16 november 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a working meeting with head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs Vasily Yakemenko

The Prime Minister and the federal agency head discussed the agency’s key areas of activity, including issues regarding physical training at schools, promoting healthy lifestyles among young people. Special attention was paid to a programme for preparing the young to be responsible homeowners as well as the patriotic education of young people.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Yakemenko, the agency has taken on several interesting directions. The first deals with the supervision of state bodies and managing companies in housing and utilities. The second, as I know, is your involvement in issues regarding physical training at schools, which you at least plan to pursue. Please, describe it.

Vasily Yakemenko: We are really working on this, rather than just planning to do so. In the last forty years physical training lessons at schools have not changed a bit: children jump over the pommel horse exactly the way I did some thirty years ago. But the problem is not just about the pommel horse; it is about improving health, about getting kids involved in interesting sports activities – today's lessons solve none of those tasks. That's why we have developed a programme on promoting healthy lifestyles among young people.

We are working to solve three tasks. The first is to stimulate interest in children towards modern sports programmes. These programmes do not require any additional equipment and are extremely popular among young people all over the world; they also produce good physical fitness results and pose no health threats. The second is creating healthy food habits. It is no secret that young people in Russia do not know what to eat, how to eat, how regular, the sources of their food, nutritional value of products, and so on, and so they cannot develop healthy eating habits to reach the peak of their physical fitness.

Vladimir Putin: The main thing is to have money to buy food.

Vasily Yakemenko: This is very important. And, of course, we consider the conditions that young people are living in across all the regions.

Third direction is monitoring one's own health. Young people neglect this issue, nobody tells them to take care of it.

We have developed the relevant project, and now it is being tested at the Sholokhov Moscow State University for Humanities and a number of schools in Moscow and Samara. By the summer of 2011 we will submit an educational and methodological package to the Education Ministry to develop a model programme for schools. Actually we want to replace the current three PT lessons at schools with lessons on healthy habits. This is the first programme we are involved in. We expect to give such lessons at schools in several regions, in Moscow and Samara as I have already said, from September 2011, at least as an experiment.

Vladimir Putin: The current PT lessons should be adjusted rather than eliminated. What you mean by healthy habits? Will students continue to participate in sports at schools?

Vasily Yakemenko: They will continue to participate in the sports programmes that interest them, that will be popular among young people and that will produce clear results.

Vladimir Putin: The second point is really important. What is popular changes so quickly. What we need is basic, fundamental lessons. Are you preparing these proposals jointly with the Ministry of Education?

Vasily Yakemenko: We have been preparing the project independently. Then we will submit to the Ministry of Education the programmes that have been thoroughly worked through and tested, so that they can develop a common programme for schools and adjust the standards. And lessons will be conducted within that framework.

Vladimir Putin: Good.

Vasily Yakemenko: Mr Putin, the second programme I wanted to tell you about is aimed at preparing young people to be responsible homeowners. Oddly enough, many of them are sincerely concerned about issues related to housing and utilities, utility prices, and energy-saving technology. We hope to redirect some of those studying law and economics, areas with limited job opportunities, toward the housing and utilities sector.

As far as we understand it, the reformed housing and utilities sector will provide tens of thousands of jobs in homeowners' committee chairs – jobs paid for from sources other than the treasury. Thousands of young people are currently undergoing training to qualify for these positions. I'd like to briefly describe what such specialists do in practical terms.

Their primary responsibility will be to exert public control over managing companies. Specifically, they will inform tenants about the prices of utilities, while also controlling the quality of services provided and teaching trouble-shooting techniques. Their job will also involve making requests with managing companies, filing complaints with inspectors, and publicity, sometimes calling media attention to problem areas.

Another important responsibility will be to raise environmental awareness among the public, primarily by promoting energy-saving techniques as a way to achieve sustainable development. This involves replacing regular light bulbs with long-lasting ones, installing energy consumption meters in apartments, reorganising residential space in a more efficient way (for instance, by trying to avoid placing a fridge beside a stove, as this uses up more energy in wintertime), and so forth.

A third area will be the promotion of environmentally friendly habits. Thus, for instance, many tenants go out to walk their pets, but few bother to clean up the waste. This is a habit that needs to be cultivated. Also, batteries and mercury lamps, once used, have to be properly recycled. Another highly important issue is the separation of household waste. It will be difficult to adopt this practice, but if we fail, we won't be able to solve problems related to waste collection and incineration.

The fourth issue is promoting good relations among neighbours. People living in apartment blocks these days know very little, if anything, about their neighbours, about where each of them works, or what kind of services could be provided. Running family-style kindergartens is an increasingly popular practice, which needs to be developed further.

We believe that a culture of open communication and mutual assistance could really make homeowner committees evolve into an important part of civil society. Of course, the organisation of such committees will take some special skills and expertise. We're having all potential members take a year-long training course in the management of apartment buildings. Upon completion of that course, they'll be able to take a job as a homeowner committee chair or an employee with a managing company. I think this programme is important and relevant to today's needs, particularly given the fact that an apartment building is entitled to a 95% subsidy for major repairs from the Foundation for Assisting the Housing and Utilities Sector only if it is run by a homeowner committee.

Mr Putin, I'd like to touch upon two other important programmes. We discussed modern methods for the patriotic education of young people. We've now launched two programmes in that area. One is entitled "Your Very Own War Film." Every young person involved will make a 120-minute documentary about a war veteran. Each participant will be provided with 40 questions and a film camera. The young participants interview WWII veterans on such controversial issues as POWs, U.S. humanitarian aid, and frontline love affairs. Through such interviews, the young people really learn about what life was like during the war years. A total of 7,000 films have already been made. In the year ahead, we plan to make films about all of the war veterans in the country.

Vladimir Putin: How are you planning to use that footage?

Vasily Yakemenko: The 7,000 films now completed have been collected at the website www.41-45.su, and there are more films still to come. This is an important archival source, helping historians, especially Russian ones, to counter false interpretations of history.

We realise that the remaining eyewitnesses of WWII will all be gone before long. Our books will serve as counter-arguments to those who try to play down the crucial role played by Russia in defeating Nazi Germany and against those who claim that this country should cede territories seized from enemies during WWII.

The website is arranged so that a visitor can simply type a keyword into the search engine to get thousands of interviews with WWII veterans, complete with video footage. We think that this source is of great importance to our historians and to all those who seek to counter attempts to falsify history. It has been completed by now, and anyone can visit it to see what is available there.

Vladimir Putin: That sounds very useful.

Vasily Yakemenko: These are the kinds of programmes we're pursuing now. They're all very important to us. But our work goes beyond just them, of course.

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