“It was very difficult, but I got used to it,” young man tells what education is like in Ukraine, more than two years after the Russian invasion

Luc Williams

“It was very difficult, but I got used to it,” says Sofia Klochko, a teenager who, like millions of students in Ukraine, is closing the third school year marked by the trauma of war, the stress of anti-aircraft alerts and Russian bombings.

“This year, living with all these alerts at night has been difficult,” says the 13-year-old. who attends classes at school number 61 in the capital, kyiv, which closes the course this Friday.

The student affirms that despite the daily anguish, her life is easier now than at the beginning of the Russian invasion, in February 2022, when she woke up to the explosions. “At least there is some routine,” she says.

A survey of teachers conducted by the Ukrainian government at the beginning of the year revealed that “the emotional state of the students has deteriorated and their motivation to learn decreased” in the last two years.

Two-thirds of the teachers consulted stated that students are more tired, compared to 52% in the 2022/2023 academic year.

50% of teachers perceive their students to be more tense, compared to 41% in the same period last year, and 38% describe them as more anxious (up from 27% a year ago).

The Ukrainian education system has shown extraordinary resilience to the war and classes resumed throughout the country three weeks after the start of the invasion of this former Soviet republic, although in many cases the lessons are taught remotely.

The 2022 PISA report, an international reference indicator on education, which was published in December and measures the skills of 15-year-old students in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that Ukraine It lost 15 points in mathematics, 19 in science and 38 in written comprehension compared to 2018.

Long distance education

This decline is very marked, even taking into account that there was an “unprecedented drop” on a global scale, of an average of 15 points in mathematics and 10 points in reading skills due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Some students lost their loved ones and “many lost their homes, they had to leave, the economic situation deteriorated,” explains Undersecretary of Education Andrii Stashkiv. “This has an impact on the results,” he emphasizes.

Stashkiv points out that Ukrainian students were tested for the PISA report in a period when there was an intensification of Russian bombing.

Besides, Many students are taking classes online, given that 20% of Ukraine's territory is occupied, 1,600 schools have been damaged and more than 200 have been completely destroyed.

Ukraine had more than four million students before the war and currently 900,000 study remotely because they are very close to the front line or the Russian border. In addition, about 600,000 live as refugees abroad, Stashkiv notes.

Of the total number of minors refugees abroad, two-thirds continue to study online in Ukrainian schools.

In Ukraine, the government has built underground shelters and distributed 150,000 tablets and smartphones to struggling families.

Sofia states that she tries to make an effort to “study and have good grades.” “The future of Ukraine rests on the shoulders of people like me,” he says.

In his school, the authorities set up two underground shelters and students and teachers take shelter there when anti-aircraft alerts sound warning of a possible Russian bombing. For teachers, war is also a tough test.

“The children are tired and we are tired,” says Liudmila Kinzerska, a 49-year-old teacher who teaches Ukrainian language and literature to Sofia's class.

“I can't allow myself to be weak or show my emotions when we go to the shelter,” he says. “I have to smile and say everything is going to be okay.”

Despite everything, Kinzerska tries to offer some hope to the students: “We try to talk more about the future. I want them to have dreams, so that war does not steal children's dreams.”


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