17-year-old fresher Alina Berkut is an IDP from Donetsk. She left the city with her family in 2014. First they moved to the village of Mykolske and then to Mariupol.
«My childhood finished when I was 14. It happened suddenly, one day the war broke out. Shellings begun, MacDonald’s, Scherbakov Park got closed on my birthday, on May 26. It took me a long time to get over this, I had to work with a psychologist but now everything is fine», said Alina Berkut.
When it was time to decide which university to enter, the girl already knew that she wanted to work in tourism.
«This is a very prospective profession, the whole world is open to you, you can travel wherever you want to. This is why I did not enter a university in Donetsk and I chose Mariupol. There are more opportunities here. This year, for example, I am going to have pracricals in Poland for three months, my university arranges this», said fresher.
Alina is a student of a budget form thanks to Donbas Ukraine Educational Centre. A chain of such centres has worked at educational institutions (universities and lyceums) of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions since 2015. This year the number of these centres reached 23. The number of students and school pupils who address then increases as well. The Department of Education of the Donetsk region reported that these centres had helped 2000 children from uncontrolled territories in two years.
«If they do not have school-leaving certificates, we send them to school #7 which helps our educational centre, they take final state examinations in Ukrainian and history there, get a certificate which enables them to submit their documents to a university and then their entrance campaign starts, they take three exams according to the speciality they have chosen», said head of Donbas-Ukraine Centre at Priazovskyi State Technical University in Mariupol Natalya Piven.
Some applicants who address Donbas-Ukraine enter universities on general entry requirements. Those who do not have enough points can get additional budget places. This year the number of Donbas localities which can participate in this programme has increased. The system also works for ex-college and lyceums from uncontrolled territories. Vladyslav entered Priazovskyi State Technical University with its help. Novotroitske, his native village is situated on the demarcation line.
«To begin with, I finished school in Donetsk and didn’t have any Ukrainian documents, I mean school-leaving certificates or diplomas. I took exams at school #7, got necessary certificates in two weeks and entered Transport Faculty, now I’m a 2nd-year student», said Vladyslav.
There are two more variants which can help children from uncontrolled territories get Ukrainian documents confirming their education, take independent testing and apply to universities all around Ukraine on general conditions — there are distance or external learning. There are five schools which provide distance learning in the Donetsk region, they are situated in Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Slovyansk, Pokrovsk and Bakhmut.
«This is an alternative to usual studying, children cover all the curriculum of Ukrainian schools, all subjects, they do all the practical part, get marks for an academic year and school-leavers get marks for an academic year, register for independent testing and get school-leaving certificates as our school graduates. An online platform was created for academic purposes, it is a real electronic school with a personal cabinet, tests, textbooks which pupils can download or read online and educational videos. Children arrive in Mariupol only for final attestation and independent testing... This is Viber, email, communication with teachers, a child is registered on the platform and thus can communicate with anyone, with a tutor, with teachers of certain subjects, they ask questions and teachers answer them», said principal of Mariupol school #29 Larysa Bykova.
There are 350 distance pupils from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Mariupol school #29. There are more than 200 external pupils in school #54. External learning means mastering subjects independently with an opportunity to consult teachers, besides, pupils must come from time to time to take tests. According to the words of the Kalmius Group expert, representatives of central and local could elaborate more convenient schedules for the summer time and a programme for helping pupils with accommodations.
«For example, local authorities could create more comfortable conditions for those school pupils and their parents who was to come from separate districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and take exams in Ukrainian schools», said the Kalmius Group expert Oleksandr Dmytriev.
External learning is a good opportunity to enter a university for those who study in 11th forms but does not have a certificate of finishing nine forms.
«The system that helps children from the uncontrolled territory to become students has been set up. However, there are still a lot of problems which are faced by would-be students — IDPs. They are not able to pay for accommodation, there are transport problems, low stipends, etc. One more restraining factor taken into account when making the decision is how to leave for the Ukrainian territory. The state should continue perfecting the system of comprehensive support for children and youth from Donetsk and Luhansk... There is no limit to improvement, and in addition to powerful information campaigns in the past, it is important to expand communication and information channels, for example, to supply checkpoints with information materials, and to make it easier to go through checkpoints for those who want to take examinations in Ukrainian schools. On the basis of the focus group research results, the Kalmius Group analysts express their opinion that residents of the uncontrilled territory should get education at Ukrainian universities. Education is a good bridge to connect people», said Oleksandr Dmitriyev.