Day-Care Centers Losing their Buildings in Russia

Children.  Source: mkset.ruHuman rights activists are reporting the extreme violation of children’s rights in Moscow and across Russia. Publicly-owned buildings that house state-run daycare centers, kindergartens and educational facilities are being closed by government officials and businesses, with their tenants evicted. They are subsequently rebuilt as offices and banks, or turned into other commercial ventures. Other state-owned buildings, including union houses and hospitals are also at risk. The process, called “raiding,” is more commonly associated with the armed take-overs of business assets by hired security squads (Read more here and here). But children’s centers remain at risk.

“The problem of the seizure and closure of children’s educational institutions remains throughout Russia,” said Sergei Komkov, the president of the All-Russian Education Fund. Komkov, an academic in the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and a member of the Moscow Writer’s Union, was speaking at a press conference on the dramatic problems faced by day-care centers.

Participants of the conference described methods used to take over properties, from illegally re-zoning the land to literally destroying buildings to make them uninhabitable. Two so-called “raiding plans” are used. Under the first, buildings in prime locations are simply rented to an organization other than the daycare. The new group then demolishes the building and re-develops the land commercially. In the second case, buildings are transferred directly to companies and redesigned into banks and offices.

“When a day care is located in a convenient recreation area, where a large investment project can be built, raiders do everything to demolish it,” Komkov said. “There are very many instances of the direct destruction of day-cares in Moscow.”

Over the past 12 years, some 700 Moscow day-cares have transformed into offices that no longer serve any educational purposes. Meanwhile, the city has a deficit of education centers for children, with some 60 thousand youths who cannot be placed in the existing day-care system. Only 100 new day-cares have been set up to replace those destroyed, and only after a city directive to build new centers passed in 2007.

According to UNESCO, some 2 million 300 thousand school-age children are not receiving an education in Russia. Komkov blamed this in part on the destruction of schools and educational facilities in the country.

Elena Martysheva, the Director of the “Aspects of Education” Center, and an international children’s activist, spoke of the takeover of a children’s center associated with her group in July 2007. In that case, Globex Bank took possession of their building, and would not even let Martysheva in to gather things from her office. The new owners then destroyed the Center’s property. Appeals to the prefecture, the militsiya and the prosecutor general’s office proved fruitless. Law enforcement called the case a “dispute between business entities” and refused to act.

According to Martysheva, the new occupants also gained access to the school’s files and documents, which contained confidential information. By law, only the Center’s employees are allowed to handle such paperwork.

Anatoly Karpov, the Chairman of the Russian Peace Foundation and former world chess champion, commented on Martysheva’s case. He explained that during a change of ownership, a building’s new owners may only enter the premises with a court-order on hand and the militsiya present. Globex did not have either.

Karpov went on to explain what happened next as deliberate acts to make the building uninhabitable. Globex then used the new damage as a pretext to file paperwork saying it was impossible to keep the building for its intended educational use. The children’s center was subsequently demolished.