Add a comment
The Poltava boarding school for orphans and children without parental care was built in the 60-ies on the verge of the Zaporozhye region - 30 kilometers from the town of Gulyaipole. The big three-storey residential building is adjacent to the identical solid educational bloc of the school. And they are surrounded by a whole group of domestic (economic and household) buildings of smaller size.
Having existed for over 40 years, in 1996 the boarding school was shut down for reconstruction due to poor sanitation. By 2013, the boarding school was neither opened nor repaired, although considerable budgetary funds were spent on construction works. At present, the boarding school is being transferred from regional submission to the district one. The next step, apparently, would be complete elimination and dismantling of the facilities. "Prav.Da" did its best to comprehend how it is possible to finance an orphanage with no children for 17 years and why regional authorities spend millions of our hryvnias for repairs of institutions which later they will simply close.
Is there anyone alive?
In order to find the village of Poltavka, we had to wander for 30 kilometers from the town of Gulyaipole along the roads which had never been repaired. On our way, we saw neither oncoming nor passing cars. The back of beyond. But when we got to the place, we managed to find the boarding school right away. The two high-rise buildings are noticeable in a small village with capable population, according to the last election, fewer than 700 people. There are no signs, no gate. Some chickens are roaming in the yard at the back of which one can see remains of a sports ground half destroyed by local lovers of free scrap. We get in. Dozens of plastic windows stare at us from top downward, their whiteness stands out against a background of faded, cracked walls. Then we notice a bicycle on the porch of one of the three-story buildings. We push the blue creaking door and get into a dark corridor with a string of closed doors to the right and to the left. We hear TV buzz behind one of the doors. In a small room near the heater, we find a woman and introduce ourselves.
- The director is not here, he is in Gulyaipole, - the woman responds to our question. It is bitterly cold in the room.
- Do you have any heating here at all?
- We had in spring but in autumn they decided that it would do, - the woman-guard replied, unaware that according to the papers, expenses for coal heating for the boarding school in 2013 are supposed to be the same as they were in 2012.
We ask for director’s contact phone number, but Vasily Fidryk appears in Poltavka as if he felt that we were looking for him. Again, we introduce ourselves.
- I'll show you whatever you say - the man replies. And for some reason, he adds, “We are here until the New Year. I’ve got no idea how we will turn it over to the District Council...
Black Construction Hole
"Whatever you say" is, first of all, a residential building. In addition to the previously mentioned plastic windows, the wiring was completely replaced in its three-floored womb (kilometers of lifeless wires were hanging from the ceiling), and new radiators were installed (must admit, we double-checked if they were really new as they definitely didn’t look like new ones). Moreover, most of the residential building was constructed from scratch - concrete walls were torn down and replaced with drywalls. The quantity of materials used for this construction procedure must be measured in hundreds of square meters. In this case, the interior of the residential housing was redone - it was necessary due to non-compliance with fire safety regulations, as the erected corridors were too narrow.
We pass the inner yard in the midst of which we see a tractor on both deflated wheels looking like an iceberg near a stack of removed floors. Between the two buildings next to the boiler room, we notice another one-storey building looking new comparing to the ramshackle facilities. It turns out to be a dining-hall built in the early 2000’s.
The educational building looks even worse. Inside it is completely demolished - bare walls, piles of desks and chairs, construction debris. But the windows are high, snow-white, plastic ones. It is amazing how they manage not to fall out of the old cracked window openings.
Just think, at the same time in the special secondary boarding school in Gulyaipole, in which there are 163 children according to the information provided by the Zaporozhye regional public administration as a response to our inquiry, not all windows are plastic...
Construction for a Million
If one wants to know the cost of all this blast which will soon become no one's, he can get only a rough idea. For example, based on the Resolution # 531 of Cabinet of Ministers dated August 4th, 2008 "On approval of the list of facilities financed in 2008 at the expense of subventions from the state budget to local budgets for social and economic development". This document contains the list of objects including the Poltavka boarding school. Estimated cost of the object is almost 14 million hryvnias (13,945 million UAH or 170,000 US dollars). Balance as of January 1 is 10.6 million, which means that 3.5 million UAH was thrown in the construction before 2008. And only Department of Capital Construction is aware of how much was spent from 2008 till 2013. Because it was this organization (not the Department of Education) that has been the Customer and General Contractor of the construction and reconstruction of the Poltavka boarding school during all this time.
Also, there was a mixup with the contractors - they were changed a few times. The first one was "Agrostroy" which went broke, the next one was JSC "MK-Profi".
The second interesting point related to the boarding school is that despite the fact that there are no children in the establishment, it has been funded for 17 years. And this financing is quite considerable. Here are the figures for the last five years, provided by Viktor Zakharchuk, Acting Director of Education and Science Department of the State Administration as "Prav.Da"’s inquiry response: for the year of 2009 – 389,000 UAH or 47,180 US dollars, 2010 – 422,000 UAH or 51,000 US dollars, 2011 – 527,000 UAH or 63,917 US dollars, 2012 – 468,000 UAH or 56,761 US dollars. This year's financing of the not working boarding school reached its maximum – 538,000 UAH or 65,251 US dollars.
