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MOSCOW, August 20 (Itar-Tass) - Russia is experiencing a surge of school uniform panic these days.The new academic year is just round the corner.
The end of August has always been prime time for vendors of children’s clothes and back-to-school goods. This year the Ministry of Education, relying on support from the State Duma, issued strict orders to ensure all of the country’s 12 million school students should be wearing uniform.
The idea of restoring a single dress code, cancelled in 1992, to Russian schools was first voiced by the Russian president. As he addressed a forum of his supporters called the United People’s Front last March, Vladimir Putin called for making “federal-level decisions that would oblige regions to introduce school uniform and give regions and municipalities a chance to finalize the details.”
The chairman of the State Duma’s education committee, Dr. Sc (History) Vyacheslav Nikonov, has told Itar-Tass in an interview literally this. “There was no uniform at Russia’s schools only during the time of trouble and collapse of statehood. Russia has been through the period of destruction and its president has now raised the issue again. Modern schools need uniform.”
The problem of how Russian school children look is very crucial also because of the appalling social stratification of Russian society. For instance, in Moscow, children from well-off families appear in class sporting expensive brands, while their age-mates from families with moderate and low incomes cannot afford this. Diverse and bright clothes surely affect concentration in class. Besides, in some regions girls from Muslim families at a certain point started coming to class in hijabs. Tensions among the teachers and the parents followed.
The authorities have made a decision to lift these problems by introducing unified school uniforms, but at the same time to leave the issue to the discretion of each individual school.
Russia’s leading fashions designer, Vyacheslav Zaitsev, has decided this is a good chance for him to outdo his old-time rival Valentin Yudashkin, who was commissioned to design uniforms for the Russian army. Zaitsev presented to the public at large a collection of school clothes at a price of 3,500 roubles (roughly a little over 100 dollars), made of wool and cotton. Economists estimate that the degrading national light industry may earn a total of 36 billion roubles on this project.
However, the director of Moscow’s Kosygin Textile Institute, Konstantin Razumeyev, has told ITAR-TASS, “the light industry of Russia may fail to produce enough clothes for 12 million school students by September 1.”
“There are just three textile mills manufacturing wool clothes in our country, with its cold climate. As for the question of quality, it is of paramount importance for children’s clothes,” he said.
The regional authorities have been trying to do their best to somehow meet the September 1 deadline set by the authorities to unify school students’ appearance. Some regions have confined themselves to recommendations to go to school wearing white shirts or blouses and dark trousers of skirts, and to put a dark blazer on, if it is cold. More strict school masters told the parents to buy a set of clothes for their children from a specific tailor or shop, with prices ranging 3,000 roubles through 4,500 roubles. Many parents are angry. Far from every Russian family can accord such a buy, in particular if there are three or two children, and not one. Children are often reluctant to wear uniform. They prefer jeans they can wear in school or for a stroll, or for any other pastime after classes. Also, teenagers would like to look unique. The best-sellers at children’s clothes shops are not dull suits, of course, but whatever one can afford.
The students of prestige schools in Russia’s large cities prefer to wear expensive suits with the emblems of their educational establishments. These privileged children wish to look like their age-mates at Eaton or Cambridge.
In March, when the idea of restoring school uniform in Russia, first hit the headlines, Deputy Education Minister Natalya Tretyak said that 78 percent of the parents supported this initiative. Now it has turned out, as follows from what the mass media and contributors to social networks say, many parents and also many children refuse to buy expensive clothes made in a rush. Obviously, six months is a period too short to have all of Russia’s students wear new uniform again.