Kyiv – Today, like in other European countries, the school year started in Ukraine, which was prematurely ended for some students last year by the Russian invasion. While some children sat down in their desks today, online lessons await others, supported by a nationwide live educational broadcast. However, active fighting is still raging along the front line, which stretches from Mykolaiv in the south to Kharkiv in the east of the country, which in many places has completely interrupted classes. On the Ukrainian territory conquered by Russia, the new occupation administration arranges teaching.
While in the west of Ukraine children are already sitting in benches, on the opposite side of the country, in occupied Mariupol, this morning the Russian occupying forces checked students’ backpacks upon entering one of the schools. The children are slow and the soldiers barred the entrance, the mayor’s advisor Petro Andryushchenko said in a telegram. The Ukrinform agency previously reported that the Russian occupation administration announced the opening of 16 schools in the port, which was the subject of a fierce battle in the spring. Some facilities are not equipped and one does not even have a roof.
According to the Ukrainian media, Ukrainian teachers do not want to cooperate with the Russian administration in the occupied Melitopol in the Zaporozhye region. Therefore, Moscow sent 500 Russian teachers to the city, said the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov. Pupils under their guidance will have to sing the Russian national anthem every day, participate in the raising of the Russian flag and learn the Russian version of history, according to the mayor.
“None of us have experienced a school year like this. A new school year has never started to the sound of air raids. But each of us has a mission. Our soldiers are doing everything to win, and your mission is to continue teaching. The whole country is fighting for you to lead a normal life with school, knowledge, and therefore prospects,” said Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, at least 379 children have been killed and 223 are missing, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office. Another 7,013 Ukrainian children were forcibly displaced from the occupied territories to Russia, and millions of Ukrainians left their homes before the fighting.
Six months of war have damaged 2,400 schools across the country, including 269 that were completely destroyed, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Although civilian areas and schools are still under fire from Russian forces and more children are dying in the strikes, 51 percent of schools in the country have started face-to-face classes, according to the AP agency. Children can study online in these facilities if their parents so wish.
“Education is essential to getting back to normal. It is the foundation,” said James Elder, spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). But safety remains the priority. Schools that do not have quick access to shelters, are located on the borders with Belarus and Russia, or in the area of active fighting, started studying only remotely today.
However, schools in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region will certainly not open their doors to students today. The city has basically been under constant shelling since the beginning of the war. In one of the schools, however, everything is ready for first-graders – the desks are lined up, the blackboard is washed, and numbers and letters of the alphabet hang on the walls. Only students are missing. In the middle of the empty room sits 55-year-old school principal Oleksandr Novikov, who has been teaching for over 20 years.
“It’s depressing,” said AP Novikov in the deserted school.
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