Thousands of Ukrainian students started their studies with a significant delay due to postponed entry exams, a factor among others crumbling their studying conditions.
The war-driven dynamics change the learning environment drastically, students state. Among them is Ruslana Bolkun (21 yo), a Kyiv student who still considers herself lucky that her university was not damaged; had the start of her academic year delayed until Monday.
Although not all educational institutions have been affected by the bombings, the deterioration of studying conditions is currently very relevant in Ukraine; a country in which people’s mental health hits its lowest.
Forced to temporarily stop her studies due to the closing of her university at the beginning of the war, Bolkun talks about the stressful conditions of her Master’s entry exam, once classes started again.
“Exams were held at university, and we had to hide in bomb shelters during one hour; as we heard air raid sirens. I was nervous about maybe having to re-do it” Bolkun says.
She then describes students’ fear to return to classes as two major bombings occurred nearby.
In fact, 2292 schools have been damaged and 309 fully destroyed from the beginning of the war, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Education – most being
close to the Russian border.
These figures also have an impact on students’ and professors’ mental conditions, especially in the more affected regions by the targeting of educational objects, such as Mykolayiv.
Very emotional about her high school years, Katya Onishchuk (21yo) a student from Mykolayiv discovered horrifying pictures of the place where she was educated, completely demolished by the Russian army.
“You could see the efforts and passion the Russians put into destroying the Letters department and all the books about Ukrainian culture,” Onishchuk said, while tearing up.
This incident, which is far from being isolated accounts for the Kremlin’s objective to “De-Nazify Ukraine” and bring it back to its “historical and cultural roots” – being Russia, according to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Suffering from the consequences of the Russian government’s actions, many Onishchuk’s professors – as she explains – have experienced occupation in Irpin and Bucha, now struggles with physical and mental problems.
This reinforces university staff shortages, as many male professors – if not ill, and between 18-60 years old – are on the battlefields.
Seeing her biggest dream to study International Trade in English fall apart due to professor shortages, Bolkun denounces some other administrative issues caused by the conflict.
“I had to wait one month just for a certificate from my university and there was a problem with receiving my diploma,” Bolkun explains. “It is very problematic when applying for jobs”, she adds.
The effects of the Ukrainian government’s decision to postpone the academic year, schools pursuing online and offline activities, and students’ well-being are yet to be established.
While Bolkun used to worry about her grades a lot, today she claims that her priorities – as those of many Ukrainian students – changed and she is just happy that she and her family are alive.