These amounts include salary (yes, people continue to work in the boarding school), extra charges, taxes, business trips expenses, charges for water, electricity, purchase of coal as well as some "items, materials and so on".
Totally, more than 2 million 344 thousand UAH (242,000 US dollars) for the last 5 years. And who knows how much was spent for 17 years?
Regarding the employees of the Poltavka boarding school, according to the staff list for 2013 this establishment has 12.2 basic rates for director, associate director for administrative part, the chief accountant, four guards, a driver, four workers for maintenance and operation of the boiler (three rates are only open for a heating season). Salaries of the personnel are low but ... If a minimum wage of a guard is multiplied by 12 months and then by 17 years...
According to the Department of Education and Science of State Administration, Regional Council has nothing to do with the Poltavka boarding school and now this is a headache of Gulyaipole District Council. "In accordance with the Decision # 54 of Zaporozhye Regional Council dated 30.05.2013 "On changes in the joint ownership of territorial communities of villages, towns, cities of the Zaporozhye region" a petition to district council of Gulyaipole, Zaporozhye region, was filed regarding transfer of real property assets of the Poltavka boarding school for orphans and children without parental care from common property of territorial communities of villages, cities of the Zaporozhye region into the common property of territorial communities of villages, settlement and the town of Gulyaipole district". The reply further stated that on August 15th this year, "assets" were turned over to common property of territorial communities of Gulyaipole region.
Meanwhile, people in the orphanage say that at present the establishment is still listed on the balance of the the Zaporozhye region. The Gulyaipole District Council only agreed to receive it, but hasn’t accepted yet. The process of turning over and acceptance should only be finalized at the session of the regional council. But, apparently, this will not be the end of the ordeal of this orphanage, and the district council will turn the boarding school over to the village council.
By the way, the official reason of folding up the boarding school is also very interesting. "Since 2009 (1,488) till 2013 (633) their (orphans – editor) number has decreased by 863 that meets standard filling of four boarding schools," – is written in the official response of the Department of Education and Science to the inquiry of "Prav.Da". Last orphans left the boarding school in 1996. Notably, according to the director, it happened due to non-compliance of the building to sanitary norms and standards.
What does it have to do with orphans decline in 2009?
Tidbit or Free-Wheeling School?
"Prav.Da" learned about existence of funded and endlessly repaired but absolutely empty boarding school in the the Zaporozhye region thanks to "Happy Child" charity foundation. Back in early 2013, its staff attended educational institution "without contingent", as it is listed in the official papers.
"We are publishing this material hoping to find an organization or a government institution that will give regional authorities an idea how to use the boarding school. Otherwise, in a few years there will be no other options but to leave the school facilities to be dismantled for construction material,"- is said in the article published on the fund’s website.
Indeed, there were a few attempts to decide what to do with the boarding school. According to the school director a few years ago the school was supposed to be repurposed into a geriatric clinic, and it was the reason of inspection of representatives of Social Protection Department Commission in Poltavka. Also, it was suggested to open a psycho-neurological nursing home here. It turned out that creating such an institution from scratch in a remote area is not economically feasible. It looks like it is more profitable to keep spending money on a permanent construction.
After all, meaningless 17-year upkeep of staff and multimillion construction can be understood if an orphanage or another establishment was scheduled to be opened one day. But, apparently, the boarding school will only exist until the end of 2013 and after that, it will be shut down. One does not have to be a financier to realize that the budget of the district council, and, especially, the budget of the village council wouldn't shoulder such a burden any more.
By the way, there is no director at this boarding school anymore as for quite some time Vasily Fidryk is just an acting director.
- The best we could do is to take a new single-storey building and use it as a family-type orphanage. We can’t cope with large buildings, - Albert Pavlov, Director of the "Happy Child" Foundation is trying to find a solution as he has long been engaged in the problems of orphans and boarding schools. - If the building happens to be a castaway, we could use the construction materials to build some family-type children’s homes. It’s also possible to preserve some of the building and let someone use floor rooms / space. We have to look for a solution. To look for persons interested. To issue a call. But our problem is that everything is being done sneakily and in hugger-mugger.
The big question
Having examined the situation with Poltavka boarding school, "Prav.Da" has only one question to regional authorities represented by Alexander Peklushenko and Victor Mezheyko, “What on earth was it?” Was it glaring mismanagement of regional authorities who have spent millions to renovate the building that nobody wants? Was it a try to get rid of the object in the construction of which oodles of budgetary funds was thrown? And what is going to happen with the two golden, in the truest sense of this word, buildings in the nearest future? Will they rot on the outskirts of the region? Or maybe everything will be stolen by locals and non-locals? Will it be used as a boarding school or clinic or rehabilitation center for drug addicts? Or perhaps all this was done only for further turning the former boarding school over to an agribusiness to be used as an office?
One thing is pretty clear - orphans will see none of these plastic windows, radiators or walls.
This publication related with such categories:
Publications made by Happy Child, Ukraine