Thursday, 20 February
 First-graders are still waiting for textbooks and desks, teachers are terribly tired, and parents cannot refuse from washing rugs.

Before the beginning of the school year, there were serious problems with the development of these funds. Moreover, the biggest difficulties with purchases (zero indicators in several areas) were in Mykolaiv, Zhytomyr, Ivano-Frankivsk and Kherson regions. The best situation was in Sumy and Odesa region, where they managed to develop more than half of the money provided. Even though one and a half months of the school year have passed, there are schools where the first graders are still without new desks and textbooks. And these, unfortunately, are not the only problems with the implementation of the NUS (New Ukrainian School).

“There is a problem with the number of children in rural schools”

Though, as they say, the first step is always troublesome, but the most important thing is that this first step has been made. So Opinion decided to continue monitoring what should be considered first of all so that the NUS did not turn into another disappointment of society. The biggest amount of information is, of course, in social networks. There you can see complaints of teachers, and parents, and just concerned people, who are interested in the future of the Ukrainian educational system. So, on the page “Parents SOS” in Facebook, there is the message from Vira Kotkova: “What should we do if all we got in school instead of a classroom (first grade of NUS) is an empty room? And that’s all. Desks? The state did not provide them: for now use the old ones. Bookshelves? No, we do not know. Technics? We have those, but only a non-existing company can install it. Therefore, we will not give the equipment until the company appears. Textbooks? The state did not provide them as well: we do not know anything. Take the old standard ones. Didactic materials? Only for the second grade: the state provided those. Have no place for “LEGO”? Your problems. And this room is in the middle of the high school, and the children can not pass through the crowd of high school students to use the toilet. The question is how to influence the situation quickly and efficiently so that the educational process meets the standards of NUS?”.

Moreover, if problems are spoken out in urban schools, where it is much easier to solve them, then what happens in rural areas, and even far from the center? So, in the Transcarpathian Center for Local Self-Government Development, it is noted that in the local united territorial communities there are 1,162 first graders who study in the 64 first grades. And in the 18 grades there study less than ten students, and in separate classrooms, there are from three to five children at one desk. On the one hand, a small amount of students in the classroom is a guarantee that the teacher will not ignore any single child, but the money for NUS was allocated just on the basis of the number of future first-graders. As elsewhere around the country, in Transcarpathia, too, there are currently awaiting for additional equipment, and the biggest problem here is the lack of modern desks for NUS: more than half of the grades do not have them.

If someone thinks, that the Transcarpathian schools are far from Kyiv and therefore have such problems, then he is mistaken. Not everywhere near the capital there are new desks. “In our region new furniture for the first graders never has been in time, the textbooks were received in September, that is, the situation is the same everywhere: the producers were not ready for such an amount of orders”, explains Kateryna Shatniuk, the head of the educational complex in Yatsky village Vasylkivskyi rayon of the Kyiv region. “Besides, in rural schools, there is a problem in the number of children as well, because we are placed in the last place in the queue for maintenance, it’s all about the funds. So, Yatsky Educational complex has 44 schoolchildren and 18 pupils of the preschool group, there are no 10-11 grades in our school for two years, and in this school year there are no first and ninth grades”.

According to the head, a new educational space in the school was created by the teachers’ own hands, for their own money and for money of the parents. “Modern children in villages need to be technologically trained,” says Kateryna Shatniuk “I mean computers, the Internet, modern technologies because the old methods of teaching work badly. That is, all the visual material should correspond to the present. Therefore, teachers buy posters, paper, refill the printer for their own money. Problems of the NUS should be solved at the state level: not to close rural schools, but to develop agriculture, so that there were jobs for people in villages. In general, the introduction of the NUS started with the first grades, and as we do not have it, we did not receive any new furniture or the workplace for teachers. Only at the expense of the district council, which financed 200 thousand hryvnias for these purposes, a toilet inside the school was fully repaired”.

It’s not the question worth making a fuss

Usually, rural schools get the money it the last turn. So, we asked the officials responsible for education at the local level what do they see as the solution to the problems. “The state actually allocated a huge amount of money to the New Ukrainian School, distributing it between the regions according to the number of children who were supposed to go to the first grade”, comments to Opinion Vira Rohova, the head of the Department of Education and Science of the Kyiv Region State Administration. “In the Kyiv region, more than 68 million UAH of subvention was received by the NUS, almost 52 million of this amount is provided for equipment. We used more than 91% of it today. This is, in fact, a good indicator since others do not have such results, but it was very difficult to achieve it, given the objective problems. See what we meet: the deal – through a tender procedure under the “Prozorro” system – was lined up with manufacturers, but the required amount of products was not made in time, and therefore we have such delays with the supply of the desks, which are discussed all the time”.

