1 September: Ukrainian language schools in Donetsk region to defend their right to exist
The authorities have not come up with any comprehensible explanation for the closure of 4 Ukrainian schools in the Donetsk region. On 1 September therefore, with the beginning of the new school year, the parents of children from those schools are appealing to the courts to overturn the local authorities’ decision.
A parents’ initiative group is fighting for the survival of one school in Donetsk and three in Makiyivka. According to the chair of the group defending School No. 3 in Makiyivka, Hanna Nazilova, “The authorities could not even provide proof and convincing arguments in court as to why the schools needed to be closed. This confrontation has continued since February and in that time I’ve understand that the authorities have no grounds for taking the decision”.
She says that officials do not take into consideration either the interests of families, or children’s safety, or the future of such places where “there’s nothing except the school and the shop”. They have only one argument: they need to save public funding.
The parents say that the schools which the authorities have offered instead of those they’re closing are a great distance away and they’re no better. Olena Anufriyeva, mother of two students of School No. 100 in Makiyivka says that they’ve approached everybody – local deputies, parliamentarians, the Party of the Regions. “All of those whom we voted for are as if deaf, that’s why we’re going through the courts”.
The parents say that the teachers of the schools involved are staying neutral since they’re worried that if they protest, they could end up without any job. They are getting support and help in the courts from opposition parties. Despite everything the parents are themselves making repairs and getting the schools ready for the beginning of school on 1 September.
The Head of the Donetsk Regional Department of Education, Yury Solovyov told the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service that the schools where court cases are continued will in any case open on 1 September. He asserts that the issue is only one of rational use of public funding, and that the schools being closed were less than half full. He rejected any criticism from the opposition that pressure is being put specifically on Ukrainian language schools.
Accident or not, but a significant number of the schools which have been or are earmarked to be closed have Ukrainian language status. According to political analyst and member of the Public Council attached to the Regional State Administration, Oleksandr Klyuzhev, the fact that the authorities have not considered the risks linked with the language issue in the Donetsk region is evidence of their unpredictable and inept actions. It is clear, he says, that this has been used by political opponents.
He adds that perhaps there are certain objective circumstances gravitating towards closure of those schools, however the authorities’ policy on optimization has not worked and the court proceedings, regardless of their outcome, show this. “The authorities explain the closure to parents using incomprehensible budgetary formulae, but are incapable of showing advantages in the quality of the education”.