Not only knowledge but also a Ukrainian-centered worldview: how educational institutions operate in the Novopskov community
The beginning of the school year in Ukraine under martial law has become difficult for every educational institution. But the most difficult task is to ensure an appropriate educational process in communities whose territories are under russian occupation. One of them is the Novopskov territorial community of the Luhansk Region. Vadim Haiev, Chairman of the Novopskov territorial community, explains how the village council creates conditions for children to master the Ukrainian curriculum online, what difficulties they face and from whom they receive help.
- Vadym Viktorovych, since when has the Novopskov community been occupied?
Before the start of a full-scale war, we were in a part of the region controlled by Ukraine. And from the first days of a full-scale invasion, the invaders entered the community...
I will immediately note that even though the Novopskov territorial community borders russia and the widespread opinion that the population in the Donbas is mostly Russian-speaking, the residents of our community are mostly Ukrainian-speaking.
- How many schools, pre-school and extracurricular institutions were there in the community before the occupation? What condition are they in now?
It hurts to realize that although there is no destroyed infrastructure in the community, there is no access to it. Including educational institutions that were usually repaired, decorated, in short, prepared for the first of September.
At the end of 2021, all educational institutions of the community were renamed lyceums. In each of them, modern educational space has been created and modernized, and innovations have been introduced. New furniture, equipment, and interactive complexes were purchased. In December, within the framework of the state program "Laptop for every teacher" 42 teachers of the Novopskov flagship educational institution received laptops.
And now all our educational institutions, kindergartens and out-of-school institutions are run by the invaders to teach local children according to russian curricula, and our teachers are forced to cooperate.
- How many of them agreed to cooperate with the occupation regime?
Approximately two–thirds of the teachers stayed there: some of them at their own request, while others were under pressure and threats. However, some teachers did not cooperate.
The occupiers force parents to send their children to occupation schools through intimidation and threats of deprivation of parental rights.
- Are there any opportunities for studying in Ukrainian schools?
Yeah. The task of the Ukrainian authorities is to provide students with the opportunity and create conditions for obtaining education in the Ukrainian language according to the Ukrainian curriculum. It is necessary not only to give undistorted knowledge but also to form a worldview centred on Ukraine and humanity.
Students who left for the territory controlled by Ukraine enrolled in schools at their place of residence. Those who stayed in the occupied territory or those who went abroad can begin to learn "incognito".
– How does your distance school work?
This is the Novopskov gas pipeline lyceum of Novopskov Village Council of Luhansk Region. Its director left from the first days of the occupation. We are transferring to this institution all our teachers who are currently in the territory controlled by Ukraine. By his order, the director of the lyceum established a remote work mode for employees, introduced a flexible work schedule and determined the specifics of the educational process.
– What do you need to study at this school?
First of all, submit an application. To do this, parents send a photo of the application addressed to the director of the lyceum, the student's birth certificate and school report (if any) to the Head of the Education Department of the village council by e-mail.
- How is the training going?
Distance learning started on September 1, 2022, in an individual format: teachers send tasks to each student and advise them in a format suitable for the child at a convenient time.
Training does not take place in front of the whole class, but face-to-face. We do this to protect families with such students from the occupation authorities.
- Do teachers have enough experience for this format of work?
First of all, we have experience in distance learning gained during quarantine. Currently, teachers have synchronous (real-time – Zoom, MS Teams, Google Meet, etc.) and asynchronous online educational tools.
We also work in close cooperation with the Department of Education and Science of Luhansk Regional State Administration. We regularly receive advice from them, as well as recommendations from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. Practical advice is provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by the specialists of the DECIDE project.
- How do parents of schoolchildren find out about distance learning and how actively “enrol” their children?
According to statistics, almost two thousand schoolchildren and 500 pupils of preschool educational institutions remained in the occupied territory of the Novopskov territorial community or went abroad. We conducted an online survey among the parents of these students. Of the 150 respondents, 148 said that they wanted to study under the Ukrainian curriculum.
Parents were quite actively interested in how to get an education remotely, how to choose a school, how to apply, and so on. We inform them about this through social networks and advise them via various instant messengers. Unfortunately, in the temporarily occupied territory of the Novopskov territorial community, there is almost no telephone connection, the Internet is very weak or there is no Internet at all, and individual messengers, such as Viber, are blocked.
We welcome the willingness of those parents who want to send their children to a Ukrainian school. However, some agree to study in the schools of the occupier, because they believe that the academic certificates issued by the LNR will be quoted everywhere. Of course, with such an academic certificate, the child will not be able to get an education either in Ukraine or in Europe. One of our tasks is to convince our parents of this.
– It's probably not easy…
Yes, but the children themselves can also help. Here's how. They are used to a modern lifestyle, use gadgets, and have access to a wide range of information. And I know for sure that in the occupied territory, the invaders partially restricted access to information and some social networks. And this, in my opinion, causes resistance among teenagers. Because they are used to living in a world where there are no barbed wires, including informational ones. So, they can themselves oppose restrictions and, possibly, contribute to obtaining a Ukrainian education.
And further. We are awaiting the de-occupation of the community and making plans for the period when Ukraine regains control over the territory. Therefore, students who studied in the occupier's schools may have difficulties. Parents should also think about this.
- An important thing is the technical equipment for online training: laptops, phones, etc. We gained a lot before the war. Is it all used?
We did not have time to take out a large part of this from the educational institutions before the occupation. Students and teachers were evacuated mostly without their own office equipment. But we are applying for different programs and hoping to get help with buying laptops.
But the most important thing is that all interested members of the Novopskov territorial community continue their studies according to the Ukrainian curriculum so that no child is left without attention. Of course, distance education cannot completely replace live communication in the classroom. But the experience of previous years, when we studied remotely during quarantine restrictions, shows that it is quite possible to create comfortable and accessible conditions for all education seekers in anticipation of de-occupation of the territory and return to the usual mode of learning.
Writer: Inna Kosyanchuk