Vira Rohova explained, that these non-used funds for NUS are just the money provided for the purchase of the desks. “But when I hear that they affirming that, they say, they have not brought the desks somewhere”, explains Vira Borysivna, “I say: wait, we do not have any child who would not sit at the desk. Of course, we wish they all were single. It would be desirable that they were only colored one. And that the educational space was interesting. We are trying to do all this. And this year, such equipment is being bought to everyone, but maybe somebody will get these desks a bit later. The fact is that earlier the state did not provide such funds for education, therefore, the producers were not ready for such volumes of orders, but this is not the problem worth making a fuss”.

Serhii Voronov, the head of the department of education and humanitarian policy of Cherkasy city council, also supports the colleague. “In Cherkasy, to fully implement the reform, almost 15 million hryvnias is needed”, he explained to Opinion. “The state gave us only 4,7 million for the NUS, another 2,1 million added the city, but did it a bit late, only on August 22, that is, just before the start of the new school year. So the lack of funds and late payment of the co-financing became the first major problem for us. The second problem was the distribution of the state subvention: the funds are monthly planned in fact by November, which means that physically they were not provided by the state until September. But the biggest problem, as for me, was the lack of furniture and didactics in the commodity market. Though for the successful realization of the reform not only new educational conditions are needed, but also, what is very important, its content “.

Supporting his colleague from the Kyiv region, the head of the Cherkasy Department of Education, says that suppliers actually failed to satisfy the demand of the market and produce a sufficient quantity of goods, and the promised volume of the desks should be provided by the end of October, and to some in November. “Despite some problems with the co-financing of the state subvention for the implementation of the reform, the lack of funds for this subvention and the monthly distribution until October, we actively sought ways to implement the reform in the regional center and worked out an algorithm for resolving the situation”, says Serhii Voronov. “Schools as independent entities actively used budget funds and made contracts for the supply of goods. And the shortage of demanded products in the market of services, when there were neither furniture (single desks, chairs), nor didactic materials, is a problem not only for Cherkasy, but for the whole Ukraine”.

Instead, the Odesa region managed to work a bit better: the first grades of the region from the very beginning were equipped with methodological materials by 64%, and furniture – by 76%. This, say local educators, became possible due to the timely allocation of funds from the oblast level to the local. However, a number of districts and towns in the Odesa region, as well as in other regions, complain about the artificial blocking of tenders, due to which those desired desks are still not there. According to Liliia Hrynevych, now, besides everything, it is important to learn how to work, using the new rules of the game.

However, to learn how to work, using the new rules of the game, you need to understand them and want to adhere to the rules. For example, Hanna Moviak, a deputy of the Lutsk City Council, which also represents the Public Association “People’s Control”, on her Facebook page explains how she sees the solution to this problem: “The ministry has at least one effective instrument – an educational subvention. Why do people who follow the law and who ignore it receive the same money? The subvention should be directed directly to educational institutions. The ministry can also develop an approximate list of equipment, works to be financed from local budgets. As practice shows, the real needs of institutions are unknown in the councils and it does not really want to know. Parents will pay. There can be no free manager who is forced to be a constant applicant. Control over the implementation of the law is imposed on regional administrations. I did not notice this control. There is no influence on the city, district councils – because it is not prescribed in the law”.

How to get rid of the rug …

Instead, parents celebrate a bunch of smaller but equally important problems, which also add to the cares at the local level. “A surrealistic question, but who in the first grade should wash the rug and disinfect the Lego?”, Maryna Hareeva asks on the page “Parents SOS”. “We have: 1 grade that should have been the NUS, where parents have already made repairs at their own expense in the summer (“we have got an additional grade, the school will give you only the floor, you understand, right?”), and did not receive single-sided desks, instead of them only hysterical cries “There will be no desks! These are the stories of Hrynevych” and other pleasures of the Soviet system, multiplied either by corruption, or by the disappointment of local budget allocators and the lick-spittling of certain varieties of I-am-moms who wanted to come and wash the desks, windows, radiators every Saturday, because “this is for our children”, and the cleaner won’t do anything without an additional payment. The situation with a cleaner has already been figured out, but Lego and the rug remained out of focus.

If anyone knows which laws/documents governing the hygiene of the training space should we make referring to the teacher demands in Viber, “the urgent removal of the carpet for washing”, please give pointers to.

There are a lot of questions to that school, so normal parents solve all issues in different areas now, but don’t even know what to do with Lego and the carpet, because the absurdity of the situation is already high. I will not mention the number of schools, because I hope that there will be a check in the near future, so you do not want a performance or cover-up under the NUS. But how to get rid of the rug and Lego…”.

But Nataliia Chystiakova does not hide the number of the institutions – her post is about school number 102 in the Shevchenkivskyi district of the city of Kyiv. “I have a question to parents of the first-graders of other schools”, she writes, “Do you buy at your own expense or wait for inter-boards/screens (those, that had to be purchased under the NUS program for budget funds)? Because in our school they grab us at the throat, they say, without them, it is impossible to conduct classes in the first grade at all!”

