By Tatyana Orel
What does the homeland begin with? From a picture in your ABC. The homeland is Ukraine, and the ABCs are Russian. Almost hundred thousand children in the occupied territories will study by Russian textbooks now. Nobody asked what they wanted. It is the terrorists who decide how to live, work and study there.
Russia delivers not only weapons, but also textbooks to Donbass; they can also be considered a weapon – a strategic one. Along with the Russian television (Ukrainian TV channels are naturally disconnected in the occupied territories), they will bring up patriots of Russia in Ukraine.
There are many of them in Donbass. Many left approving comments to the photos in the social networks showing a Donetsk girl trampling down the Ukrainian flag on the Independence Day and a kindergarten teacher who set an example.
There was another video on YouTube recently: when a girl in one of Kramatorsk supermarket heard the Ukrainian anthem from the commercial display, she started singing along shyly. While she was singing, passers-by joined her. Even if it was a prepared flash mob, it had a tremendous effect.
The Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Sergey Kvit is sure that it is not from textbooks that people learn patriotism. The better-educated a person, the less yielding to information provocations he is. The Ukrainian system of education is also to blame for what is happening in Donbass now, he considers.
– Sergey Mironovich, it will have been a year soon since the birth of new Ukraine began on Maidan. There have been so many events for this time that it will be enough for a whole textbook. However, textbooks do not keep up with events. What do teachers at Ukrainian schools tell children about relations with Russia that humiliates our national identity, that is to blame for everyday deaths of both civilians and military people? Meanwhile, Putin, boasting in front of television cameras, cynically calls Ukrainians "a fraternal nation"...
– "Fraternal nation" and "kin brotherhood" are gross racist notions. I suppose we should have forgotten them a long time ago. The main thing in the relations between countries is respect. Of course, we did not manage to introduce changes to textbooks, and it is unreal – too little time has passed. And we cannot tear out pages from old textbooks. There will certainly be new textbooks, but the process of their preparation will be absolutely different now: it will be the public rather than the minister that will decide who will write and publish them. The procedure of textbook creation is specified on our official site.
– Well, it is not a quick thing to do. But history teachers still have to tell children something about the war Russia involved us in, about Russian soldiers and officers who, breaking all laws of military and human code, are intruding into our country on tanks, about terrorists managed from the Kremlin.
– I think that it is critical thinking that should be cultivated in children above all. It is much more important than any concrete information that can be fitted into the child's head. The main achievements of two our revolutions are political competition, political culture and freedom of speech. It seems very important that Ukrainians have learnt to perceive power in an ironical way. If a person wants to receive information, he has all opportunities for this: newspapers, Internet, TV news. After all, in Ukraine, people did not yield to zombification of Putin’s propaganda anywhere else except certain territories in Donbass. Critical thinking and good taste are what need to be cultivated in the child. The rest will come in due time, and he or she will find answers to specific questions.
– Children of migrants from Donbass went to schools in different regions of Ukraine. Putin’s propaganda has already managed to re-educate some of them. Is not it fraught with school wars – fathers of some of them are fighting in ATO, and others have heard much about Ukrainian "fascists" from Russian news and their own parents?
– There are about 37 thousand children of migrants at schools today. Some of them have already survived a real tragedy, but their consciousness will gradually change thanks to new contacts, new books that they will read now and a new world that they will see.
– In April when everything was just beginning in Donbass, teachers told children how well it is to live in Russia, and that Donetsk and Lugansk regions will soon follow the Crimea to part from Ukraine, and at Art lessons children were taught to draw the Russian tricolor. There are many stories like this. Sowers of the reasonable and the good were too quick – the Crimean scenario did not work out in Donbass. But these people still work at schools in the cities controlled by Ukraine and feel anger towards it. It is a pity that the Ministry of Education and Science does not have a service of internal security for investigation of diversionary teaching activity. Have at least any of them been punished?
– There will be no witch-hunt. It is necessary to give people a chance to reconsider their views. It will be the heads who were engaged in anti-state propaganda for their own interest who we will make responsible. Some people have already been dismissed. I went to Slavyansk not long ago, and I visited schools that were destroyed and already restored, I met teachers, pupils, students, talked to ordinary people in the street. They have a positive mood. And I had very good impressions from the trip. I brought a textbook in Ukrainian Literature punched by a mine splinter. I put it in my office – to remember …
– There are many such trophies both in Donetsk and in Lugansk and in other Donbass cities still occupied by terrorists where children shudder during lessons at every loud sound and ask teachers to take them to an air-raid shelter. What shall the graduates of these schools do? Does Ukraine recognizes their certificates?
– No, it does not. As well as diplomas issued by higher education institutions of "DNR" and "LNR" because the Ministry of Education and Science does not control the educational process in temporarily occupied territories. Higher educational institutions have no accreditation there, the state does not recognize their activity and cannot finance them. However, university graduates will be given an opportunity to defend Ukrainian diplomas – without attending lectures or by distance learning. We will develop a procedure, and everybody who want to do it will be able to do it.
– Some higher education institutions from Donetsk and Lugansk regions will be transferred to other regions. Students are used to huddling in dormitories – and where will the teachers live who decided to move? The salary will hardly be enough for renting an apartment…
– When transferring universities to other regions we first of all talk about providing housing to teachers. However, these are not apartments but hostels for reasonable prices.
– But many people move out with families. It is difficult to imagine a candidate of science surrounded by students over a pan with borsch in a common kitchen. It means that the compensation of housing costs is not provided?
– It is already responsibility of the Ministry of Social Policy. It is only them who can consider a question of allocating compensations to migrants. I do not consider traitors those who did not want to leave. People remain for various reasons: some have old, sick parents, some were afraid to leave the apartment without supervision, some were intimidated. But the Ukrainian state cannot pay a salary to those who remained at schools and higher education institutions in the territory of "DNR" and "LNR".
– If lecturers at higher education institutions have a choice whether to be transferred to another city or not, school teachers who come to work without getting paid for a long time are not even offered it. They will be very upset on hearing your answer… Is it true that Russian textbooks have been delivered to schools in the territories with "the special status"?
– Yes, we have such signals – Russian textbooks are delivered while Ukrainian ones are burnt. It is simply preposterous; it characterizes terrorist groups that have seized power.
– Proceeding from the theory of cause-and-effect relation, it is possible that the education system is also partly to blame for the tragedy that Ukraine is facing now?
– Of course, it is. The manipulation system created by Putin influences badly educated people in the first place. There were significant gaps in our system that contributed to the development of the current situation in Donbass where people had mostly Soviet rather than Russian identity. There has been no Soviet Union for a long time, but people still live in those realia. They were manipulated by means of the Russian mass media, that are not simply deceiving people as it was in Nazi Germany, but rather creating a parallel reality. We had no professional standards – how to teach people, what books to recommend, there were mistakes in the treatment of the value of freedom, historic facts, cultural issues.
– Probably, education officials themselves were not very good at school if they did not understand that a region like Donbass needs to special attention. They withdrew, but now Ukraine is paying for their mistakes.
– Now we can only correct these mistakes and bring up patriotism, pride of our history and the language, understanding that all of us who live in Ukraine have one future, so wellbeing and strength of the country depends on everyone to some extent.