In the run-up to the New Year holidays we receive numerous messages regarding children of school and pre-school ages being involved in the forthcoming large-scale events. Moreover, the local authorities often demand that children wear a standard uniform and oblige parents to buy it.
How lawful are the actions of the regional authorities, education boards and school administration in such cases? We have addressed this question to our colleagues from Turkmenistan's Independent Lawyers Association.
Response: Pursuant to the Charter of the general education institution of Turkmenistan, all students of these establishments are obliged to wear the standard uniform. Students' parents must provide school uniforms for their children. The local administrations must render financial assistance to low income families to provide them with school uniforms.
In this case, children involved in the crowd scenes for the New Year celebrations at the initiative of organizations or schools wear clothes different from a school uniform.
For this reason these organizations or schools are obliged to provide children with special clothes, white jackets in this case, at their expense. The children's parents who are urged to make a money contribution of 600 manats to buy white jackets can refuse to buy these jackets without any consequences, and can even stop their children from taking part in such events.
The New Year events are held at the initiative of any government agencies willing to demonstrate their efforts and zealousness and the ability to organize large-scale events. However, the country's residents (in this case schoolchildren) can participate in these events only on a voluntary basis. This is envisaged in clause 11, article 40 of Turkmenistan's Law On education as of 4 May 2013, which runs: Forcing students of educational establishments to join public and political associations, movements and parties as well as forcibly involving them to take part in such activities and participate in propaganda and political campaigns is not allowed.
Based on this article the parents of students have every right to stop their children even from participating in numerous events during the President's trips to various Turkmen regions. It is an open secret that, in an attempt to demonstrate their good performance, the local authorities forcibly urge students of secondary schools to attend the venues attended by the President. Children must stand along roads and streets for hours, both in winter cold and summer heat, awaiting the President's arrival.
If the school administration or the local authorities do demand that children take part in large-scale events under their conditions (purchasing special clothes or various symbols), and at the same time threaten parents that in case of their refusal children might face problems, parents need to contact the administration of these schools (organizations) with a request to stop such unlawful practices. It is advisable to do so in a written form. We would also recommend submitting a complaint against the unlawful actions of an official to the Prosecutor's office at the place of residence. In specific cases parents have a legitimate right to petition the court to seek justice and defend their rights as stipulated by the law. These rights are provided for in clause 2, article 42 of the aforementioned law which states that parents (or individuals replacing them) of minor students have the right to choose the form of training, educational establishments, protect legal rights and interests of the child until the latter completes compulsory secondary schooling
After the publication of this article those who have experience in similar cases contacted us to give advice. In their opinion, it is better to file joint complaints as the authorities respond to them in a prompt and serious manner. Moreover, it is easier for a person to sign a joint letter rather than submit a personal complaint.
It is recommended to send an original of the letter to the Prosecutor's office and copies to the organizations whose illegal actions the complaint is filed against.
We are grateful for advice. Hopefully both recommendations will be used by schoolchildren's parents.
Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan