15:32 29.07.2021

Author IRINA ZHDANOVA

Flying or whistling? Education in schools along the contact line

9 min read
Flying or whistling? Education in schools along the contact line

Iryna Zhdanova, Founder of the NGO “Open Policy Foundation” and Klym Churyumov Scientific Lyceum, Ph.D. in History

 

I know that according to all the rules of any information campaign, there should be a post about the admission campaign. After all, July 21 is a newsworthy event. It was a deadline for submitting documents through the “Donbas/Crimea – Ukraine” Education Centers to study on a state-funded basis. Nevertheless, this post is not about the 2021 admission campaign for the temporarily occupied territories, but about the strategy. It is about education development strategy for the temporarily occupied territories and communities near the contact line. What are the three key messages?

1. We lost the information war with the Russian Federation. For today. We need to accept that there will be fewer and fewer people who want to study at Ukrainian schools remotely and there are more children who want to carry out external studies. To just get a state standard document.

2. There will be more and more people, who will use the procedure of simplified admission through the “Donbas/Crimea-Ukraine” Education Centers. Motivation? Live in safe areas, have a job abroad, or in Ukraine. To do this, they must obtain a Ukrainian diploma. No, they are not “for” Ukraine; they are just tired of the war. The fantasy about the Mother Russian is over… At the same time, they perceive Ukraine as a stepmother at best, and as an enemy at worst. And only a few consciously choose the values ​​of independent Ukraine. Parents keep pace with them.

3. The hope for a quick peace is illusory. Reconciliation will last long, and we will not expect a truce soon. “Nord Stream” is not a fantasy, but a reality that should be in the focus of Ukraine's international policy. The highest-quality professionals should be involved in the negotiations. It is no longer a question of political preferences, but a question of the country's survival. When you look at the negotiators from Ukraine, who today are involved in the creation of international strategic relations, it is no longer “mom’s laughing” but “mom’s crying”... Therefore, we must stop planning fantasies and consolidate professionals regardless of political preferences and ambitions. Although maybe it's also a fantasy... because new elections are coming soon...

Why is education today the cornerstone of reintegration?

No, the reason is not that it is now one of the priorities of international donor support, but because education has always been a matter of values ​​and geopolitics. And that is why the imperial analysts of the RF clearly understand its significance. And donors, as well. That is why the militants do not allow children to take part in the Independent External Evaluation... That is why any information campaign on humanitarian issues in the occupied territories, conducted by UN organizations, is possible, except for... access to education in Ukraine. Here I can give many specific examples of double standards, but not today.

There are still many questions about Ukraine's national, regional, and local policies.

Why do many schools in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are not hubs, but provide distance learning, external studies, still not have computers and laptops? Why do most schools still not have fiber-optic cable for high-speed Internet? Why is the MOODLE learning platform (created with public and donor funds for the occupied territories) hanging and difficult for teachers and children with their parents? Why are the lessons from this platform still not open for use by other teachers and children? Why are schools/teachers not paid for external studies of children? Why is the issue of payment for distance learning of children who are registered at schools after the beginning of the new school year still not settled? And how to find an IT specialist, if a salary is UAH 3,400 and this specialist has to maintain 356 computers in a hub school with several branches… Why is there no effective management? Why do we have no plan of action during distance learning? Why does no one teach cloud SCRUM management and why do education departments spam schools with reporting requirements. And why does the teacher have to pay for advanced training at state and municipal institutions, if millions of hryvnias are allocated for training according to resolutions #800? And how to provide distance learning in the absence of not only the Internet and light but also Ukrainian television? So… There are even such areas along the contact line that Ukraine CONTROLS by… fails to provide with Ukrainian television or radio, and the radio stations of so-called DPR-LPR sound in transport…

What kind of responses have schools received to these questions today?

Choose the platforms you want, study them on your own, pay for them yourself. Maintain a paper journal and an online one… You have absolute freedom to choose and do so here. How? This is your right to do it but... without wages for a technical administrator and site moderator. And you must coordinate every step with the education department... listen to dirty language... And let schools and teachers take part in endless competitions for the sake of rating ... Upload photos, videos on the website, on Facebook, in Excel forms, send reports as quickly as possible... Duplicate, count, look for money...

Why? Why did they put everything on the shoulders of the founder, which works in the DEPRESSIVE area, where the war continues, where only rusty checkpoints remain of factories, and young trees grow now in place of blast furnaces...

I understand that these are rhetorical questions. The MoES is not a controlling body. Teachers do not write such letters about these pains because they are afraid that their position will be reduced and schools will be optimized. And if the Open Policy Foundation summarizes and inquires, the answer will be sent to local authorities - the vicious circle of Ukrainian decentralization…

It is the circle I think about after the completion of the Open Policy Foundation’s series of training courses titled “Distance Education for Students from the Temporarily Occupied Territories” (supported by #USAID).

Why does no one want to hear them?..

Perhaps, are these questions and the search for answers not part of the reintegration strategy? Are we going into an even bigger conflict with Russian politicians and pro-Russian parties in the region? After all, politicians in both Russia and Ukraine are well aware of the importance of education as a tool for the self-identification of voters, and, hence, the cultivation of electoral sympathies, political education, and the strengthening of independence in the long run.

Probably, it results in changing not only the staffing table, job descriptions, but the state budget as well, and looking for additional extra-budgetary resources. But if school funding comes from Kyiv, it is also a tool for consolidating citizens around the national idea. Today, local authorities (and hence local political parties) determine the fate of school funding, their participation in international projects, which institutions are subject to optimization, and what will be the results of the competition for a director position. He/she should be comfortable for local authorities and political parties. It is not difficult to predict which one. These are realities. Do people in Kyiv know of examples when a school director in the East was fired because of a pro-Ukrainian position and the school was optimized?.. Who should monitor this?..

Therefore, in my opinion, in order to ensure real access to education for children affected by the war, it is necessary to develop local communities and educational space in frontline areas, the policy of decentralization. And, most importantly, it is subject to political will and the networking of teams.

And to make Ukraine truly European, you need to invest in resources. Stop illegal trade. Make economic development strategies effective. For example, when mines are closed and DTEK leaves the community in Dobropillya, it is necessary to create an IT cluster… Maybe it is not profitable to have a strong economy here? Maybe, it is profitable for illegals to go to the occupied territories at night, and for illegal trade to continues; there were cars which do not go from Lysychansk to Rubizhne, but they go in the opposite direction to the “territory”… There were carriers and the whole infrastructure of services: from the place in a queue at the checkpoint to information about mined areas for newly arrived contractors... War is big business.

We need the willpower to break this business. It takes courage to admit it. And we need a team of those who can make real changes in local communities in the East through horizontal networking.

Unequivocally, this will provoke opposition from Russia and pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine…

And this is another vicious circle - already political and geopolitical...

P.S.

“Do you know the difference between ‘flying’ and ‘whistling’?” a young history teacher asked me when we were swimming in a waterfall near the Green School in Kosmach and having fun like children, together with other teachers from the frontline schools... I didn't know the answer… Now I know… It's about shelling… It is ‘whistling’ when ‘it’ is near, and it does not make sense to run away…

I was silent… and thanked myself that at the International Green School/Kosmach, after the waterfall, they can ask and talk about this… pull out of the depths what hurts them… And then we danced and brainstormed… studied online platforms and painted Easter eggs… analyzed the risks of regulations and ... sang… because it was impossible not to sing, not to shout….

It seems to me that what is happening today in the policy of education is no longer “flying”... it is “whistling” ... and an explosion may threaten not only Kyiv...

Kosmach, July 21, 2021

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