Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education Olga Petrova said that the department “is intensifying the creation of rooms for children to stay at universities.” She argues that this is necessary for both students and teachers who have children. According to statistics from the Ministry of Education and Science, children's rooms are already open in 36 universities, and 23 have mother and child rooms. The initiative is aimed at supporting the birth rate, but experts believe that it will only work in conjunction with other measures and that children's rooms are needed not only in universities, but also in enterprises.
Deputy Head of the Ministry of Education and Science Olga Petrova suggested increase the number of nurseries at universities “so that young mothers can take care of children while continuing their studies or teaching at a university.” She said this on Sunday at an event in honor of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science: “We are intensifying the creation of rooms for children to stay at universities, this is necessary for both female students and young teachers.”
Let us recall that the Children's Ombudsman of Tatarstan, Irina Volynets, came up with a similar initiative in May 2023. She suggested that the presence of a children's room in educational institutions "will help solve the problem of abandonment of motherhood and will motivate not to postpone pregnancy to a later date." A little later, in the summer of 2023, the first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education, Yana Lantratova (SRZP), proposed a number of measures to support student mothers, including children's rooms. “Both students and teachers with small children asked for the creation of such rooms,” the deputy told Kommersant. “The support program, in my opinion, should be comprehensive.” Among other measures, Ms. Lantratova proposes introducing a ban on the expulsion of pregnant students and young mothers (until the child reaches the age of three years). As well as the development of an individual training plan for such students and financial assistance in the form of scholarships or deferred tuition fees.
The Ministry of Education and Science told Kommersant that it has already developed and sent to universities guidelines for opening short-stay groups for children and mother and child rooms.
“Within these recommendations, the age for children to stay in groups is from one to seven years. Today, such rooms already operate in 36 and 23 universities, respectively,” the department said. “This support measure is implemented by universities if necessary. Premises are allocated on the university site. The university independently decides which premises will be allocated for the mother and child’s room, provided that it meets the requirements presented in the methodological recommendations.”
HSE University opened two such premises in the spring of 2022. “In children's rooms, not only supervision and care of children are provided, but also master classes are held. Administrators travel with children to museums and exhibitions without being accompanied by their parents, which allows them to stay at work or study,” explains HSE Director of Social Work Elena Kakabadze. “The demand for children’s room services from parents, both employees and students, has increased by 32% in 2023 compared to 2022.” However, children over three years old can only be left in such rooms. For the rest, mother and child rooms are provided, but there children must be under the supervision of a parent. The press service of NUST MISIS told Kommersant that they “conduct individual work with students on an ongoing basis and provide targeted support,” but requests for the creation of children’s rooms and similar measures “have never been received.”
“There is international and Russian experience in organizing rooms for children in educational institutions. As a rule, they are opened by educational institutions themselves on their own initiative,” Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights under the President of the Russian Federation, confirmed to Kommersant. She is confident that such a measure will help “at all levels of education,” including “young mothers enrolled in professional retraining or advanced training programs.”
Separately, the Ombudsman noted that it is important to increase the number of nursery groups in kindergartens - “and these measures do not contradict each other, but complement each other.”
Director of the Institute for the Study of Childhood, Family and Education Natalia Agre is confident that the initiative’s message is correct, but it requires “carefully thought-out implementation.” “Creating children’s rooms will require a lot of resources from universities, so you shouldn’t shift the process onto the shoulders of rectors,” the expert is sure. “It’s worth considering the possibility of attaching universities, for example, to nearby kindergartens. So that children remain under the supervision of qualified personnel in places where the system is in place.” Ms. Agre notes that there is a demand for such measures to support mothers with children not only in universities, but also in many enterprises. But they will be effective only if they also affect children under three years of age. “The operating standards of nurseries also need to be updated: a wide network of such institutions and the ability to send a child there without problems will give families confidence when deciding to have children,” the expert concludes.