Today, eight months into Russia’s war against Ukraine, many have begun to realize that while military support, sanctions, and humanitarian response are important to win the struggle for freedom, it is also essential to uphold the democratic progress the country has achieved. One of the main ways to do so is to support Ukraine’s education efforts. But how can this be done? We gathered high-profile experts to explore this question during two dedicated panels in Oslo on 25 October 2022.
Education does not stop when war starts, noted Nataliya Yeremeyeva, advisor at EWC, during the first panel. She pointed out that Ukrainian students are defying all odds by continuing their studies in wartime, and that it was their existing Ukrainian education – strong and democratic in nature – that had prepared them for this challenging year.
Ana Perona-Fjeldstad, director of EWC, took the opportunity to reiterate the message she had taken to the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) the day before: education must be explicitly included in the list of priorities for Norway’s aid to Ukraine, as well as in its foreign aid efforts in general. This rang particularly relevant in light of the criticism from Anna Novosad, former Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, of the way such aid is currently distributed on the ground. An international organization will often take six months to arrange its offices in Ukraine before finally beginning to network with local partners, she explained, adding:
“This is not how your tax money should be spent.”
Bureaucracy also means that in October, a school with destroyed windows is promised new windows by April – an ineffective and mistimed solution.
Oleksandr Tretyak, Mayor of the city of Rivne who participated online from Ukraine, supported her comments, urging for more efficient and focused action from international actors. A harsh winter is looming ahead, he warned, and help will be more decisive than ever. Throughout the discussion, the significance of local, Ukraine-based, bilateral partnerships was repeatedly emphasized.
All in all, Norway has made great strides in helping to safeguard the access to education for Ukrainian children, including those who stayed in Ukraine and those who came here. To shed more light on these efforts and processes, our panelists covered questions such as:
- How is Norway’s help received in Ukraine and distributed on the ground?
- What works efficiently in this process, and what can be improved?
- How does the Norwegian education system integrate Ukrainian refugee children?
- How can we best equip young Ukrainians for their return home after the war?
The first panel, under the theme of “How can Norway better support education in Ukraine?”, featured Nils-Ole Foshaug, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Norwegian Parliament; Frode Lindtvetdt, Head of Local Democracy, European Politics and International Affairs, KS; Anna Novosad, co-founder of Charity Fund SavED; and Oleksandr Tretyak, Mayor of Rivne. The second thematic panel, “How can we better support Ukrainian school children in Norway?”, featured Knut Christian Clausen, headmaster of the Flora school (Vestland); Oksana Kovalenko from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine; and Nataliya Lutsyk, head of the Ukrainian Community in Norway.
“Ukrainians are dying for us,” said Nils-Ole Foshaug at the end of his panel, “We know this.” He was on his way back to Stortinget shortly, bringing EWC’s urging for solid international support for Ukrainian education system with him.
What about fatigue, the general tiredness the world may be feeling at this point in response to any war news? “Believe me,” said Mayor Tretyak somberly, “Believe me, we are tired, too.” Ukrainians don’t have the luxury of war fatigue while their country remains a battlefield. As some of our online viewers commented, they hope that the world will not lose interest and turn away due to some tiredness, either.
Iryna Sabor, Head of Early Childhood and School Section at EWC, reiterated that educated children who build their lives in Ukraine will constitute the backbone of the country’s future as a modern European democracy. A strong, democratic national education system will play a key role in Ukraine’s recovery and in the future of its democracy. Ukraine – and the world – cannot afford to lose this generation.