Education International
Education International

Ukraine: A hotline for students and teachers in the Crimea

published 15 March 2014 updated 7 April 2014

The Ukrainian education ministry has established a hotline for teachers and students in the Crimea who may find themselves Russian citizens after the referendum on 16 March. “We get a lot of calls from young people who are very worried about their future”, a deputy education minister told an Education International delegation visiting Kiev on 13 and 14 March. “We have asked our universities to open their doors for students from the Crimea who want to leave the peninsula to avoid waking up in another country”.

“The political relations in the world for the next decade may well be determined in the weeks to come,” says Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary. "The annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Mr. Putin is a gross violation of international law, if not an act of war, which should not be accepted. We may be facing the most dangerous period of the last thirty years.” Van Leeuwen explains that the EI visit to Kiev was a show of solidarity with the country’s democratic movement and with Education International’s two member organisations in the Ukraine, the Union of Education and Science Employees of Ukraine (STESU) and the Independent Education Union (VPONU).

STESU is the largest trade union in the country with 2 million teachers, lecturers, education support professionals and students. In the weeks prior to the ousting of president Yanukovych, the office building of STESU and its confederation KPU, located on Maidan Square, was occupied by protesters. It was gutted by fire after becoming a target of police forces.

The EI delegation visited Maidan Square and paid their respect to the victims of the uprising. They agreed with the unions that Education International will assist STESU in re-locating its offices and re-establishing communication with its regional and local branches. Van Leeuwen said: “Such assistance is not only to demonstrate international solidarity, but also to help STESU forge unity among its members, which include half a million ethnic Russians. This assistance will also aim to help prevent that the Eastern part of the Ukraine be annexed by Russia. We must help the teacher trade union movement in the country to get back on its feet as soon as possible, so that it can continue playing a role in strengthening the democratic movement.” It was also agreed that Education International will assist both STESU and VPONU through capacity building and professional development programs.

The EI representatives met with officials of the EU delegation and the US Embassy on 14 March asking that the unions be involved in rebuilding the country’s economy. EI’s European Regional Director Martin Rømer stressed the importance of social dialogue. He also highlighted that lending agencies such as the EU, the IMF and others should not impose conditions that would harm the education sector and the teaching profession.

The EI delegation was led by EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, and included Randi Weingarten (President; AFT, USA) Michelle Ringuette (AFT, USA), Slawomir Broniarz (President; ZNP, Poland), Kounka Damianova (International Secretary; SEB, Bulgaria), Patrick Roach (Deputy General Secretary; NASUWT, UK) and Martin Rømer (EI Regional Director for Europe). Before departing Kiev the representatives visited the memorial at Babi Yar where between 100,000 and 150,000 lives were taken by the Nazis during the Second World War, including tens of thousands of Jews and thousands of Soviet prisoners of war, communists, gypsies, Ukrainian nationalists and civilian hostages.