Refugee students witness war dangers their lecturers face

Despite being under bombardment and facing shortages of personnel because of the number of academics joining the army or rescue operations, Ukrainian universities have started online classes for their students, many of whom are scattered throughout the world. But lessons are often interrupted by sirens, shelling and internet outages, and no-one knows how long such classes will be feasible.

Yukti Verma, a third-year medical student of Ukraine’s Ternopil National Medical University, is one of thousands of Indian students who were forced to leave Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

She attends online classes from the safety of her home in Indore in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. She worries about her teachers in Ternopil whose lectures are frequently interrupted by sirens indicating an attack. At the same time, she is anxious about her own future.

“The problems facing the teachers in Ukraine are different from ours. They are facing the horrors of war. They are teaching in extremely difficult circumstances. We can see the anxiety and nervousness on their faces. Their dedication and concern for the students are laudable. We pray for their safety and want the bloody war to end as soon as possible,” Verma told University World News.

The mayor of Ternopil has arranged for the internet to be available in bunkers in the city so that classes can continue even under shelling, according to Verma. “When the sirens sound, our teachers are ordered to rush to the bunkers,” she said.

While recognising that the efforts of Ukrainian universities to continue teaching are nothing short of heroic, Verma wonders how long they can continue and what the outlook is for the practical components of her medical training.

“Like all other Indian students who have returned from Ukraine, I am worried about my future. Everything is uncertain and unclear. We don’t know what will happen,” Verma said.

“After two months, I will move from the third year to the fourth year. But what will be my future? Will I be able to study further?”

Verma said the students try to talk to the teachers about the situation in Ukraine, “but they mostly insist that we should only talk about our studies, as they avoid discussing unforeseen situations in their country.”

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