By Tetiana Vakulenko, Senior Specialist at the Ukrainian Center for Education Quality Assessment
The terrible war in Ukraine has struck all of us. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 6 million people have now left Ukraine to escape from war; many more have stayed in the country but have left their homes. Despite such a dreadful situation we have not lost hope. We have become united as never before and we are willing to fight for our freedom and future -to provide education to those children who are living under the bombs or who are far away from their homes. Just as the GEM 2022 Gender Report shows, this is yet another example of governments and non-state actors working together in times of crisis.
As a result of such a partnership we have the All-Ukrainian school online, a platform initially developed to reduce the impact of the pandemic, but now used as the major educational resource in the country. It contains video tutorials, tests and other materials in 18 major school subjects. It facilitates secondary school students’ self-learning in almost all subjects. Another project provides small distant classes and free webinars for graduates who are looking to enter Ukrainian universities this year; everyone who has access to the internet is able to take free preparatory classes. A set of local initiatives all over the country provide regular school classes and art classes in shelters. Famous educators, scientists and artists are teaching students while they are hiding from bombs.
We have started a project to carry out admission examinations for Ukrainian students who are currently abroad and almost 30 countries have agreed to help us. From July to September they will create testing centres to ensure our students are accepted to Ukrainian higher education institutions and will have the motive to come back home.
We understand how difficult it is to teach students who have come from another country with a different curriculum and educational programmes. Many people who are volunteering as teachers today are refugees who have never worked as educators, and, even if professional educators are involved, there are usually no available textbooks or any other materials. The project Learning without borders allows access to different learning materials. Most of the children who have escaped from war have suffered psychological trauma. These materials also provide instruction on how to help children and adults recover from their experiences.
The most important thing in education is people. However, buildings and infrastructure are also of great importance. Every day a lot of schools are being destroyed or seriously damaged due to the war. By the end of May, 14,126 schools had been totally destroyed, while 1,509 schools had been seriously damaged and might not be rebuilt again. The website saveschool.in.ua shows the current information on that issue.
The level of support to Ukrainians from all over the world is something to admire. What we seek for is victory, but what we have already gained is a strong partnership we could not have dreamt of before. We have seen not only military support, but also a strong support for education. Ukrainian students now study in many countries and they feel at home everywhere. They are receiving the best experience by being a part of so many different school systems.