KYIV – On January 13, Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the law on state recognition of the Plast movement. Almost a month earlier, on December 17, Ukraine’s Parliament passed the law with 316 votes (with at least 226 required) in the second affirmative vote on this legislation.
Considering that the earlier version of the law had been rejected by the president and then amended to take into account his comments, there were very few doubts that the president would sign and finally enact the legislation. The 215 votes for the bill from the presidential faction, Servant of the People, only strengthened confidence that Mr. Zelenskyy would sign the law. The main question was: When?
“If a law on state recognition and support for Plast had been adopted in the early 1990s, it is possible that today the organization’s branch in the Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s birthplace, would already have thousands of members and hundreds of those who obtained the highest rank in Plast,” commented Yurko Yuzych, the head of Ukraine’s Plast Board. “This example is one of many, but it’s a telling one, since the branch in Kryvyi Rih was created in 1991 and brought up the first Plast members with the ‘skob’ rank, which is the analog of American Eagle Scouts, whom many large companies hire without interviewing. However, the branch operated until the early 2000s, and in 2017 it had to be restored by local volunteers.”
Mr. Yuzych is also the leading expert in youth policies at the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition. He was one of the main advocates who made the dream of having state recognition for Plast become a reality sooner than later. “In the rhetoric of many MPs, the main reason for supporting the law is that Ukraine would have eliminated the Russian Federation’s aggression in Crimea and the Donbas if the law had been enacted in the early 1990s,” Mr. Yuzych noted. “The world-renowned economist Bohdan Hawrylyshyn repeatedly stated that if Ukraine had at least 500,000 Plast members, then he would feel safe about the country’s future. In the last years of his life, Hawrylyshyn invested a lot of effort and money in Plast.”
President Zelenskyy signed the Plast law without any ceremony and even without a video or photos of the signing. He informed Ukrainians about his decision only with an official statement published on the Presidential Office’s website and social media pages. The released statement says that the signed law “recognizes the historical contribution of the Plast movement to the education of children and young people, the acquisition and formation of Ukrainian statehood, and establishes the state policy for promoting the development of Plast, the scout movement. According to the law, the mission of the Plast, the scout movement is to educate children, and young people based on the value system reflected in the Plast oath, the scout promise, the Plast and scout laws aimed at making the world a better place for people to realize themselves as individuals and play a constructive role in society.”
In the enacted edition of the law, not only Plast but also other scout organizations are eligible for state support. This was one of the president’s requirements, and in his statement he underlined that “The document provides an opportunity to involve Plast and scout NGOs in the development of state and local programs. Also, Plast and scout non-profits will be able to receive material, informational and consultative support from the state. Among other things, the central executive authorities will promote the creation of the Plast and scout movement infrastructure abroad. On its basis, they should study or carry out education and training in the Ukrainian language. At the same time, the involvement of state authorities and local self-government in the activities of scout public associations is not allowed, except in cases provided for by law.”
According to Mr. Yuzych, there still are no mechanisms to receive material state support for projects conducted by Ukrainian communities abroad. But this part of the legislation is vital, and Mr. Zelenskyy’s statement once again underlined the importance of the diaspora, especially speaking of the Plast movement, which is active all over the world.
Asked to comment on the Plast law, the head of the inter-factional union Ukrainians in the World, Sviatoslav Yurash, said: “In the history of every nation there are organizations whose activities have been crucial to the state formation. Plast became this organization for Ukrainians from the beginning of the 20th century.”
A member of the Servant of the People faction, who is also the youngest ever member of the Verkhovna Rada, Mr. Yurash underlined: “Now the activity of Ukrainian scouts is strategically important for the education of future generations. Let me remind you that the main values, according to Plast’s oath, are loyalty to God and Ukraine. It is noteworthy that Plast conducts physical and patriotic upbringing of children and youth based on eternal values not only in Ukraine but also in the diaspora all over the world, therefore, this organization is an example of the sustainability of Ukrainian history over the last century.”
