The Poverty of the People’s Teachers

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Lenin wrote the article in connection with the All-Russia Congress on Public Education which was to be held in St. Petersburg during the winter holidays at the end of December 1913. The Bolsheviks wanted to use the Congress as a legal opportunity for spreading Bolshevik ideas and revolutionary demands. The article is closely connected with Lenin’s “The Question of Ministry of Education Policy” (see present edition, Vol. 19, pp. 137–46). p. 300

In view of the All-Russia Congress on Public Education to be held in December, it is appropriate that we should turn our attention to an old question which is perpetually new: the poverty of the people’s teachers.

We have before us Volume I of the One-Day Census of Primary Schools in the Empire. The volume has been published by the Ministry of Public—what you might call—Education. It is signed by the well-known statistician Mr. V. I. Pokrovsky.

The bureaucratic character of this official work—bureaucratic and official in the worst sense of the words—instantly leaps to the eye. The census was taken on January 18, 1911. It took all of two years to publish its first volume dealing only with the gubernias of the St. Petersburg academic district! The only thing we seem to be able to do in our country without tedious, agonising red tape is to pass laws, like the law against the press.

As is the practice, the census programme was repeatedly discussed throughout 1910 by a host of official cabinets and conferences, each of which did something to spoil it. As a result, for instance, there is only one head, “Russian Language”, on the question of the pupils’ mother tongue: it is clearly prohibited to make the subdivision into Byelorussian, Little Russian (Ukrainian) and Great Russian. As a result, the census of the schools of the Empire does not include a number of schools, such as the urban schools set up under the 1872 statute, private first-and second-category schools, etc.

It is prohibited to collect full data. It is prohibited to know the truth about the language spoken by the pupils at home. It is prohibited to make a comparison, between public and private schools.

The man who compiled these statistics, Mr. Pokrovsky, much vaunted by the liberals, has done his bit to spoil the census returns. Thus, material has been separately collected on each teacher relative to the size of salary. It is, naturally, important to know the truth on such a burning question as the poverty of the people’s teachers. It is important to know just how many masters and mistresses are receiving the desperately low, the very lowest, the very low and the low salaries in general.

The material on this has been collected. The information on it is there. But our liberal statistician “processes” it in such a way as to cover up the unsavoury truth.

Our statistician merely informs us of the average salaries of masters and mistresses by gubernia and the different categories of schools. The official classifications are scrupulously observed. But anyone who wants to know the truth is not interested in which gubernia and in which category of schools the teachers starve, but how many teachers are starving and living in poverty. It was quite possible to determine from the returns of the census how many teachers are being paid starvation salaries (say, under 360 rubles, from 360 to 400 rubles, etc.), and this should unquestionably have been done. But it has not been done. It has been buried in the hundreds of thousands of cards at the archives.

What the public has been informed of is only the officially purged and officially embellished averages of salaries by category and gubernia.... Need we say, too, that the liberal statisticians made a point of concealing from the public what percentage of the starving teachers have families.

These “average” figures show that a schoolmistress (in the St. Petersburg academic district) receives 433 rubles a year, and a schoolmaster, 376. But most of the teachers are in the countryside. There “average” salaries are 347 rubles for the schoolmistress, and 367 rubles for the schoolmaster. (Let us note that the overall number of schoolmistresses is double that of schoolmasters).

Most of the teachers of the St. Petersburg district are outside St. Petersburg Gubernia. The salaries of school-mistresses are: Olonets Gubernia—375 rubles; Novgorod Gubernia—358 rubles; Vologda Gubernia—320 rubles; Archangel Gubernia—319 rubles; and Pskov Gubernia—312 rubles.

Even these figures, which put a gloss on reality, make it clear that the majority of schoolmistresses are paid a starvation salary. With the present high cost of living the 26–30 rubles a month for schoolmistresses, of whom (on average again) 11.5 per cent are married and 4.4 per cent are widows, is undoubtedly a beggarly salary which condemns teachers to starvation and indigence.

From the “category” data we find that 2,180 schoolmistresses worked in parish one-class schools (in the St. Petersburg academic district, with a total of 7,693 schoolmistresses). Consequently, we have here a “category” with a highly impressive number of teachers. What then are they paid?

An average of 302 rubles in the towns, and 301 rubles in the villages.

The Russian state spends hundreds of millions of rubles on the maintenance of its civil service, the police, the army, etc., while dooming teachers in the people’s schools to starvation. The bourgeoisie “sympathises” with public education—with the proviso, however, that the teachers live in worse conditions than the servants in the manor-houses and the houses of the rich....