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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ministry Looks to Screen Teachers

The Education Ministry is drawing up rules that would for the first time bar alcoholics, schizophrenics and pedophiles from being hired as schoolteachers.

While agreeing that the rules are long overdue, critics say the preliminary list is far from ready because, for example, it also bans teachers with poor vision -- a clause that could leave thousands of teachers out of work.

The new rules, which would replace existing guidelines that are all but unenforceable, will set the criteria for who can work with students from 6 to 17 years old, Natalya Kalinnikova, head of the Education Ministry's schools department, said in a telephone interview Monday.

Potential teachers will be barred from classrooms for having health or mental disorders or a criminal record, she said.

Moscow City Duma Deputy Yevgeny Bunimovich said the rules would be a first step toward protecting children's rights.

Bunimovich, who is a math teacher, said teachers have for decades showed little respect for schoolchildren.

"A teacher apologizing to a student is unheard of," Bunimovich said.

Kalinnikova said the Education Ministry had received numerous complaints from parents about their children being mistreated by teachers. She did not elaborate.

Media have carried reports of teachers beating or sexually abusing schoolchildren.

Bunimovich said, however, that the new rules make little sense at the moment given the shortage of people qualified to teach, but could help eliminate those unsuitable for the job when salaries become more competitive.

Teachers are among the lowest-paid workers in the country -- earning 1,200 rubles to 2,450 rubles per month (about $40 to $75) -- and in recent years they have had to wait months for their salaries.

Faced with a severe shortage of qualified candidates, school principals often are forced to hire staff who have received little or no training, preferring to have any kind of teacher rather than no teacher in the classroom.

"Restrictions apply in various occupations and fields, and I do not see why it should be different with schools," said Boris Altshuler, head of the nonprofit organization Rights of the Child.

He suggested, however, that the Education Ministry seek an independent evaluation of the list before handing it over to the Cabinet to make sure "ridiculous" restrictions such as poor vision are crossed off.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov will have to sign off on the rules.