From September 1, Ukrainian army and Russia-backed militants must observe “school year” ceasefire. How did schools start the new academic year?
Kyiv, September 6, 2016. The academic year began in all schools of Luhansk region on September 1. As of today, there are 299 schools in Luhansk region and 52,373 pupils study there. 30 schools are located in areas near the contact line – Popasna, Stanychno Luhanske and Novoaydarske and 5,737 children study there. “All these children went to school. I can say that people are returning to their homes – there are more children in these areas now,” said Olga Lishyk, Deputy Head of the Luhansk Regional Civil-Military Administration on Social and Humanitarian Issues, via Skype at Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UCMC) within the framework of UCMC project “Spokesperson of peaceful life” supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. She added that there are about 7,000 displaced children in Luhansk region. They all attend kindergartens and schools.
Parents are concerned about possible escalation
Olga Lishyk said that before the school year started teachers had been seriously concerned about the intensification of fighting, especially the shelling of Shchastia. The regional administration urged to ensure observance of ceasefire at the beginning of the school year. “Safety was very important for us – we understood that children went to school under emergency conditions,” she stressed. On September 1 ceasefire was really observed and all schools started work.
Safety training for teachers
Ms. Lishyk added that teachers had taken into account the specific situation in the region. In the summer teachers underwent mine safety training with the support of international organizations. Now they will pass this knowledge to their pupils. “A police officer is attached to each school, there are contact numbers of district police officers who work with the schools,” she noted. Another task was to think out the action plan in case of emergency.
The growing number of Ukrainian classes: parents’ concern
According to Olga Lishyk, everyone in Luhansk region has the opportunity to study in Ukrainian. “Three cities – Lysychansk, Rubizhne and Severodonetsk – continue teaching in Russian and Ukrainian 50/50, although many parents want their children to study in Ukrainian classes,” said Olga Lishyk. In Novoaydarske district community councils, authorities and teachers decided to expand the number of Ukrainian classes – schools with 50/50 Russian and Ukrainian language teaching were made Ukrainian, Russian-teaching now teach in Russian and Ukrainian 50/50. These districts faced the problem of shortage of textbooks, but the Ministry of Education promptly responded to the request. “The Ministry has already formed 80 per cent from the list of books that are lacking. When the remaining 20 per cent are collected, they will be sent to the grounds,” added Olga Lishyk.
The work of higher education institutions: how to make young people not leave for other regions
Twenty four vocational education institutions and two universities – the National University of Agriculture and Luhansk Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have started the new academic year. These universities have been moved to other regions of Ukraine with the beginning of hostilities. Currently, the negotiations with the Ministry of Education and rectors to return these institutions are being conducted.
“For us it is very important because the presence of young people and qualified personnel is a guarantee of sustainable development of the region,” noted Olga Lishyk. She added that this year 5,839 students have entered the displaced universities, which is far more than last year. However, these institutions have lost 50 per cent of state-funded places because of the new system of distribution of such places. “We wrote letters to the Ministry of Education, to the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Science to review this approach, because in a few years this system will cause young people to leave Luhansk and Donetsk region for other regions, where they will remain,” explained Olga Lishyk.
Creating new types of schools in rural areas
The deputy head of the Luhansk Regional Civil-Military Administration also informed that the first six supportive schools were set up. For lack of qualified teaching staff and underfunding of small schools, it was decided to unite rural communities and to have one school for several villages (a supportive school). Currently, the tenders for purchasing 14 buses have completed. In September these buses will be given to schools. Besides, equipment for natural sciences has been bought, and the project estimates for implementing energy efficient technologies in these schools are being prepared. “The community is afraid of this because they do not fully understand how the process goes (they are afraid that children will have to walk several tens of kilometers a day to get to school as it was in old times)”.