While Mr. Yurash, who heads the Subcommittee on Relations and Protection of the Rights and Interests of Ukrainians Abroad, could use the enacted legislation to act in the interests of Ukrainians abroad, his colleague Roman Lozynskyi will implement the law on Plast directly in Ukraine.
“We, colleagues from all pro-Ukrainian factions, have created an inter-factional union called Plast. We will build our operations to support Plast and all of Plast’s initiatives, which they have been organizing and implementing for 107 years to develop our youth,” said Mr. Lozynskyi, member of the Verkhovna Rada from the Voice faction, who heads the inter-factional union aimed at supporting the Plast movement.
“The state, for which hundreds of Plast members were killed, finally recognized Plast Ukrainian scouting and its historic contribution to civic education for young people as well as Plast’s contribution to the achievement of Ukraine’s independence and development of statehood. However, the approved law does not provide for direct financing,” Mr. Lozynskyi related. “Plast remains a non-governmental, non-political organization. That is why Plast needs the support of Ukrainians and is continuing the campaign to raise 10.5 million hrv needed to grow the organization in 2020.”
The law also provides further opportunities for Plast to gain recognition for its educational methods and promote them on the national level. “Since the beginning of the 21st century, students and organizers of Plast’s revival in Ukraine have been regularly conducting research and highlighting their findings in their scientific publications and dissertations in the field of pedagogy (for example, ‘How Plast Achieves a Positive Educational Effect among Young People),” said Mr. Yuzych.
“The Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of Ukraine researched Plast’s activity for several years in a row, and the result was a scientific and methodological manual ‘Plast: Personality Formation.’ The scientists submitted a scouting training system, using the example of Plast. The guide is intended for educators, preschool teachers and parents. Given the significant contribution of Plast to the upbringing of Ukrainian children and young people, in 1992, the Ministry of Education concluded the first cooperation agreement with Plast. The agreement has since been updated twice: on December 15, 2009 and on October 14, 2015. The last deal stipulates the obligation of the Ministry of Education to ‘promote Plast in the implementation of programs aimed at social protection and development of children and young people, their cultural development, spiritual and national-patriotic education,’ ” Mr. Yuzych pointed out.
Cooperation with officials can also create an opportunity for Plast in terms of educational centers, which can be used for both the organization’s activities and projects for the public. “On the proposal of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of Ukraine, the Ministry of Education included in its plan of measures for the national-patriotic upbringing of children and young people a separate item: ‘To create Plast centers in all cities and villages of Ukraine for educational work among children and youth,’ ” Mr. Yuzych explained.
“Such community centers were established in 2018 in the Kyiv and Ternopil regions as regional Plast education centers, and in Zhytomyr and Rivne as local Plast youth centers. In fulfillment of the agreement with Plast and the aforementioned plan of measures, the Ministry of Education in 2016 issued an order which has helped to create dozens of new Plast groups in the after-school education system in several areas,” he said.
Ukraine’s Plast communications team issued an official statement after President Zelenskyy signed the bill. “The law creates the foundations of state policy to promote the development of the Plast, [and the]scout movement. Plast and other scout organizations will also be able to develop new models of youth policy collaboration. We thank the initiators of the law and all those who contributed to making Plast recognized on the state level. In particular, we would like to thank the Ukrainian World Congress, SUM (Ukrainian Youth Association) – its world and regional authorities in Ukraine, associations of Ukrainians in Australia, the U.S.A. and Canada, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and the inter-factional union Plast.”
“The law aims to make Plast accessible to every child through state recognition and increased support for it,” summed up Mr. Yuzych. “This legislation united the Parliament. It is supported by the heads of the largest Ukrainian Churches – the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. It is supported by local governments, united territorial communities, all the largest organizations of the Ukrainian diaspora, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families worldwide. They waited for the president of Ukraine to sign the law, and now it is finally enacted. And Plast, in turn, will continue uniting the nation.”
Additional information on Plast programs and its financial plans, as well as an option to support the organization, may be found at donate.plast.org.ua