects from getting off the ground,
Then the idea of an after-school program was born. "We thought
could use school gyms and classrooms to keep students busy after school.
this way they are away from the street and at the same time learning
something interesting," Bunimovich said.
Svetlana Ivanova, a deputy department head at the Education Ministry,
said she supports the new program but "for the time being the project
just experimental and we are not talking about expanding it to all Moscow
the original at
Reform in Education