On the southern front of Ukraine, education is under Russian fire

First modification: 09/25/2022 – 13:50Last edit: 09/25/2022 – 13:48

Mikolaiv Region (Ukraine) (AFP) – A few kilometers from the southern front, in the Mikolaiv region, the ruins of a school embody the destruction inflicted by Russia on Ukrainian education. A few stuffed animals lie on the floor and the small desks are littered with debris.

The facade of the building was torn off. At the rear, the roof has disappeared and a wall has collapsed, revealing the remains of a gymnasium. Around him, the charred remains of vehicles see abandoned playgrounds.

The Russian army passed through the village at the beginning of the war without stopping, and then retreated in early March leaving it intact, said Serguei, 51, head of the city council, contacted by phone by the AFP in Mikolaiv, where he currently lives. .

But once the Ukrainian troops took up a position there, “the Russians understood their mistake and bombed everything,” he added.

Here the roofs have largely been cleared away, according to Sergei only 25 of the 1,700 inhabitants remain. The streets are deserted during the day, while the artillery rumbles on both sides. Ukraine recently launched a counter-offensive in the south, the results of which are still difficult to assess.

On Thursday a powerful bullet crashed into an empty piece of land in the city. The five-meter-deep crater is proof of the power of the “Russian gift”, joked Lieutenant Andrei Gruchelsky.

“The bomb must have weighed at least a ton. Thank God it fell 20 meters from our camp!”, He smiles. “If not, I wouldn’t be here to talk to you.”

About the school he said: “At the beginning of the war it was very nice. But day after day, bomb after bomb, let’s see what it has become.”

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Serguei remembers with emotion the school where 190 minors studied, from kindergarten to high school. His wife ran the computer lab, his eldest son went to high school, and the youngest had not yet attended it.

“We put so much time and effort into making the school as good as it could be. The classrooms were great. Our dining room was even better than other places,” she complained.

future commitment

Inside there are letters painted on the wall with drawings: “A” for bus, “T” for tractor … But in the rest of the room there are upturned furniture, books lying on the floor. Outside, an abandoned children’s home.

“The Russians deliberately attacked the school. I hate them,” said Sergei.

In the neighboring town, where eight civilians were killed in seven months of the war, according to local authorities, a mortar round exploded in front of a brick school, blowing up many windows.

“My soul comes out of my body when I see all this destruction. They not only take away our schools, but also the future of our children,” says Alla Kovalenko, whose son recently finished high school there.

He shows it on his phone at the high school prom last summer, when he waltzed with his girlfriend in her best dress.

In the place where the party was held, the stairs now have holes due to the explosion. The remains of the missile were stacked neatly on a step.

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“If I could, I would take the Russian soldiers and cut them millimeter by millimeter,” said Kovalenko.

According to UNESCO, which cites the Ukrainian Ministry of Education, 291 schools have been destroyed since the beginning of the Russian invasion and 2,551 have been damaged.

UNESCO’s Director-General regularly calls for “an end to attacks on schools, teachers and students”, but the reality on the ground shows that it is not being listened to.

Ukraine, because schools do not have enough shelter, because they are in disputed territory … or because parents are afraid to send their children, 40% of students started the school year online, according to the Ministry of Instruction.

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