Institutional residence and recycling bad rubbish – Education UkraineAugust 15, 2015
A somewhat, although not entirely depressing article relating to the education system, and in particular retarded incidents in what have been otherwise rather successful reforms within Ukrainian education under Minister Kvit was published recently by the Atlantic Council recently.
The impression given is one of an outplayed education minister by students qualifying that don;t even attend, and amongst others a wily Dmitry Firtash inserting his nefarious candidates within newly created independent bodies, together with institutional residence highlighted by incidents such as the election of education officials into local seats of power, having the day before been arrested for accepting bribes related to education.
But has Mr Kvit has been outplayed?
His reforms and reformation processes have been thoughtfully put together and, in a rarity for Ukraine, actually implemented thus far. He is more than half way through the reforms he wants to make, but nowhere near completing his programme.
As Minister, he is charged with, and is, delivering structural change within a previously very centralised and extremely corrupt ministry – and that rightly includes the creation of independent oversight bodies separate of government influence, be they national or regional in nature.
In creating and implementing an independent National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, quite rightly the Ministry of Education did not attempt to prevent the election of Viktor Bondarenko, Yuri Dudnik and Sergey Hrapatyy to the independent body’s leadership – this despite all three being very much involved in the highly corrupt acts of the Education Ministry under the leadership of Dmitry Tabachnik, and the fact all three were actually subject to “lustration” by Mr Kvit when he assumed control of the Education Ministry.
As stated here the day when the “Lustration Law” was signed by President Poroshenko, “There is also a question of what then to do with all the lustrated? It is one thing to raise sufficient doubt about lifestyles far beyond declared means ultimately resulting in a lustration from office – but perhaps quite another matter to provide evidence of specific crimes sufficient for trial and incarceration.
A well educated, affluent, corrupt, well connected, ethically bankrupt and embittered set of people in large enough numbers could become a shadow civil service administration, together with a shadow legal and law enforcement system, given the right encouragement and backing – and you don’t need to look far within the Ukrainian neighbourhood for those prepared to provide that encouragement and backing.”
And so it proves to be, as foreseen at the time, that with the encouragement and backing (in this case) from the Dmitry Firtash controlled Employers Federation, these three nefarious, lustrated, but otherwise “unconvicted” individuals received more than enough votes to return these former corrupt and previously lustrated Education Ministry employees into influential positions close to the heart of the education once again – albeit in newly created independent entities rather than within State policy making itself.
Likewise, the fact that Petro Buryak was reelected as the Rector of the Lviv Finance Academy within 24 hours of his arrest for taking a $2000 bribe by a reasonable majority of his peers is not to fault of any structural reforms instigated by Mr Kvit. It is a result of institutional resistance and nefarious collusion within the regional institutional elites of the education system in Lviv.
In short, that Messrs Buryak in Lviv and Bondarenko, Dudnik and Hrapatyy now of the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education are still at liberty to assume these positions despite their clearly nefarious and corrupt activities prior to their election within such educational bodies is a failure not of the Education Ministry or Mr Kvit, but a failure of the rule of law and the ability/willingness to jail people by those running Ukraine responsible for the rule of law.
Messrs Bondarenko, Dudnik and Hrapatyy may well have been lustrated by Mr Kvit when he assumed the Education Ministry in order to remove bad rubbish from the system – but it is the role of the Militsia, prosecutors and the courts to investigate, subject them to judicial process and ultimately jail them (if there be sufficient evidence) for corruption.
It would seem quite impossible to assume any effective role within the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education if sat in a prison cell for a few years. That they do not sit there is not the responsibility of Mr Kvit, the Ministry of Education nor his reform policy, new structures and associated processes.
Likewise, Mr Buryak, having been caught red handed accepting a $2000 bribe, when the legal wheels turn, should find himself in prison – and the Lviv Finance Academy should find itself requiring another Rector.
Yet few would have confidence that any of these nefarious and odious individuals will actually see a trial – let alone a prison cell.