Iryna Bylo from Ternopil also adds its fly to the general “ointment”, writing about the local school number 27. “I’m, as a mother of a first-grader, worried about the feeding of children in the school canteens,” she explains in the social network. “It’s a catastrophe! Forks and spoons, which children use, are aluminum, the first-graders get warmed up, up-to-no-good pizza, slightly burnt cutlets… My friend went to talk to the school headmaster and asked why the spoons and forks are aluminum. She got the answer, that they have bought the new ones for teachers, and had not enough money to buy new for the children”.

And one more thing, the mother of the first-grader states, why do the parents have to clean the classroom every week, as “the cleaner washes only the floor, and such things as shelves, lockers, windowsills are not in her responsibilities”?

The Ministry of Education and Science is working on the State Standard of Elementary Education

But while parents and teachers are trying to figure out when, after all, the desks will appear everywhere, who should drag them from place to place, and who will wash the rugs and disinfect Lego, the relevant ministry continues to “manage and direct”. To the questions of Opinion, about what will be our elementary school, after all, the first fifth graders who work under the NUS program will appear after three years (today there are hundreds of pilot schools all over Ukraine, where the second grade is being studied by the NUS program), the press office of the Ministry of Education said that the ministry already today, three years before the start of the work of the NUS in the elementary school, begins to form a new State Standard for Elementary Education.

“That is, we are talking about educational requirements for a new generation of schoolchildren of 5-9 grades”, says Tetiana Holubova, the head of the Information Policy and Communications Department of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. “According to a government-approved plan, the reform will be implemented from 1 to 12 grades. Children ending 4 grade in 2022 (present first-graders) will go to the prepared 5 grade of the New Ukrainian school. Realizing responsibility, we invest in basic educational institutions, we purchase buses and equipment in the natural sciences classrooms, already starting the preparation of institutions and the network of schools in general until the introduction of the reform in the elementary and high school”.

As the press office of the Ministry of Education and Science explained, currently there are 537 base schools and 998 branches to them, where the general amount of students is 235.3 thousand. During the last two years, 400 base schools were created. “Money is constantly invested by the state for the purchase of buses so that more children can be brought to the base schools. Over the past three years, these investments amounted to over 700 million hryvnias, so today 863 buses carry children to the base school and home”, says Tetiana Holubova. “Not less important is the constant updating of the base of natural-mathematical classrooms. Over the past three years over 950 million hryvnias have been spent on these purposes”.

What and why the local heads do not accept?

But no matter what, beautiful figures usually hide a lot of problems that you do not always want to solve. According to Ihor Likarchuk, the expert in the field of education, there are three strong nooses around the NUS’s neck. “Each of them at any moment can bury reform without letting it out of the nursing age. Or all together can be tied”, explains Ihor Likarchuk. “The first noose is the irresponsible attitude to the reform, its misunderstanding, rejection and even criminal inaction in the implementation of a lot of local chiefs of power. Most of them need education reform only for their own PR and for some other money-focused purposes. No more and no less. In other words, many local leaders either ignore or overlook it. I do not know what the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine will do with this loop. I think nothing. Like the government. Because the system of Ukrainian state administration does not bring to justice those who do not want to make reforms. And if the legislative norms that establish such responsibility are not introduced, then the loop will be tied very quickly and firmly “.

According to the educator, the second noose is the education system, which remained the same, even after the adoption of the Law “On Education”. “All the region/city stations, administrations and departments of education continue to suck the system dry, which possibly wants to work in a new way. Only in insignificant parts of the territory local educational authorities support and work at the NUS, and not passively observes (at best), does not make a straightforward or concealed opposition. They know only one thing: if the NUS will be in fact established, they will not have a place in the new system. They really will not be needed. And the game for survival is expensive, says Ihor Likarchuk. “And the third noose is those headmasters of schools, who still have the Soviet ideology in the management of the institution of education and it’s immortal. They do not need the NUS, too. Because the NUS’s ideology destroys that “order” of school life, in which “unity” and “obedience” were the basis of everything. And most importantly, the New Ukrainian school requires a new teacher. A person who will not eat out of the heads or inspector’s hand, will not be scared because of the lack of lesson plans or “bad” ratings but will be a free teacher who can and will fight for his right to be free. This headmaster’s nooses can be tied the hardest. For, unlike the two previous ones, it is the closest to the neck of the NUS and the teacher’s neck”.

The most important issue, that should now worry the ideologues of reform is the way out of this situation. The expert notes, that these three nooses should be cut as soon as possible, otherwise the new educational machine will inevitably stop.

Text by Larysa Vyshynska

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