The Council of British International Schools rallied behind its Ukrainian members at its annual conference in central London on May 8.
Speaking on the second day of the three-day event, Anna Azarova, PR and communication manager at the British International School Ukraine described the journey she made to flee the country under attack from Russian troops with her friend’s son.
“Some would still say that every war has socio, political, historical, whatever causes and contexts. It is not true. Because murdering people cannot be justified. And any war becomes very personal. Now, I know that for sure,” she told delegates.
The journey to London, which took a total of two months, travelled roads that were blocked, already destroyed or “covered with checkpoints”.
After leaving Ukraine, the pair stayed in refugee camp in Slovakia, before travelling to Prague and then on to Zurich. Problems with their documents meant the son’s mother and grandmother were delayed leaving Ukraine, but eventually the family was able to gather in Baden-Baden in Germany. Returning to Switzerland without her friend’s son, Azarova considered what to do next.
“As a BISU representative my place is here in the UK, and perhaps here I can do something useful for my school and the Ukrainian children in terms of offering high quality British style education, which has always been our school’s mission,” she said.
The Independent reported that UK private school heads welcoming refugee pupils have criticised the visa processing for vulnerable students travelling to the UK as too slow.
“Many other Ukrainian children are now experiencing more trauma and suffering psychological consequences,” Azarova continued.
“I wish them to come here in the UK or all over the globe [to find] caring host families, as well as having a chance to get a quality education. I believe education is a remedy that will help them let go of the past and start a new life. Let them discover another world, where they are safe, loved and taught properly to become global citizens.”
BISU’s CEO Anton Zastavnyi added that the school’s principal David Cole has “made a conscious decision to remain in Ukraine”.
“He has been there since the beginning of the conflict and stays there supporting our school’s mission, supporting our torch there, and supporting also all our staff who remain and continue to be in Ukraine,” Zastavnyi said.
“Many of our countrymen and some of our colleagues are unfortunately still in Ukraine”
“Many of our countrymen and some of our colleagues are unfortunately still in Ukraine, in very difficult and dangerous conditions,” he added. The COBIS Black Sea Schools Group has been a great supporter, as has the wider COBIS membership, he continued.
“We have made a conscious decision to remain in Ukraine, to remain in the country where the school was founded… The British education is one of the best models in the world, and this is something that will help us rebuild Ukraine in the future,” he said.
BISU will upskill and train its Ukrainian staff, with support of the international school community, Zastavnyi added. “If [schools] will be able to facilitate training as well, to offer any kind of educational support for our students in the form of lessons online or any other way, please, we will be very grateful for your help.
“It’s so important to show our unity and show we’re thinking about them,” COBIS CEO Colin Bell told The PIE. “We responded very quickly [as an organisation] and it’s important as well for not just COBIS to be able to articulate that, but for those colleagues in COBIS membership from around the world who are gathered here in London.”
With four or five member schools in Russia, COBIS has “very much have taken the view that COBIS is here as a supportive network for schools globally”, he added.
“Our response is always to support teachers and staff within schools. Therefore, our approach has been that those schools can still access our services, our support. We don’t want the children to be penalised.”