Back to School in Donbas (OSCE report). #FreeSavchenko

Excerpted from the report of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 1 September 2015:

The SMM visited two schools in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) on the opening day of the academic year. At School 16, it noted that all damage caused by shelling the previous week had been repaired. The principal told the SMM that 207 pupils were enrolled, as opposed to 470 before the conflict. He added that text books had been mainly supplied from the Russian Federation. He said the curriculum had been approved by “DPR” “authorities”, with “My Motherland Donbas” the theme for the first day of classes. The SMM noted two armed men dressed in camouflage in the school yard, said by staff to be school security. At another school in the town, the SMM observed posters on the front door outlining protection measures in the event of shelling and the dangers posed by unexploded ordnance (UXO) and mines.

At School 19 in Donetsk city, the principal told the SMM that some parents were reluctant to send their children there, given its proximity to the airport, which he said partly explained the reduced enrolment. Before the conflict, there had been 800 pupils, whereas currently only 300 attended, he said. The school had most recently been shelled on 9 February, he said, with repairs paid for by the German government. Although an adapted Russian Federation curriculum was used, the principal said Ukrainian was taught, as well as English and German. At School 21 in the city, the principal told the SMM that pupils from grades nine to 11 would henceforth be taught “Military Studies”.

At Shakhtarsk Gymnasium – a school in  “DPR”-controlled Shakhtarsk (47km north-east of Donetsk) – the principal told the SMM that “DPR” “authorities” had provided 95% of the funds required to replace windows which had been mostly damaged by shelling. The school itself financed repairs to the roof, which he said had been hit by a mortar round the previous year. Attendance numbers – 920 before the conflict – were now 650, he added.

At a school in government-controlled Krasnohorivka (21km west of Donetsk), the SMM observed significant damage caused by shelling to windows, walls and the roof, which the principal said could be repaired within a month if there were no fighting. He said the school – which had only approximately 25 percent of its pre-conflict enrollment – also hosted another local school which had lost approximately 90 percent of its pre-conflict enrollees. The principal of another school in the town told the SMM that the school had suffered significant damage – sustaining 12 direct hits on 3 June, and most recently, two on 27 August – forcing staff and pupils to abandon the building. They are now housed in another school in the town. At that school, the SMM also spoke to another school principal, who said they had been forced to relocate, too, because their building was occupied by 20 Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers.

At a school in government-controlled Avdiivka (15km north-west of Donetsk), the principal told the SMM that 560 pupils were attending, compared to 700 before the conflict. Teacher numbers were down 50 percent, he added. The SMM observed the school basement, which has been converted into a shelter, with beds, blankets and water.

The principal of a recently-repaired school in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk) told the SMM that only 70 pupils – compared to 180 before the conflict – were enrolled. He added that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had recently conducted mine/UXO awareness lessons for teachers, parents and children, given that the area around the village was heavily contaminated.

Staff at a school in each of the government-controlled villages of Toshkivka, Novotoshkivka and Zolote (60, 53 and 60km north-west of Luhansk, respectively) told the SMM that preparations for the beginning of the school year had been completed. Repair work had been financed by the Luhansk regional administration and heating fuel – or alternatives – was available for the upcoming winter, they said. They added that English or German was an obligatory foreign language in the curriculum and Russian was optional.

The deputy head of the “city administration” of “LPR”-controlled Zymohiria (28km west of Luhansk) told the SMM that 500 pupils had attended the opening day at local primary and secondary schools. He did not provide further figures but said this represented a drop on the previous year. He added that text books and stationary had been provided as humanitarian aid from the Russian Federation.

 

Source: OSCE SMM press release

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