As the war in eastern Ukraine continues, people are starting to focus on those who aren’t fighting and whose lives have been ruined by, depending on who you ask, Vladimir Putin and his ambitions for a new Soviet Union or Petro Poroshenko and his desire for a Ukraine that’s more integrated into the greater European economy and the EU. While most of the media focus and scrutiny has been aimed at those fighting, those commanding, and those who are not-so-subtlety influencing and arming (here’s looking at you, Vlad), people are now starting to look at how those who are living in the conflict zone are struggling to survive as winter approaches. Amongst all of the truly tragic and heartrending stories, the death of education in eastern Ukraine is easily one of the most touching as well as one of the most worrying. Just like children living in and fleeing from Syria who are called the “Lost Generation”, eastern Ukrainian children are struggling to avoid becoming a “Lost Generation” in and of themselves.
In the struggle to continue learning in the face of all of violence, students in eastern Ukraine have been turning to something that is quickly picking up speed in the west, distance education and learning over the internet. In the rebel-held and currently besieged city of Donetsk, city officials estimate that 50 out of 150 schools have switched to distance learning and that about 45% of the city’s children (around 32,000 students) are being educated online through distance education. Another interesting tidbit of information is that most of the city’s education officials completely agree that it is the students who have been pushing for and embracing technology and distant learning in an attempt to continue their education and improve their lives. It’s as though living in a warzone has shown them the importance of educating yourself so that you can either leave a bad situation or return to help fix it.
While classes such as maths and the sciences have proven more difficult to adapt to these new technologies and ways of learning, the children and teachers of Ukraine are making sure that the work is still getting done and is checked and graded in person, when circumstances allow. The current fighting, along with the fact that the Ukrainian government has cut all funds and support of any kind to the city since it is currently in the hands of rebel separatists, means that many of the teachers are working for free or relying on the tiny amount of money that the rebel government can actually scrape up. That being said, the current mood in the air makes it obvious that as long as the students are willing to learn, the teachers will be there to teach, regardless of pay.
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