Occupied but not conquered: education in occupied cities

Робота Софії Красулі

As researchers, we have to be guided by reliable information. For the Ukrainian Educational Research Association, such information is the testimony of our members - those educators who are in the temporarily occupied territories, particularly in Melitopol and Kherson.

The Russian invaders want to use the schools for two main purposes. First, by resuming education and gathering children in schools, they can gain the ability to manipulate the locals. They can hold the children hostage, take them into Russian territory or use them as human shields if necessary. Secondly, teaching the russian imposed curriculum and values may in the long run make them as unprincipled victims of propaganda as a large part of russian youth.

In order to restore the lessons, the illegal Melitopol "mayor" tried to round up the school directors and when it failed, they were subjected to reprisals. Some school principals were visited in their homes by armed invaders and threatened by them and their families. Four school principals were kidnapped, held in a garage and then taken out of the city and left there, fortunately alive. In spite of this, they tendered their resignations and prevented the reinstatement of the education process, which was dangerous for children and their parents. A similar situation occurred in Kherson, where residents of the destroyed surrounding settlements came together. Some of the schools conduct education online, but the speed of the Internet does not always allow it.

It is also known that the Bogdan Khmelnitsky Melitopol State Pedagogical University has resumed online education. It is working on Ukrainian programmes and is preparing lists for Ukrainian diplomas. Orphaned students and students from the Donetsk region who find themselves in a difficult situation remain in the dormitory. Despite the overall difficult humanitarian situation in Melitopol, the teachers help the students in every way they can - not only by teaching them, but also psychologically supporting them and providing them with food.

All in all, the situation is complicated - even a hint of support from Ukraine can cost a person their health or life.

Why educators? We can all see what propaganda can do to the population, and education can be both a means of humanely educating children and young people and a powerful channel for "brainwashing" and manipulating the population. The pictures of Z-"heroes" on the walls of Russian schools are a convincing example of it. Growing up and still growing up, worshipping brutal murderers and being proud of the atrocities of their fatherland on the territory of another state, they cannot adequately perceive reality. The worldview, inverted by propaganda, does not accept the ideals of truth, peace, and democracy, and therefore the bearers of this worldview will do everything to destroy them.

And how can we get rid of the ideals of truth, peace, and democracy? It is enough to make the school carry lies, war justification, and total authoritarianism. That is exactly what is expected of teachers and school administrators. And if they don't break under the pressure of repression, they will want to get rid of them (physically destroyed or forcibly relocated to depressed regions of Russia) and replace them with those who are good at delivering these "anti-ideals".

Although we believe that the way educators have acted in the occupation proves that they will not break. We sincerely believe that those carriers of "anti-ideals" will not be allowed anywhere near Ukrainian children who are genetically absorbed the desire for truth, peace and democracy.