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Children on Maidan

11.04.2007
Yevhen Zakharov

For me forcing people to go to meetings in support of some political faction is an even worse violation of freedom of peaceful assembly than actually prohibiting rallies. It is revolting to see people being paid to take part in mass events – what kind of freedom of peaceful assembly is that! Revulsion is the first response when you see the events being taken to recreate the external elements of Maidan 2004.  It’s very much like a farce and amuses some, irritates others.

However before Easter we saw something quite new with children being used on Maidan. According to observers there were a huge number of children at rallies organized by the Coalition. The first person I heard this from was State Deputy Kateryna Levchenko. In her words: “Such a situation is of great concern, since using children for such types of activities can damage their health, get in the way of their education and development. It is also a flagrant violation of Ukrainian legislation, particularly the Law on Education (Article 51) which states that “removing school and higher institute students, cadets, people on work practice from their studies for the purpose of work or other activities not connected with their studies is prohibited except in cases allowed for by decision of the Cabinet of Ministers”. So has there perhaps been a special decision on this?

The Kharkiv Governor Arsen Avakov also spoke publicly of such things having seen Kharkiv technical college 16-17-year-olds from Kharkiv, looking quite tired, in Kyiv.

Yet what was reported yesterday on TV Channel I+1 and in the newspaper “Ukraina moloda” [Young Ukraine] is hard to put in words. In the town of Chyhyryn in the Cherkasy region children were released from their lessons and taken to Kyiv. “40 UH, a walk around Kyiv and you won’t get into any trouble for it”, this was how members of the Party of the Regions persuaded Chyhyryn school kids. Almost 40 children from all the comprehensive schools in Chyhyryn and the village of Halahanivka were early placed on a coach and taken to a political rally in the capital.

The organizer of the trip for minors, the head of the parents’ committees in one of the schools for some reason did not go with the students and the parents and administration of the schools were not warned about the event. Although some of the parents knew and were supportive since “at least the children will earn something”. The majority however caused an uproar.

The mass absence of children at lessons was pointed out by teachers early in the day. The Head of Chyhyryn School No. 3 personally visited each family, trying to find out where the children had got to. It turned out that the children were on Maidan.

Who could have some a deranged idea? Why do it? Not to mention the violation of the Constitution, the Law on Education, a number of articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child! Whose bright idea was it?

Is it not time that the Party of the Regions whose members organized this event did some educational work in their own ranks? 

It would be interesting to know what the Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (the Human Rights Ombudsperson) has to say about this.

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