Mr Kvit, having thus far implemented just over 50% of his reform plans for Ukrainian education, is not responsible for policing or judicial processes that would rightly have prevented the specific incidents and persons outlined above having any influence or involvement in education within Ukraine. These specific incidents are not a reflection of failed/flawed education policy, or structural change within the education ministry. They are an indicator of the absence of will to put previously/current corrupt people of regional and national influence in jail.
Should Messrs Buryak, Bondarenko, Dudnik and Hrapatyy all subsequently be jailed for their corrupt and criminal activities (however unlikely that is), then the new structures and right-minded policy behind them still remain – and would work well if the vacancies were filled with the morally upright and ethically robust.
Mr Kvit and his reforms are bound by the rule of law and equally as importantly the ethics behind any reforms he makes. There is a limitation to the disciplinary actions the Education Ministry has over those within its competence – and a deliberate distancing from newly established independent bodies by design.
If the reforms of Mr Kvit within the Education Ministry are suffering by way of setbacks (temporary or otherwise) due to the return or retention of corrupt people – those setbacks are as a result of the lack of reform and lack of will elsewhere within government and the rule of law/judicial machinery to jail those who should not be at liberty to take up such positions in the first place.
The weakness in any system involving people, are the people themselves. There is no such thing as zero corruption, there is no such thing as 100% security, and there is no such thing as flawless and easy reform when institutional resistance and vested interests are enriching and entrenched. It is a long and bumpy road requiring both unfailing horizontal and vertical (top down and bottom up) support.
There are perhaps ways to mitigate (but not eliminate) school directors/university rectors soliciting bribes for entry into their State funded seats of learning – e-registration, e-clearance, Ministry corruption hot lines etc (the more face to face interaction removed the harder it is to solicit bribes) but State education is necessarily facilitated by face to face interaction between student and teacher. An educator intent upon soliciting a bribe – be it for entry to a particular establishment, grades (marked up, or indeed down without due payment of a bribe), acceptance of ghost written, or simply plagiarised work and resulting certification is both and institutional and cultural issue that will take some time to reverse – even if offenders are caught and (however unlikely) jailed by the score.
Despite all the rhetoric from the Ukrainian leadership, and it has to be said those that are politically and diplomatically supporting purported reforms, there has been no attempt, no public campaign (sporadic or continuous) – to change the cultural acceptance of corruption.
There are long standing (now almost subliminal campaigns so long-standing and frequent are they) regarding contraception (featuring a pretty blonde getting ready to go out and a soldier preparing for war – the climax being the young lady dropping a condom into her handbag before having a night out and he heading to the front line after donning a helmet), but there is nothing (zero, nyeto, sweet f**k all) by way of a “Just say “No” to corruption” campaign permanently oozing from the television, radio, on-line advertising, big board space etc in a similar manner to that of condoms and the STD protection they provide.
That 34% of Ukrainian students claim to have personally been exposed to academically associated corruption is no surprise. That Mr Kvit has stripped 70 universities of their accreditation is also no surprise. Indeed, both figures are quite possibly lower than may be expected. A truly independent National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, as a policy, and as designed structurally as an entity, is indeed the right way to go, despite any current (hopefully temporary) setbacks.
It is far too early to decide whether Mr Kvit has been outplayed – if indeed he has been outplayed at all.
There is far more chance of Mr Kvit being badly let down by those in government that surround him, and by the institutions that are tasked with investigating, judging and jailing those that can temporarily (or perhaps permanently) slow policy/reform and frustrate/contaminate necessarily independent bodies.
To bang the blog drum one more time (although certainly not the last time) – Rule of law, structure, sustainability.
Without any one of these three reinforcing elements, any reform in any ministry will fail. If Mr Kvit has the policy/reform structure right, and if that structure is fair and sustainable in a rules/law based environment, then where are we left to look when it comes to the weak link? Rule of law as always!