One year after the beginning of the hostilities in Ukraine, citizens are trying to continue to live "as if everything was normal". Schools are open and teachers continue to educate their children. Self-help initiatives are emerging in various settings. We spoke with a contributor, Valentin Kravchenko, while he was in Kyiv.
Valentin Kravtchenko was born in Ukraine and immigrated with his family to Montreal in the early 1990s. He is now President and General Manager of Grey-boxa social innovation startup that sets up portable wifi terminals giving access to educational content. The man who defines himself as a digital nomad has already deployed projects in several regions of the world. For him, it was normal to go to Ukraine to act on the ground. "You have to be on site to get in touch with people, understand their reality and get into solution mode with them."
A few days ago, he visited the Nest Academya private elementary school located in KyivThey're moving away from the traditional model of the teacher imparting information and students learning by rote, which is still very much a part of the country. "They are moving away from the traditional model of the teacher imparting information and students learning by rote, a model that is still very much present elsewhere in the country." The academy offers bilingual (Ukrainian and English) instruction in an intensive format, meaning that half of the classes are in English, regardless of the subject.
Although the school has lost about 40 % of its students since the conflict began, activities are being maintained. "Keeping the kids busy and engaged is especially important right now." The environment is always stressful; the basement is secure and everyone can take refuge in the event of an alert. Nonetheless, the school team is constantly working to reassure the children and allow them to continue learning. Efforts are also made with parents to counter misinformation that is prevalent both online and in the streets.
Computer equipment is available (tablets, computers and interactive whiteboards) in the school. Educational resources are rather scarce due to the lack of financial means to pay for user licenses. Noting this reality during his visit, Valentin made an appeal to the members of Edteq Association. Since then, some Quebec educational technology companies have agreed to offer licenses for their products available in English. This is notably the case ofeduMedia, of Nanomonx and D'Ululab.
Technology to do good
During our discussion, Valentin told us about different technology-related initiatives that are taking shape all over Ukraine. "Everything is about technology. It's tech for good at its best. Connections are maintained between people through their cell phones. It's easy to geolocate services. QR codes are plentiful to access information."
He gave as an example a movement led by the Wikipedia Foundation to speed up efforts to translate pages of the online encyclopedia into Ukrainian. "We see the power of digital. People mobilize quickly around certain projects."
Statistical data on the situation on the ground can be tracked in near real time via various open data platforms that are fed by organizations and citizens. It becomes easier to find humanitarian services, to know what kind of help is available in what place, etc.
The service ReliefWeb Response (RW Response) of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is constantly fed. The Ukraine Data Explorer is a data visualization tool that presents useful statistics, just like the LookerStudio from Google.
More than 12 million Ukrainians have left their homes in the last year. For those who remain, security alerts are numerous and life is not easy. Nevertheless, people are helping each other and all those who can are participating in the efforts to continue to live as normally as possible.
In addition : A video shot at Nest Academy