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Boys to the right, girls to the left!

There are growing calls in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan to separate boys and girls at school. Some in the predominantly Muslim area want single-sex education, but school authorities strongly oppose the idea.

Magomed Omarov’s daughters might soon quit going to school, as their father objects to the girls studying in the same class as boys.

“Separate education means a better quality of instruction,” Magomed is convinced.

“If the state doesn’t change anything, I won’t leave them in the school. I will have to find an opportunity to teach them at home or in private schools,” he says.

The girls, too, seem eager to be rid of their male classmates.

With an overwhelming Muslim majority, the debate is raging in this southern Russian republic over the need for separate schools for boys and girls.

The spiritual authorities of Dagestan insist that when studying together, boys and girls cannot entirely focus on their classes.

“It’s not so they can flirt that we send them in to higher education. We want them to get educated,” one spiritual official asserted.

Meanwhile, deputy school director Irina Dzhanakaeva doesn’t see any harm if the kids study together, as it teaches them how to communicate.

“I would like my grandchildren to go to a mixed school where boys and girls study together and everybody gets each other’s support. A boy should always defend a girl and a girl should help a boy,” Irina says.

Besides, the teacher says, even if introduced, the separate schools would entail additional expenditure. “We will need new methods of instruction and that means more expenses,” she says.

While those opposing the idea of separate education are disputing with the religious authorities, it seems some of the locals have already made their choice. The capital city, Makhachkala, may be mostly secular when it comes to education, but in the mountainous regions surrounding the city a number of closed private schools have appeared, where girls and boys don’t mix.