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Schoolboy from St. Petersburg creates a professional union. What students aspire for

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Evegniya Altfeld, reporter: “This seemingly ordinary school in Ozerki is now known not only in St. Petersburg, but everywhere across Russia as the cradle of school professional union movement. Which sets ambitious tasks, which their teachers would’ve been proud of. Not the actual ones, but those from the world history”

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Trendy clothes and flashy headphones. From the first look, Leonid Shaidurov looks like any St. Petersburg teenager – except, maybe, a Lenin badge he wears. He has studied Leninism and Marxism in detail – after he saw Lenin’s book in the library and started reading it. It becomes clear from the first exchange that this young man is seriously smart.

Leonid Shaidurov, student of 10th grade at gymnasium #622: “We want to achieve the organization of…”

  • Leonid, lets speak simpler. No need for these complexities

  • We want to fulfill the minimum plan stage by stage and then fulfill the maximum plan. Reach the regional level after that and fight for the change in education system.

The school professional union became known of thanks to the conflict between the student and the principal at gymnasium #622. Leonid and his mates gathered a meeting at a stadium. Here’s the picture of that gathering. The school’s administration suspected a protest action there. Talks with Leonid ensued, with his mother – who also works at this same school and deals with rooting out extremism – was also brought into the principal’s office. And really – her son doesn’t have any extreme ideas. There is a minimum plan, adopted unanimously by Leonid’s movement. Everything new is well-forgotten old.

Point 1. One school day cannot have more than two tests

Point 2. Paired classes must be abolished – meaning same classes cannot be held back-to-back

Point 3. The system of class elders must be abolished and replaced by a more active structure – professional union.

Point 4. Allowing self-expression to the students. The professional union does not stand against school uniforms, but demands that students are allowed to wear jewelry and chose the color and style for their hair

  • You have red hair? I read somewhere that you had red hair

  • No. But I am concerned about others. That demands of other students have to be satisfied

This isn’t something new. Children in all times and epochs have been fighting against “oppressors” from the education system. Like characters of “Shkid Republic” book – almost a hundred years ago.

Today’s teenagers have technology to help them fight their battle. A social media page is the main tool. Character from Italian story “Cipolino” as an avatar – the onion who fought for the rights of fellow vegetables. The “music” section carries revolutionary songs, “pictures” carry photos and quotes of leaders. Leonid has been working as an editor at “Proletarian Newspaper” for the second year running – and presented us with a fresh copy.

The front page has the story of revolutionary Concordia Samoilova, student at Bestuzhev’s classes. But the idea of forming a union came to Leonid from the actions of American students of the 1970s – who even managed to get free lunches. However, according to historian Borislav Bogoyavlenskiy, creation of a school professional union is unprecedented for world history. Professional unions were born in late 19-th century England.

  • Those trade unions became the start of it all. Then it was picked up by students and workers from other industries. And it is very important that it happens in Russia – where the President talks about developing the civil society. So let it develop and let’s welcome that

The story of this schoolboy from St. Petersburg got the attention of the Education Committee – which said that it always welcomed creative initiatives. St. Petersburg has more than a thousand of different movements for school students. From upper-class-students council to ecology groups. And all new movements have to be regulated with school authorities. But while Leonid Shaidurov and his mates are in opposition, he is being advised to hold a dialogue with legitimate activists of his age.

Andrey Bogdantsev, head of additional education department at the Education Committee: “This dialogue has been brewing among that school’s students for some time, so we need to organize it at one of the city’s venues”.

In essence, this school union wants less workload – something that both students and their parents are complaining about. As well as a real dialogue between the children and the school authorities, right for self-expression – without neglecting the school uniform. But most importantly – these millennials want to be heard. Something many adults have been desiring too.

These children have mastered complicated information technologies better than their parents. They are quick and effective – and are able to carry their message to the world in minutes. A pre-schooler who earns millions for his family is a reality today. Like the 6-year-old blogger who made toy review videos and made the Forbes list. They cannot be suppressed, they need to be listened to and heard – otherwise a social explosion scarier than any revolution would be inevitable.

Elena Mettus, head of psychological and medical center at gymnasium #56: “It’s naïve to expect teenagers to walk in lines and become members of organizations that we like. If we pressurized them and neglect them – they will always be aggressive and rebellious”.

Any psychologist would tell you – only a dialogue is possible with teenagers. Ordering them around and disregarding them would cause them to rebel. Needlessly and mercilessly. And we are talking about the generation which is now 16 years of age. They will turn into adults soon – and will be the ones deciding what happens with the city and the country,

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