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Vincenzo Circosta  / Zuma Press / ISOPIX
Vincenzo Circosta / Zuma Press / ISOPIX

Ukraine: Education International condemns Russian attacks against teachers and education in occupied territories

published 25 August 2022 updated 26 August 2022

In a horrific effort to rewrite history and indoctrinate, Russian forces are cracking down on teachers and education in occupied territories in Ukraine. According to Serhiy Shkarlet, Ukraine’s Minister of Education and Science, the Russian army is burning Ukrainian books and threatening, arresting, and torturing teachers in the Kherson region for teaching the Ukrainian curriculum.

Educators around the world condemn these attacks against our colleagues and education and call for Russia to immediately stop this war of aggression on a sovereign nation, so that peace can return to Ukraine.

“Like other autocrats before him, President Putin is attacking teachers for the key role they play in preserving and passing on a nation’s memory, history, and identity. But teachers are not easily deterred. Our colleagues have put up a remarkable and admirable resistance in defense of their students and country. We are in awe of their bravery and stand with them every step of the way to freedom,” stated David Edwards, Education International General Secretary.

Efforts to erase Ukrainian history and identity

In preparation for the staged referendum on annexation to the Russian Federation which is due to take place on September 11 in the occupied areas of the southern Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions, Russian forces are working to undermine Ukrainian identity and history by attacking teachers and education.

Plans to introduce a new curriculum and new books for the school year starting in September have been met with resistance from Ukrainian teachers. The new materials rewrite history and closely follow the Kremlin’s political agenda.

Teachers have been threatened with being sent to Crimea for “retraining”. According to The Times of London, Russian media have called for teachers who oppose the new curriculum to be shot or “sent to the gulag”. Kherson residents report teachers having been arrested, threatened, and tortured. The Russian military has also taken over schools in Kherson to use as barracks, setting tripwires and explosives around them.

Resistance from Ukrainian teachers

According to Ukraine’s Minister of Education and Science, the great majority of teachers in occupied territories have refused to collaborate with the occupiers. Instead, they are working to continue teaching the Ukrainian curriculum using YouTube or national television channels to broadcast lessons. Many teachers stay in touch with parents to pass on teaching materials and support home-schooling in secret.

Some teachers in Russian-controlled territories have exposed themselves to incredible risks, with some crossing the front line to bring back information and salaries for colleagues.

"We are in awe of their bravery and stand with them every step of the way to freedom."

David Edwards, Education International General Secretary

Praising Ukrainian teachers, the Minister of Education and Science stated: “I am proud of my educators, they are definitely war heroes in our country. They did not just teach, but saved, protected, sheltered children. Teachers were often the first to provide psychological support.”