By Stanislav Aseyev for RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
(March 1, 2015) Despite all the criticism and skeptical views concerning the newly formed “republics,” a large number of youth that have not left Donetsk, Luhansk, Makeyevka, or other large Donbas cities currently controlled by the militants are continuing their education. They study at regular and technical schools, as well as universities that now operate under the jurisdiction of the “republics” and promise to issue Russian-standard diplomas.
The challenge is twofold, and relates not only to the worthiness of the diploma. On the one hand, those who have primarily moved to other Ukrainian cities and decided to continue their educations at a Ukrainian institution face many technical difficulties, such as housing, work, new living conditions, and others. In the end, their efforts should result in something that they hoped to earn when they enrolled at a school – an ordinary Ukrainian diploma.
On the other hand, those who decided to stay in Donetsk and Luhansk and are continuing their educations at the newly created university departments and faculty, risk earning a diploma that will not be recognized either in Ukraine, but possibly even in Russia. A similar question stands before high school juniors and seniors. Whereas students in the 5th or 6th grade can hope for the problem to be resolved over the course of time, those who are about to graduate are facing a problem presented to them by the “DPR’s” “Ministry of Education,” which considers these graduates their own.
That said, on a relatively quiet day in Donetsk one can see quite a few students who, like in the “old days,” take part in debates, conferences, and seminars, as well as those who quietly drink coffee next to university walls that are painted with flags resembling either the American Confederate flag or the flag of “Novorossiya.”
It is worth noting that a majority of these people do in fact support the “DPR” and are prepared to receive any diploma that will be offered to them from “above,” because they do not plan to leave the boundaries of the “republics” and look for jobs elsewhere.
There is another issue that forces some of Donbas youth to make similar decisions.
If previously large numbers of people were applying for full scholarships to Donetsk National University, after large numbers of youth left the “DPR,” the number of applicants has been cut by half. Therefore, the number of available scholarships has increased significantly and, as a result, there is almost no difficulty in obtaining a full scholarship. The problem is that the budget simply doesn’t exist. Stipends and other social benefits are also gone, and there are not that many “daredevils” who would be willing to pay out-of-pocket for an education in the universities of the “republics.”
The situation in secondary schools is somewhat different. After the determined policies of the “DPR” to re-register individuals and legal entities under the jurisdiction of the “republics,” teachers who, until recently, had been officially associated with Ukraine’s Ministry of Education have been left up in the air, without any social benefits and payments either from Ukraine or the “DPR.”
In all fairness, it should be noted that the latter [“DPR”] did issue a one-time payment to secondary school teachers in the amount of approximately $111, after which the issue was swept under the carpet.
But if university students, as people who are somewhat older and more rational, make the decision to continue their education in the “republic” more-or-less consciously, secondary school students are mainly under the influence of their own teachers and parents, who often demand that Ukrainian language and literature classes be excluded from the school curriculum. Of course, under these conditions, it is impossible to talk about a rising generation of [Ukrainian] patriots.
In addition to all this, theaters, the Philharmonic Hall, and even some of the newly opened clubs serve to gather under their roofs those youth that have decided to remain on the territory of the “DPR”.