Ukrainian teachers organize online studies in the occupied territories
The occupants are now ruling in Novoukrainka, Zaporizhzhia region: they are establishing their own order, putting rubles into circulation. There is only one educational institution in the village – gymnasium of Novoukrainka. Children from four localities study here. The invaders force parents to send their children to study according to the russian curriculum. However, the Director of this educational institution, Tetiana Yakovleva, who was forced to evacuate to Lviv, together with her colleagues decided to give her students the opportunity to continue receiving Ukrainian education. Teachers have developed a project and are now implementing it. Tetiana told us about this and the difficulties that arise on the way to plan implementation.
I come from Zaporizhzhia region, Polohy district, Kamianka territorial community. I have been working as a director of Novoukrainka gymnasium since 2000, teaching History of Ukraine and Civic Education. This is the only educational institution in our locality. The gymnasium has three buses that bring children from several settlements. Children from the villages of Smile, Chervonoselivka, Hoholivka and Novoukrainka study here. At the end of the 2021-2022 academic year, the gymnasium had 152 students.
Strangely enough, on the first day of russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a lot of students came to school. It turned out that many parents were not aware of the beginning of active hostilities. The pedagogical council decided to let the students go home.
On February 24, an order on the organization of holidays was issued, and it was repeatedly extended. On May 2, according to the order of Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, the end of the school year was announced on the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia region.
Teachers were on duty in the gymnasium to monitor the observance of order.
The area of Kamianka territorial community was occupied on March 3. At that point, the enemy carried out rocket attacks on civilian facilities and infrastructure. The occupiers brought many of their troops. During March 3-15, there was no electricity, water, gas, mobile communications, or Internet.
There were mostly Chechens in our area. They took away cars from people who were better off. They went from house to house and took what they wanted. The biggest shock of the first days of occupation is that an ordinary person in his or her own country has absolutely no rights. They can do anything to this person with impunity: come to the house, take what they like, deprive him or her of life... And then the equipment and machinery started arriving. The town of Huliaipole is very close, and our village of Novoukrainka was close to the demarcation line. Here was the road that was used to deliver weapons, equipment, fuel, and ammunition to the battle area. Across the road, past the windows of my house, there were endless columns of enemy vehicles and machinery.
My husband and I left Novoukrainka on April 10, since I realized that I would not be able to cooperate with the invaders and teach in the gymnasium according to russian programs. And I would not be able to live in conditions of lack of freedom either.
Some of my colleagues also left the occupied territory. Some went to Zaporizhzhia, others stayed in the western regions of Ukraine, and two teachers went to Poland. Nine teachers remained in the occupied territory.
Russian soldiers stayed at the school twice. And robbed. Now the invaders have established their authority in Novoukrainka. They renamed the occupied territory to the Kuibyshevo district, as it was called in Soviet times. They appointed a "head of the district".
This "head of the district" arranged an appointment with the remaining teachers at the gymnasium, but they did not show up.
Representatives of the occupation authorities liked the Novoukrainka gymnasium. However, they do not plan to open it. Most likely, the gymnasium was looted, and it hurts a lot... After all, the institution had an extremely high level of logistics for a rural area. Each classroom had multimedia complexes. Each teacher had a laptop. There was modern furniture and modern renovation.
The occupiers were looking for a person who would agree to work with them as a starosta. But neither the current starosta nor the teachers from my school agreed to cooperate.
When we monitored the number of our students, we were amazed. It turned out that about 50% of children remained in the occupied territory. Therefore, the question of how the institutions of our community would function in the 2022-2023 academic year worried everyone: parents, students, and teachers.
First, we initiated a joint online meeting with the founder (Kamianka village council) because we do not have accounting autonomy. Accounting is centralized. The funds are managed by the head of the village council. During the meeting, we decided to organize distance learning in the Kamianka community from September 12. We also talked about the fact that other teachers should also leave the occupied territory. This will allow them to join the remote work because there is no Internet and sufficient communication channels in that area. We announced this to our students and their parents.
Almost all parents and students were happy to hear that the school was planning the educational process because they wanted to continue their studies at our institution.
I was elaborating on the educational program and curriculum for over a month, then distributed the workload. This was the first stage of work to be able to allocate funds for all children and teachers.
The second stage is organizational. We were experienced with distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, we worked in Google Classroom, and used the materials of the All-Ukrainian Online School, the "Umity" educational platform. Our school's website is on the e-Schools platform, where not only informational or educational materials, but also e-registers and e-diaries are posted, and the progress of each student is automatically analyzed. We used to keep e-registers, online schedules in Google Calendar, Virtual Teacher's Room, e-textbooks and curricula in addition to paper ones.
All children who have been promoted to the next grade remain students of our institution. If parents apply for dismissal and provide a certificate of the pupil's new place of study, we will dismiss him or her.
We accept students from all over Ukraine. If earlier it was done based on residence registration, then during martial law, I think we can enroll everyone if there are available places.
All office equipment remained in the occupied territory. In addition, the material base was robbed. Now teachers have to attend online meetings from their phones, some from their child's old laptop. Therefore, it is necessary that every teacher has a laptop with all the work-related databases – lessons, materials, and calendar planning...
Another issue is financial and accounting. What to do with the teachers who remained in the occupied territory? They do not have full access to the Internet. Since they remained in the occupied territory, the question arises: should we pay them downtime or suspend their contract for the period of martial law?
In addition, I believe that it is dangerous for schoolchildren to study according to the Ukrainian curriculum in the occupied territory. The invaders encourage parents to send their children to russian schools. They threaten to establish social service agencies to bring parents to justice for the fact that they "do not contribute to the full-time education". I also have information that the russian authorities promise parents money if they send their children to Kamianka school. But these are just rumors. If this is true, then perhaps it will also become a certain factor for low-income families. After all, it is difficult to live in that territory – there is no job, and savings are running out. There is no freedom. However, I believe that we should give children the opportunity to study according to the Ukrainian curriculum. And then let the parents decide.
Our main idea is to make children and their parents who remained in the occupation feel that we have not abandoned them and have not left them alone with the enemy. They were our students, our fellow villagers, our citizens, and remain now. The second message is that we must give everyone the opportunity to receive a Ukrainian document on education so that children can enter Ukrainian and European higher education institutions.
Writer: Evgenia Pavlova