The road continues . . .

How the British International School Ukraine reopened for 2022 – 3

In December 2022 Anna Azarova, Communications Lead at the British International School, Ukraine, told how she came to be in the UK. Now, she tells the story of how the school has been able to re-open and even grown this year, with a little help from some friends.

Ordinary people or true heroes?

Our British School remains the only international school that ‘physically’ operates in Ukraine, Kyiv and Dnipro. I marvel at the undaunted spirit and stamina demonstrated by the entire BISU community – personnel, parents and even our youngest students. Indeed, education epitomises defiance and resistance against the aims of the aggressor.

Some of my colleagues joined the ranks of the Ukrainian military troops – I applaud their bravery. Some of my colleagues, both British and Ukrainian, became dedicated volunteers who transport refugees to safer places, and deliver food and medicine to those in need while travelling through dangerous zones across Ukraine. However, I consider every staff member to be a hero, fulfilling their responsibilities to the best of their abilities – everyone in their own place.

Currently, BISU offers blended learning, with our international educators providing lessons from their homes abroad, and Ukrainian academics teaching children in a classroom, whenever it is possible. Sadly, air raid warnings are part of BISU daily life. Every time a siren is heard, our Ukrainian students will display outstanding self-discipline, maturity and conduct as they quietly move to the shelter where they continue their lessons. It is both inspiring and excruciating… The shelters are safe, secure, and fully equipped, but can you imagine that children should study in a ‘comfortable’ bomb shelter in the 21st century?

Recent attacks by Russian forces left many cities in Ukraine without any supplies of electricity and hot water. With winter approaching, one of BISU managers’ most crucial tasks was to find and secure power generators for the schools. It is a kind of operational challenge we have to cope with.

Yet, even now, my colleagues never stop working hard to ensure uninterrupted support and learning to Ukrainian children. And they show their physical presence at school.

I was also privileged to learn that the British Embassy in Ukraine had no intentions to evacuate Kyiv, according to the interview Ambassador Melinda Simmons gave to Interfax Ukraine. She says: “and I can tell you that our commitments are pretty strong – it turns out we’re quite brave. And we’re very ready to be here”.  This is amazing!

Partnerhips that keep us going

The partnerships with a number of prestigious organisations around the world – City of London Freemen’s School, Oxford Education Online, King’s InterHigh Leading Online School, Pamoja Education (just to name a few) – allow BISU students access to a wider network and greater choice of subjects and lessons available from ‘global classrooms’. This not only helps our children with their academic achievement, but also enables them to collaborate with their international peers and to grow as global citizens.

Moreover, BISU has been able to make world class education available to a larger number of Ukrainian children. The crucial step towards this positive change is to making sure that national universities recognise International Baccalaureate and Advanced Level qualifications. Five years ago, BISU was the first institution in Ukraine to have launched such a crucial initiative and has kept promoting international qualifications ever since. I believe this move will contribute to the country’s further integration into the global community at political, economic, cultural, social and educational levels. To get it implemented, we cooperate with Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science and the relevant state authorities.

Rebuilding Ukraine

The war will be over one day. Yet, we don’t have to wait for the right time to come –  we have to start rebuilding Ukraine even now. While looking to the future, we aspire to create a dynamic student-centred environment that fosters a generation of happy, intelligent and multi-skilled lifelong learners able to make a difference in the world and move humanity forward.

To achieve this, brand new schools or educational hubs should be developed and opened in Ukraine. These are to be the Schools of the Future providing a first-class, innovative learning atmosphere as an integral part of a broad, balanced curriculum.

With this in mind, BISU has decided to initiate a socially important project. We are inviting international architect agencies to come up with their unrivalled vision of Ukraine’s School of the Future and design an experiential education environment blueprint for Nursery, Primary and Secondary. (If interested please contact Anna at BISU) We believe that this approach will allow the nation to roll out and restore its education network once the invasion has finished. Our pupils, who have demonstrated incredible resilience and who are Ukraine’s next generation, give us hope for the future of the school and the country, despite today’s extraordinary emergency.

Voices Around the World

Our ties with the global community keep getting stronger. For example, we were invited to take part in the Voices Around the World project. It is an ongoing international music project, which enables students to add their voices to a new song in a collaborative music video recording. This year’s song is ‘With This Hope In My Heart’ written especially for the project by UK pop legend Howard Jones.

 

The organisers are also working to create an International Day of Hope at the United Nations. I am happy to report that they use the sunflower as the international symbol of hope – a flower that has long been a beloved symbol of Ukrainian national identity.

We will do our best to help BISU students contribute to these projects.

Road ends and road begins

A renowned Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said that “happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy.” One such reason is discovering one’s life purpose. Happy people can change the world for the better. At our school, we aspire to grow our students as a happy generation eager to make a difference. But we, adults, have to set an example to follow.

When I was finishing this story, the UK marked Guy Fawkes Night inviting revellers to light bonfires across the country. The skies above East Leake,  the village where I am staying, were lit up with fireworks. My host, Janine was worried that I would be terrified at the bangs and snaps of pyrotechnics. Setting off fireworks has been banned in Ukraine out of concern that loud blasts could traumatise people.

Happily, they don’t affect me. I craned my neck to marvel at the sparkling, whooshing, wheezing displays of rainbow light and colour and enjoyed the show as would a child, who, thanks to the country that became my second home, never experienced a war trauma. It is already enough to make me happy. And, probably, this story is the first little step towards our brighter future. My ROAD continues.

Anna with friends in UK

 

 

Anna Azarova was born in Kyiv and was educated at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and the London School of Journalism.

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She is the Communications Lead at the British International School Ukraine.

Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

FEATURE IMAGE: by Nadine from Pixabay

Support images:  Sunflowers by Susanne Jutzeler, Schweiz, from Pixabay

Thank you to Anna for the images of BISU and UK friends.

If you would like to register your school to take part in the Voices Around the World project here is the link: https://voicesaround.com/