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Late-night schooling keeps children off the streets

RUSSIA

SCHOOL authorities in Moscow are planning to keep pupils in school until 10 o'clock at night.

More than 200 schools will take part in a pilot project starting in September, which will allow them to remain open late so that pupils can either do their homework under the guidance of teachers or take part in extra-curricular activities.

Yevgeny Bunimovich, a Moscow city duma (council) deputy, said: "The main aim is to keep children whose parents work, busy and away from the dangers of the streets."

Mr Bunimovich, also a maths teacher, added: "Some schools will only stay open until five or six in the evening, but others will allow children to remain there until 10 o'clock."

He explained: "It is a revival of an old Soviet programme called prodlyonka that gives students the option to stay after school to complete their homework. But the new programme will be more structured and offer other activities such as sport and music."

The programme, which is free to all students, has cost around 600 million roubles (pound;12.5m).

But Yelena Birukova, editor of educational publication September 1, is sceptical. "Everybody agrees that something should be done to help schoolchildren, but you do not solve their problems by merely dropping them off at school all day," she said.

Parent Oksana Vlasova, who has a 12-year-old daughter, added: "Children are already burdened with too much homework. I'm afraid that if they begin the extra-school activities, they won't have any time left for themselves."

Russia's economic turmoil of the 1990s led to huge cutbacks in social projects such as sports and cultural centres, and many city duma representatives believe this led to an increase in drug abuse and crime among the young.

Mr Bunimovich said he believed this project would help stop juvenile delinquency. "By keeping students busy after school they are not only learning something new but are staying on the straight and narrow."

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