The phrase “And now we are collecting money for curtains” became a meme in the community of Ukrainian parents of schoolchildren. Until a few years ago, few parent-teacher meetings at the beginning of the new school year could do without this call from teachers or representatives of the parent committee.

“Now I ignore a group of active parents who always come up with some purchases, referring to the request of the school. I’m fed up with it, and I don’t see the point. However, in elementary school, we were all quick at paying for some furniture and household goods. Curtains, for example, were bought twice in the first four years,” says Olha, mother of a Kyiv schoolgirl.

Where do the previous curtains disappear? For many years, parents from educational institutions in different parts of Ukraine have asked this question.

“The children ruined it,” “cleaning is more expensive than new ones,” “the previous class bought with their money and took it away, moving to another office,” “we need to update, don’t you want comfort for your children” — typical reasons were given to the parents we asked.

“I preferred not to argue about those curtains and ask why we need new ones in two years. I know for sure that the first ones were white tulle and the new ones were the same, only with some drapery,” Olha recalls with a smile.

However, curtains like other goods necessary to ensure the educational process must be purchased and are purchased with budget funds.

In the last two years alone, almost UAH 40 mln has been spent on curtains, drapes, blinds, shutters, and tulle for schools and kindergartens.

In 2020, they were purchased more actively: then it took UAH 24.5 mln. This year, in nine months, UAH 14.5 mln was spent on such a need.

The Kyiv oblast accounts for the highest number of curtains — UAH 7 mln.

The Lviv oblast ranks second — UAH 3.7 mln was spent.

The Sumy and Kharkiv regions share third position, with expenses of UAH 3.2 mln for curtains. The Chernivtsi region, on the contrary, tails behind in comparison with them — a little more than UAH 170,000 was paid for curtains.

You can check whether your school is among these procurement transactions in the table.

Even if you couldn’t find your school there, we recommend that you check the procurement transactions of the school itself or the Department of Education to which it is subordinate on the online school procurement map or DOZORRO.

Looking at what your school has purchased is useful to understand what its needs have already been funded. After all, even though municipal schools and kindergartens are supported at the expense of local budgets, cash grabs from parents are still widespread.

Until a few years ago, teachers themselves often raised money for school needs. However, the Ministry of Education and Science clarified that they did not have the right to do this. In particular, in 2018 and 2020, it sent letters to teachers stressing the free nature of school education and that any form of pressure on parents to pay funds or purchase something is illegal.

However, in some places the money is collected not by teachers and the administration of educational institutions, but by the parents themselves. More precisely, their committees. It is almost impossible to bring them to justice through forced levies because legally, they have nothing to do with the financial affairs of a school or kindergarten.

This works most effectively with first-graders and in primary school, when children are still sitting in the same class. Then parents strive to make this room as comfortable as possible. The question of how much the District Department of Education spent on the school and what exactly the director of the institution ordered for the year does not yet arise at the start of school.

Natalka from Kyiv told us about a similar algorithm in a municipal kindergarten her child attends in the overpopulated district Osokorky.

“Although the kindergarten is entirely new, it was put into operation together with our micro district, but the purchase of decor and arrangement in groups was shifted to the parents for the most part. Although it is difficult to understand now, were these critical needs for the group, or did the parents just want to do everything as good as possible, in their opinion,” the mother recalls.

“The first needs — the very same curtains, a rug, something of small furniture for the group — that’s what the teachers told us. But now, when we have been in this group for the third year, and the parents’ committee is still coming up with new expenses (the last one was climate technology), I am already more confident telling the group of parents that I have had enough and will not pay,” says Natalka.

If you decide to help a school or kindergarten yourself, one of the most secure ways to do this is to transfer funds to the treasury account of the educational institution.

The local department and the Department of Education also have such accounts. You can specify the intended purpose of the money: for example, that you transfer it for cabinet repairs or equipment procurement. Further, these funds are spent in the same way as budget funds. In other words, all procurement transactions for them will be made through Prozorro.

What else can be done to help the school in a convenient way, as well as how to help allocate funds for school needs, can be found in the special handbook for parents. There are instructions on how to properly issue parental contributions, and how to write requests to the school administration or the Department of Education. These explanations will help you find out what funds have already been allocated for, and inform you about the need to finance something else.

The material was co-authored with Yaroslav Pylypenko, TI Ukraine’s public procurement specialist.