Trials of Sannikov and Bondarenko
On 26-27 April trials of a former presidential candidate Alexander Sannikov and his proxy Dmitry Bondarenko opened. The latter was sentenced to 2 years of minimum security prison term.
As we have anticipated, 19 December aftermath trials follow the line of softening of the charges. The first penalties to active participants of the demonstration in Minsk were the most severe (up to 4 years of imprisonment), while the charges against many other senior organizers of the protests were changed in the course of the investigation to the Article 342 of the Criminal Code. D. Bondarenko was sentenced to a 2-year prison term under the Article 342 which envisages imprisonment up to 3 years.
Charges against Sannikov Statkevich and Uss remained unchanged, i.e. Article 293 of the Criminal Code (mass rioting), which implies imprisonment up to 15 years. The Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs previously issued a statement, that investigators had sufficient evidence proving the involvement of these politicians in the organization of rioting, therefore one should expect the most severe punishment in their regard. The trail of Andrey Sannikov is expected to resume on 4 May.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.