Conflicts & War

Ukrainian universities continue online amid fears of teachers leaving

By Lourdes Velasco

Lviv, May 1 (EFE).- Most Ukrainian universities continue to teach online, and many have also become centers of support for the armed forces, while a significant part of the faculty have left the country.

However, those running these institutions, such Lviv University’s Rector Volodymyr Melnyk fear that there will be a flight of talent and that the best will never return.

Melnyk estimates that 25 percent of his university’s faculty are gone. “We are aware that in other countries such as Poland wages are higher and our workers are very well trained. It’s logical that they want to stay,” he explained to EFE.

But on the other hand, the teachers have their home in Ukraine, which he hoped would bring them back. “Everything will depend on the duration of the war. If it ends soon, they will return. If it gets too long, they may stay out.”

Other universities in the country face a similar situation, despite the fact that men between the ages of 18 and 65 cannot leave the country to defend the country except for special circumstances.

Many European universities or institutions are already preparing programmes to employ refugees.

Melnyk is one of the few who goes to work every day to his office, located inside an imposing imperial-style building is now forlorn. Even the University Council meets online.

However, the university has not ceased its activity in the two months of war, like all the other universities in the country except those in combat zones.

“Some (universities) were completely destroyed, such as those in Mariupol and Kharkiv,” rued Melnyk, adding that in Mariupol it was such a “disaster” that no one knows where the teachers are. But even in Kharkiv they have continue with the classes online.

“We need students to continue (their studies) and graduate to integrate into the job market,” said the university rector.

Students who volunteer with the armed forces are identified at the university and given more flexibility to perform their tasks, and those who are at the front will be able to take their exams next year if they want at no extra cost.

“We decided to continue our online classes as we were already trained due to the pandemic. Many students went abroad when the war started, especially in Poland, but they are still studying from there,” explained the rector.

Activities were stopped for two weeks at the beginning of the war, in which some teachers who decided not to continue had to be replaced. There are 24,000 university students dependent on this center and another 8,000 pursuing other courses from there.

In the case of Lviv University, online teaching is more problematic, according to Melnyk. “Perhaps the quality isn’t the best because they can’t use the labs, but we’ve decided to continue.”

Christina, who studies computer science at the university, told EFE that she has become accustomed to online studies thanks to the pandemic, although she regrets having lost the opportunity to socialize with peers that studying at a university presents.

Maria studied law at Odessa University and lived there in an apartment until the war began, following which she moved to her parents’ home in Ivano-Frankivsk in the west of the country for safety reasons.

“When the alarms sound, I close the computer and go to the shelter. Then the teachers send me additional tasks. But when the siren sounds in the teachers’ village, classes are suspended and must be taken again on another day,” she told EFE explaining the difficulties faced during online classes amid the war.

But the closure of classrooms does not mean all activity has stopped. In fact, several support groups for the Ukrainian army have emerged among students and teachers.

The Student House has now become a workshop in which university students and civilians make camouflage fabrics for the military – curtains, sheets or any large fabric can be painted green, black or sand. In addition, with three-dimensional printers they have been able to create harnesses for soldiers. EFE

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