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It’s back to school in Ukraine — but far from normal


MYKHAILO-KOTSYUBYNSKE, Ukraine (AP) — The primary day of college in Ukraine on Thursday gained’t embody youngsters sharing reminiscences of enjoyable holidays with their households. Their tales are of surviving conflict. For a lot of, their final day of college was the day earlier than the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of their nation.

Not less than 379 youngsters have been killed for the reason that conflict started, whereas the whereabouts of 223 others are unknown, in accordance with Ukraine’s Common Prosecutors workplace. One other 7,013 youngsters have been amongst Ukrainians forcibly transferred to Russia from Russian-occupied areas.

Some youngsters have been compelled to flee their hometowns to keep away from bombardment, some spent weeks in basements. And whereas these in so-called “secure” areas generally managed to check on-line, courses have been steadily interrupted by air raid sirens. Six months of conflict broken 2,400 faculties throughout the nation, together with 269 that have been destroyed, in accordance with Ukrainian officers.

Civilian areas and faculties proceed to be hit, and kids maintain being killed. However after the primary months of shock, 51% of colleges in Ukraine, regardless of the danger, are reopening to in-person schooling, with an possibility to check on-line if the dad and mom choose.

“Schooling is essential to a return to normality. That’s basic,” stated UNICEF spokesperson James Elder.

However the security of kids stays the precedence. Colleges that don’t have fast entry to shelters or are positioned near the borders with Belarus and Russia, or close to lively army zones will solely have on-line research.

That’s the case for the seventh graders in Mykhailo-Kotsyubynske, simply 20 miles (35 kilometers) from the Belarus border, who gathered at their badly broken faculty Tuesday to choose up textbooks for learning on-line. Whereas ready, they performed a model of “Reality or Lie,” the place gamers tried to guess whether or not their opponent’s assertion in regards to the variety of missiles they noticed from their window was true or false.

“We haven’t seen one another for such a very long time. You all have grown a lot,” stated their trainer, Olena Serdiuk, standing in a nook of the classroom, the place home windows have been coated with thick black polythene as an alternative of glass.

Oleksii Lytvyn, 13, remembers very effectively the day Russian missiles hit the varsity twice. It was March 4, and he was within the faculty’s bomb shelter together with his household and dozens of different folks.

Simply minutes earlier than the blast, he had been enjoying with a pal. After the loud explosion, the partitions started shaking and he couldn’t see something however an enormous cloud of mud. One particular person was killed, a lady who labored on the faculty.

“We have been sleeping within the hall, and there was a corpse of a useless particular person behind the wall,” Oleksii recalled. His household stayed yet one more night time earlier than fleeing city, although they’ve since returned for the beginning of the varsity 12 months.

Oleksii’s classmates shared comparable tales about that day and the monthlong Russian occupation of Mykhailo-Kotsyubynske that adopted.

“Once I’m at college, I take into consideration the one that died within the particles. I really feel deeply sorry for her,” 12-year-old Mykola Kravchenko stated.

Their faculty, the most important within the space with 407 college students from Mykhailo-Kotsyubynske and close by villages, continues to be badly broken. Particles fills the second ground, and the roof and heating system nonetheless should be repaired — cash the varsity doesn’t have.

Regardless that they are going to be learning on-line, the scholars needed to bear safety coaching Tuesday. Serdiuk informed the category to comply with her to the identical bomb shelter the place many survived the blast in March.

Within the dimly lit shelter have been water provides and features of lengthy benches with labeled seats for every classroom. When the youngsters took the seats assigned to their class, Serdiuk informed them they needed to go there every time they heard a brief bell ring.

She stated many dad and mom inform her their youngsters are begging them to return to high school, however for now that isn’t allowed due to the hazard of being so near the Belarus border.

“Ukrainian youngsters are acutely conscious that the world is unstable and it could possibly be a horrible place. That brings … a lack of a fundamental sense of security,” stated Elder, the UNICEF spokesperson, including that the uncertainty can affect their studying and emotional and social growth.

Colleges within the Kyiv, Lviv, and Chernivtsi areas are amongst these welcoming college students again to lecture rooms Thursday. Nonetheless, it’s as much as dad and mom whether or not they ship their youngsters to high school or go for on-line schooling. The Kyiv and Lviv areas will host greater than 7,300 displaced college students who have been compelled to flee their hometowns and escape life underneath fixed hearth, officers stated.

In Kramatorsk within the Donetsk area, there isn’t any hope for faculties to open their doorways to college students. The town has been underneath fixed shelling for the reason that starting of the conflict.

In a single metropolis faculty, the first-grade classroom was all prepared: tables, chairs, a clear blackboard, the alphabet and numbers hanging on the wall, and Ukrainian flags able to be distributed to the children. The one factor lacking was the scholars.

Seated in the midst of the empty room was Oleksandr Novikov, 55, the varsity’s director for 12 years and a trainer for greater than 20.

“It is extremely miserable, it is extremely disagreeable to really feel that you just come to an empty faculty,” he stated. “There can be no youngsters laughing at college, nobody can be working right here” when the varsity 12 months begins Thursday.

Whereas Ukraine tries to defend itself from the Russian invasion, Novikov goals of higher instances.

“I would love an actual first bell, an actual assembly with youngsters and academics, an actual lesson, when eyes have a look at you with inspiration, belief and a need to listen to one thing new, to be taught one thing new.”

“That is what I wish to see,” he stated.


Fisch reported from Kramatorsk, Ukraine.


Comply with Arhirova at https://twitter.com/h_arhirova


Comply with AP protection of the conflict in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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