Indian returnees back in class in Ukraine as teachers go online
WITH ZOOM DPs supporting Ukraine and relief etched on their faces, Indian students welcomed the resumption of online classes on Monday by some universities in western Ukraine, two weeks after the Russian invasion forced them to leave the country.
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“We are so relieved… At least we can keep up with the schedule. We are so grateful to our teachers who attend classes even during the war,” said Ahtesham Zahid, a third-year MBBS student at the Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University in Lviv city, who is now back in the PU.
Zahid was attending a class by Professor Andrii Bazylevych on “Heart Failure Syndrome”. Bazylevych had spent the previous night hiding in the basement as the sirens sounded outside. On Monday afternoon, The Indian Express joined 14 Indian students who had logged on for its class.
Ensuring that the students didn’t spend their time discussing the war, the professor quickly kicked off the lesson using PPT. To keep the students on their toes, he asked questions every few minutes.
The students said that although online classes have resumed, their parents are still worried about their future. “We pray that our teachers stay safe, we hope that normality will be restored in Ukraine at the earliest so that we can go back. We miss Ukraine,” said Jayesh Sarmalkar, another student.
“We were divided into small groups of 14-15 students. All 14 joined today because we don’t want to miss a single class,” said a third student.
According to Bazylevych, online classes resumed on Monday at universities in western cities, such as Lviv and Ternopil, but several teachers in other cities such as Kharkiv were unable to go online due to internet disruptions.
“The situation is worse in cities directly affected by the war, where the Internet is not stable. We don’t want our students to lose out due to temporary changes in our country. But how long we will be able to deliver online classes is unknown. According to the order of the rector of the university, we will study like this until the end of the semester,” he said.
“Today some of our students set up screens on Zoom in support of Ukraine. Our Indian students expressed their understanding and support for Ukraine. Of course, Zoom lessons cannot compensate for physical lessons, but that’s also how we managed during the pandemic,” he said.
Bazylevych lives in Lviv where “an explosion happened two nights ago”. “There were sirens all last night. We were hiding in the basement. I came to the apartment today morning to lead the class,” he said.
“A teacher texted saying she was fine but class was canceled because there were air alarms,” one student said.
The students said that several teachers had left Ukraine for neighboring countries. “They are in Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the UK. Nothing was discussed about the war in our class today and everyone was focused on the subject,” one student said.
Nakonechna Sofia, an associate professor at the Department of Physiology at the Ternopil National Medical University (TNMU) spent the night in a shelter amid sirens from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. At 9 a.m., she was at the department to give four “back-to-back” lessons.
“For the past year we have been delivering classes online due to Covid so we were prepared. Our online study materials are available on our website, including materials for practical lessons like videos, etc. It’s hard to get ready for class after listening to sirens all night but we’re adults. Even if we sit in shelters all night, we have to go to classes the next day,” Sofia said.
“Even if the sirens stop, we spend the nights in shelters because we don’t know when the shelling will start. If we miss a part of the lesson, we try to finish it the next day… My students are mostly Indian and they asked us about our well-being but we don’t have time to discuss war or politics. The focus is on finishing their semesters,” she said.
There are about 1,800 Indian students at TNMU and about 1,000 at Lviv University. According to teachers, universities in the eastern cities of Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv, near the Russian border, “should start classes this week but it looks difficult”.
Sofia says the war cannot affect their duties because the students’ future is at stake. “Even if I was sitting in a shelter all night, I would have to teach the next morning. It doesn’t matter if I slept or not. Our reality is horrible right now, but we are trying to do our best for our students,” she said.