But Russia’s invasion has cast a shadow over the happy day. Now educational facilities across the country are rushing to build bunkers and bomb shelters for returning students.
As schools prepare to open their doors in September, many teachers are grappling with the fact that they lack the ability to provide security to pupils, or to provide parents with peace of mind if Their schools are attacked. “Our schools are not designed to be used as defensive facilities,” Ukraine’s Education Ombudsman Serhi Horbakov told CNN.
In Irpin, a green suburb of the capital Kyiv, fighting has devastated parts of school number 17, one of the city’s largest schools, which teaches more than 2,400 children aged six to 17 years. Is. Shrapnel has damaged the roof of the school and broken all its windows.
The gaping pits in the brightly colored walls and floors of the school have been fixed with concrete and plaster. With the help of UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Agency, the school is rebuilding its bomb shelter. “We make it so that it’s safe and comfortable there, and the kids aren’t scared, and the parents are calm,” Ivan Patashnik, the school’s headmaster, told CNN.
Six months after the outbreak of war, children like Kasyuk and Pinchuk are preparing for a new academic year at a very challenging moment for the country. Ukraine’s armed forces are grappling with an aggressive Russian offensive in the east, and the country’s economy is in shambles.
According to education officials, 2,300 of Ukraine’s 17,000 schools were damaged in the fighting. Some 59% of all schools and universities will not be ready to resume in-person classes in September, Education Minister Serhi Shkrelet said on Tuesday, and no one knows how many students will attend classes in person.
“The academic year will be very difficult,” said Horbakov. “It will start in unpredictable and very difficult conditions, when there is really no safe place in Ukraine, because (Russian) missiles can hit anywhere.”
After two years of Covid and half a year of war, teachers worry that the knowledge gap among Ukrainian children is widening.
In 2018, the OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), viewed as an official measure of student achievement, found a two-and-a-half-year disparity between students in rural areas and their peers in Ukraine’s larger cities. Oksana Matyash, head of Teach for Ukraine, an educational non-profit that trains and recruits young teachers to work in schools in low-income communities.
Parents have to decide whether they are comfortable sending their children back to school. Many are reluctant to understand. Horbakov said those living near the Eastern Front have opted for online learning because of the constant exposure to artillery attacks and air raid sirens, which have become a part of life in many Ukrainian towns and cities.
The last time 11-year-old Zlata Pavlenko spent a full academic year 2019 learning in the classroom.
Sitting on a lilac bedspread in her light-filled apartment she shares with her parents in Kyiv, Pavlenko said she began online learning in 2020 because of the pandemic, before returning to school for a semester in 2021 before the virus A new wave of And his class to resume studies from home.
Any hope of her returning to the classroom was lost when the Russian invasion disrupted every aspect of Ukrainian life, including children’s right to education. Pavlenko fled Kyiv with her family to western Ukraine, only returning in May, but half of her class of 36 students are still out of the country.
Pavlenko said she really wants to physically attend classes when her term begins on September 1, but her school’s bomb shelter can only house a small number of children. Her mother, Hanna Kovalenko, said they would find out over the next few days whether children would have to go to school in shifts, or whether classes would be entirely online, depending on the capacity of the shelter.
“As a mother, it’s more difficult for me when the child is studying at home,” Hanna, who works as an accountant, told CNN. “Children lack communication (with each other during online learning), so we would like her to study offline.”
UNICEF representative Murat Sahin told CNN, “Socialization is a key part of learning, developing critical thinking skills and problem solving, which is why “ultimately, we want to see every child back in school and learn in a school environment.” Huh.”
But the war means that “the children are not learning as much as they can, not interacting as much as they can and not leading a normal life,” he said, explaining that he is under Ukraine’s education ministry. Facilitate regular connections for teachers or tutors with small groups of children to help “play, reflect or even do homework together”.
“Live contact with an adult is critically essential for young children, as for first graders. Children learn a lot of things not only with adults, but also with peers. Acquiring it in a distance format Very difficult, ”said Horbakov.
The war has also caused teachers’ brain drain, with 22,000 of Ukraine’s 434,000 teachers (most of whom are women) having left the country, while many more are internally displaced, he said.
The worries of those who have stayed are increasing. “We conducted a survey among 350 teachers, and all of them indicated that the feeling they feel is anxiety because of the increased responsibility they have towards children,” said Matyash of Teach for Ukraine.
The stress and trauma of war has also become rampant among children, affecting their ability to study. Pavlenko said she is afraid that the Russians will “come here and the tanks will run down our street, and they will knock on the door. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“For two years now, according to the law, there should not be a single Russian language school in Ukraine. As for the Russian language as a subject, parents who consider themselves to be ethnic Russians can use the language as a language. Can file an application to study. of national minorities, ”said Horbakov. “In addition, we have a great advantage over the Russians in that we understand their language, but they do not understand our language.”
‘A lost generation’
Horbakov said he had received about 500 messages from teachers living there, who “are being forced to work according to the educational programs of the occupiers,” he said, adding that the “Ukrainian language and history should be taught (educational)”. programs.” He said pro-Ukrainian teachers have reported being evicted from their homes and threatened with arrest and execution.
“My appeal to the people living in the occupied territories … to the teachers: we are grateful to them for the fact that they remain loyal to Ukraine and do not voluntarily go to cooperate with the occupiers, But (their) lives are more important,” he said.
The most important thing is to get kids back to a routine, take their mind off the horrors of war, and rediscover the value of education, said Matyash, citing another Teach for Ukraine study from Ukraine that surveyed. About half of the children in the U.S. reported high levels. stress. Children were finding it “hard to see the value in education if – you know – everything around them is falling apart,” she said.
“This war is risking a lost generation,” she said. Anecdotal evidence shows that those who have left the country “describe children’s education as a major reason why they are not returning to Ukraine,” she said.
“That’s why we need to prioritize giving schools proper bomb shelters, so that children can continue to receive proper education without worrying about their own safety.”
Tara John wrote and reported from London. Maria Kostenko reported from Kyiv.