The Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade (MART), together with the Ministry of Education in Belarus, is working to identify and suppress the spread of advertisement and promotion about the educational opportunities of Belarusians abroad. This shrinks young people’s and students’ opportunities to study abroad, get quality education and develop themselves as well-educated citizens. Moreover, the youth NGOs working with international projects face many challenges and get censored by the government a lot, as any type of information about the youth mobility opportunities or media publications, call for participants should be agreed with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
New Censorship for education abroad
The main thing we lost is the feeling of safeness, and the consequences are obvious: lack of freedom, no opportunity to assemble, no freedom of speech and total absence of pluralism. Previously, before the political protests all around the country started, the feeling of deprivation of freedom was not so tangible and visible, because the government worked hard to pretend to be a liberal and democratic country, although almost everyone knew the truth.
Օne of the painful topics for youth is the education abroad because we have a tendency that more and more students move abroad to study, that is why in June 2020 a rule was introduced that said you can't discuss or promote some educational programs that take place abroad without the permission of the Ministry of Education. Officials say this is done for the Belarusian youth not to be deceived by the illegal advertisement.
As reported on the website of the Ministry of Education, now the concept of "advertising" includes information about the impressions of citizens about their studies and the peculiarities of education in certain foreign educational institutions. Such information must be coordinated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Education.
Today, according to UNESCO, about 24 thousand citizens of Belarus study abroad. Hundreds of people leave for exchange, under various programs, including those financed within the framework of the support by the European Union. The well-known European program ERASMUS+ for youth allowed Belarusians not only to study abroad, but also to improve the material base of the universities. Currently they create conditions where Belarusians cannot share their experience without the permission of the government.
The introduction of the new rule probably will affect youth NGOs and non-formal education provided by them. The officials take education, on the whole, not distinguishing between higher education, master's degree or anything strictly formal. Under this term, they underline the word "education" only, which can mean anything. In Belarus, the government normally interprets the law the way it wants to. In this situation, the youth organisations which are working mainly with Erasmus+ programme and Mobility, according to this "innovation" have to formally ask the Ministry of Education if their articles or workshop or anything connected with studying abroad meet their absurd requirements.
This is something new, and that happened when I had already moved to Poland, nevertheless lots of pressure in this respect was felt even a long time ago, they just decided to legitimize this pressure now. If you go from your university to some European country in the framework of Erasmus+, you have to share the experience from the angle that university considers "appropriate", so this way your experiences turn into the propaganda Belarusian authorities use on a daily basis.
All in all, they aim to prevent students from moving abroad or from "seeing a new reality" that is definitely much more respectful and people-oriented than the Belarusian one. One interesting fact shows why they are so worried: since 1990 almost one million people, mainly young, have moved abroad and have never come back.
Anton Savitskiy – student