On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine. Russian missiles have hit several Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv. This conflict has disrupted life for many Ukrainian citizens. Many are forced to flee to other countries for safety. This has also affected both Ukraine and Russia economically and socio-politically. One less discussed impact of this conflict is of its effect on education to Ukrainians, Russians and students from all around the world.
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the attacks on the Ukrainian cities resulted in further school closures. According to “Save the Children“, the attacks on Ukraine are endangering the lives and futures of 7.5 million children with reports of up to 10 children killed in the fighting and educational facilities being bombed across the country. Many students had to disrupt their education to flee to safety. The ones who cannot leave have either remained indoors or even, some as young as 18, have joined the Ukraine army.
Youths all over Ukraine have been volunteering and helping their country during this conflict. In a video by France 24, they found a group of Ukraine teenagers in an Eastern village building trenches and fortification. The conflict has caused much unrest and caused many to lose educational opportunities. Disrupting the education of thousands of students could also have detrimental future impacts in Ukraine, such as a future workforce with fewer educational qualifications. This could cause a domino effect in affecting the economy and job opportunities of Ukraine. Adolescence is a time where you are supposed to be enjoying your more carefree years growing up. It is tragic to see many have had their lives disrupted and lost educational opportunities.
According to government statistics, Ukraine had over 76,000 foreign students in 2020. Since Russia’s attack in February, international students have been trying to return to their home countries. An obstacle for many international students is the limited international flights out of Russia and Ukraine. This is even more detrimental, as some students cannot afford a ticket to leave the country immediately. International students with no relatives are even more at risk as they face the threat of being evacuated from their universities and having no place to go. The video below shows several Indian students trapped in Ukraine who are unable to leave and as a result, are in danger of having no access to food and water. The luckier ones have fled back to their home countries. However, they still face one obstacle – they cannot finish their degree. Students have expressed their frustration at having to leave their university education behind, leaving them stranded with no degree. They cannot continue their studies because of the conflict and some do not have the resources or time to start over.
Though the conflict occurs on Russian and Ukraine soils, its effects are being felt in other parts of the world. Several universities have cut ties with Russia universities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ending its partnership with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow because of “unacceptable military actions against Ukraine by the Russian government”. Study abroad programmes to Russia and Ukraine, and even in surrounding countries like Poland, have been shut down. The dissolved partnerships affect current students and academics, whom may find their research projects and education disrupted. A Californian Republican, Eric Swalwell, suggested that kicking Russian students out of the U.S. should be one sanction against Russia. Should Russian students have to bear the unintended consequences caused by the hostile actions made by Russian President, Putin? What will happen to the future academics in Ukraine, Russia and the world? We don’t know what the future holds, but we know what we want to see. We want to see a future where all children, regardless of their nationalities or backgrounds, have the opportunity to make the world a better place than it is right now.
As someone far from the Russian Ukraine conflict, you may wonder, what can I do?
The situation is much more complex than we know. Therefore we need to learn and understand the historical context of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine before we judge the situation. Educating ourselves about what is happening from credible news sources such as BBC, Times, Channel News Asia and Al Jazeera, would be beneficial.
Listen and remain open to all sides and perspectives on the situation. We can practise kindness and compassion towards all people, even the seeming perpetrators.