Concerns over Kohtla-Järve pupils expressing support for Putin regime
Students at a school in Ida-Viru County have raised concerns with authorities in expressing support for the Putin regime in Russia in the wake of that country's invasion of Ukraine, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Tuesday.
Students at the Järve basic school in Kohtla-Järve have cut "Z"-marks in their hair, AK reported, referring to the symbol which appeared in early images from the conflict, painted on Russian military vehicles and originally thought to be used for rendezvous and identification purposes by the invaders.
Others informed the teacher that they, the teacher, had been giving them misinformation on the situation in Ukraine.
The school's acting principal, Stella Onkel, told AK that the school had talked to the parents of the students in question.
She said: "We made things clear with these boys and their parents, and the parents were very surprised by what their children were saying at school."
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, seven separate cases surrounding the topic of the war in schools and its interface with family life in students' cases have reached the education ministry, AK reported.
Teachers, as well as school managers and students, have been approached.
Part of the problem, in the case of the Kohtla-Järve school, has related to students whose family uses a language other than Estonian – meaning Russian – at home. The school is the only basic school (Põhikool) in the town of 32,000 where Estonian is the language of instruction, and the bulk of its 300 students come from a Russian-speaking home or a bilingual, Russian/Estonian-speaking home.
Onkel said: "Almost 70 percent of the students at the Kohtla-Järve School are children from families with different languages, who inhabit different information spaces. A child often talks directly about what they have seen and heard. They can get confused when he hears something else at school that they are not used to."
Kohtla-Järve's city government says it wants to mediate in the issue, including via the use of neutral mental health professionals.
Kristiine Agu, the city's deputy mayor, said: "In the near future, we will arrange a meeting for students and teachers with a crisis psychologist and contact the psychological center."
The school's own board of trustees recommended providing more, accurate information on the conflict, in the native language of the students.
Board member Eduard Odinets said: "This topic of war and security is so important, complex and emotional that children may not understand it properly. In a similar way, we have suggested that parents be spoken to in a language they understand better also."
Ida-Viru County lies in the northeast of Estonia, and many of its towns, including Kohtla-Järve, are majority Russian-speaking.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte