Online learning is resuming in Ukraine, but with new wartime challenges

Ukrainian students use Zoom and Google Meet to learn math and language – while trying to figure out what’s going on with their families and friends.

After weeks of Russian attacks, classes across Ukraine have been suspended, with students returning to school across the country as teachers and administrators use Zoom and Google Meet both to continue classes and to find missing children.

“Some students, we don’t know where they are,” says Evgenia Yarova, who oversees 108 schools in Kyiv.

He says of the 26,000 students in the Shevchenko district of Yarova region, which includes schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, only about 7,000 are in Ukraine. However, they and others who have been evacuated to countries such as Poland and Germany return to online classes according to their circumstances.

“Every day, even despite the war, we have to push them, motivate them, encourage new knowledge,” Yarova said. “I ask teachers to tell their students that the Russian attack cannot force us not to study.”

Internet connectivity in Ukraine remained relatively stable during the war, thanks in large part to telecom technicians and engineers who risked their lives to keep the country online. This has allowed some students to continue their studies for about a month – for example, in safer parts of western Ukraine – and for others in heavily affected cities, such as the capital, to finally resume classes.

However, the sirens of air strikes and evacuations to bomb shelters, often in a single day, remain terrifying and disruptive. About 4 million people have fled Ukraine and millions more displaced within the country, as well as creating significant barriers for local schools: Among the refugees are teachers, many of whom are young women with children, and students who have embarked on new programs elsewhere. Some schools struggle with the death of their students. All this, at the heel of the main problem of the study, brought about by the pandemic.

However, teachers do their best to support students scientifically and emotionally.

“Russian aggression cannot force us not to learn.”

Evgenia Yarova

He says the Yarova district school will begin each morning with a minute of silence in honor of those who have died since the war began in February. Yarova says it means mourning for members of her community, including a fifth-grader and her mother, who were killed in an explosion near the city center, and a family of five who were shot while driving. Both parents and one of their three young children died, she explained; two other brothers, one of whom was a current student, escaped. “She was running because she was so scared and later we found her far away from her house and took her to the hospital,” Yarova says. “Everything was fine in him, but he has neither father nor mother.”

In the midst of a specialized curriculum in mathematics, English and Ukrainian, students and teachers openly discuss the conflict with Russia and the developments that have led to it.

“Many of our children’s fathers are involved in this war, and today the children are arguing, ‘Where is your father or your father?’ in the Zoom, ”says Yarova. “Everyone asks each other, and many of their fathers are no longer with them.”

Yulia Yanyuk, an eleventh-grader in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine, is studying distance learning both for security reasons and because her school is a refuge for refugees, some of whom have joined her virtual classes. In an interview via Zoom, she says she and her peers (some are now as far away as Italy) talked to a school psychologist about the war about Zoom and the social media program Viber, and distance learning has become a diversification.

“It helps us to be distracted by negative news and war,” Yanyuk says. “It makes us feel better when we see our classmates online.”

But she says one month of schooling during the war was more difficult than three years of schooling during the pandemic. During the Covid crisis, “we didn’t really [feel] very scary and stressful, and we could only stay home for a month or more and it was quiet, ”he says. “But now, the air signal sounds – we’re just going to the shelter and the house always seems stressful and panicky.”

When that happens, “the lesson is over and we don’t continue our lesson and it’s difficult because it can take several hours,” he added. “We can’t learn and also can’t do our homework. But the teacher treats us clearly, and they are. So, learning has become a little simpler. “

The Yarova school system in Kyiv announced on Monday that children from other Ukrainian cities, some of whom are suffering even more, have come to Kyiv’s online classes. Yarova says several students from Kharkov have started attending, but none from Mariupol and Chernigov have been able to connect.

Yarova has been living in a bombed-out school shelter in Kyiv since she left her home three weeks ago. The closed sports school for athletics has become a temporary dormitory for a small group of people and their pets. While classes continue, Yarova and district school principals spend their days cooking hundreds of meals for the men of the Ukrainian Voluntary Military Defense Forces.

Speaking from Kyiv on Monday, the head of the education department looked confused and tired. She laughed angrily as she gave up Forbes a virtual tour of what she called an “apartment” – a narrow and windowless room where she had a little perfume, hair products and sportswear she had taken while fleeing her home. “I was so scared, scared,” he says. The men remain in his family in Kyiv, while the women, including his mother and six-year-old grandson, are in western Ukraine near the Hungarian border, hoping to reach Italy.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Yanyuki is worried about how he will pass the necessary exams to enter the university. Yarova also says it is not clear how these standard exams and even university graduation will take place in Kyiv.

“We’re so tired of it,” he says, sighing, “we don’t understand.” [when] it will be finished. ”

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