The school in the corridors, a little over a meter high, there are cute animal stickers on the wall. Below them is an arrow and the word “to protect”.
Monday was the first day of school for first graders at Lyseo 157 in Kyiv. In the middle of the war, six-year-olds who grew up to school age have to learn, in addition to other new skills, the route to the bomb shelter.
For all other students, September brought with it a return to face-to-face education for the first time since February, when Russia brutally interrupted school life by attacking Ukraine.
Principal Tetjana Jermak presented the school to the HS on Monday. On the walls and shelves of the principal’s office, there are gifts from former students, some of whom are at the front.
“With older students, we talk about what causes war and how it can be prevented in the future,” says Jermak.
He says that he is a confident and calm role model for children, because that’s what human seedlings traumatized by war need. Some of the children have returned to Kyiv from the evacuation from other European countries. He wants to teach children not to be afraid.
“Children are our hope for the future,” he says.
Lyseo in 157 cannot study Russia even as an elective subject. The school’s languages are Ukrainian and English.
In a country at war, patriotism is strongly present in everyday school life. The words of the national anthem are written on the school wall, and blue and yellow Ukrainian flags are everywhere.
Each school day begins with the raising of the flag and the national anthem. In addition, many other patriotic songs are sung at school. According to Jermak, singing gives strength in difficult times.
“We sing a lot,” he says.
He shows videos taken on his phone a year ago, in which school children perform songs that raise the national spirit in the school yard in Ukrainian national costumes.
“We develop a sense of what it is to be Ukrainian,” says Jermak.
“Each generation must recognize its own mission.”
Jermak says that the school forms a “leader community”. The idea is to raise children into leaders. Schoolchildren don’t just sit in their seats at their desks and ask to speak by pointing. They form teams with projects. They learn to manage these projects.
Jermak talks about projects done in cooperation with the EU and local universities, as well as former students of the school, and European values. Some of the teachers work from EU countries.
“We are a European country with the same values as the EU. We are based on humanity,” says Jermak.
He says he is raising a new generation of Ukrainians, leaders who defend European values.
A major challenge on Ukraine’s path to EU membership is eradicating corruption. According to Jermak, that is also being talked about, “of course”.
Recently, the school has printed an illustrated and poetic booklet on the Constitution of Ukraine, which has been distributed to all children. Other schools in Kyiv are also excited to adopt it.
According to Jermak, parents are also committed to the school’s value education.
Jerma too the school he leads has students aged 6–17. HS was able to observe the first day of school for the first graders.
A large part of the school starters were dressed in the vyshyvanka, the national costume of Ukraine. They started to become common in everyday use in Ukraine already in 2014, when Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula.
All 1,500 students of the school cannot attend close-to-class education at the same time, because there is not enough space in the bomb shelters.
The war has changed school teaching, says Jermak. The children are taught, among other things, first aid, the protection of civilians and matters related to security. Attention has also been paid to improving the physical condition of students since Russia started the war of aggression against Ukraine.
The war is also discussed a lot – the children have a great need for that, says the principal.
“We just had a big discussion about how to identify fake news. This has also been discussed with parents of schoolchildren,” he says.
If and when we have to spend time in a bomb shelter, we usually talk there. Or let’s play or continue teaching, depending on the students.
The war According to Jermak, discussing the reasons is complicated because many of the children have relatives in Russia.
“It’s hard. I myself have relatives in Russia,” says Jermak.
Recently, the school has been talking about the situation in Kharkiv and was happy about the progress of the Ukrainian armed forces. According to Jermak, rejoicing over Ukraine’s progress is overshadowed by the war losses that many have experienced.
The school has children whose parents are at the front and also those who have lost family members in the war.
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