Ukraine: Schools open amid insecurity, desire for normalcy
By Svitlana Dukhovych & Gabriella Ceraso
The 2022-23 school year officially kicked off in Ukraine on 1 September, even as the war continues to grind on to combat Russia’s invasion.
Even though school doors are open, many children will be unable to attend because their lives have been disrupted by the war, with many boys and girls left injured or hospitalized or even refugees in foreign countries.
Yet, for those who remain, picking up their books will be a challenging task, according to Salesian Fr. Petro Mayba, the director of the Education Commission for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Children affected by war
Ahead of the school year, the Prosecutor General’s Office released figures detailing the number of children affected by the war.
As of 28 August, over 1,112 children have so far been directly affected by the armed aggression.
Of those, 379 children have died, and more than 733 have been injured in varying degrees of severity, though these figures are not final.
Preparing for school year
Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science recently published information and recommendations on how best to organize schools.
Commenting on those guidelines, Fr. Petro told Vatican News that the security situation in each area will determine whether children attend classes online or in-person, as well as their parents’ preferences.
If parents choose not to accept full-time, in-person education, they have the option to choose long-distance learning, a personalized schedule, or even to have their child attend a different, family-based form of education.
However, in-person education can only be introduced in schools equipped with bomb shelters that meet certain standards. If these shelters are too small to accommodate all students, the educational process can be organized in shifts.
Key factors: closeness and continuity
Wherever possible, elementary (primary) school children are urged to attend in-person classes, since younger children require direct communication with teachers.
"This is the greatest emergency," explains Fr. Petro, "without human contact there can be no growth or development. At the same time, instability can wreak havoc on the educational and formative processes."
In the context of schools and Catholic education, Fr Petro emphasizes the priority of closeness.
"Life goes on and we have to be able to live and live well, even if there is war around us,” concludes Fr. Petro. “We have to adapt to the new situation.”