Unwavering solidarity with teachers and students in Ukraine

published 25 March 2024 updated 11 April 2024

“749 days our brothers and sisters have been living under bombardments, shelling, and attacks. This is their reality. Our solidarity is unwavering because theirs is a fight for democracy and freedom which are at the core of who we are as education trade unions,” stated David Edwards, Education International General Secretary to unionists gathered to show support for teachers and students in Ukraine.

The webinar hosted by Education International (EI) on March 14 served to update its member organisations on the work of the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine (TUESWU) to support teachers and students in the country, two years after Russia launched its full-scale invasion. 

Hosted by David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, the webinar featured interventions from TUESWU President Georgiy Trukhanov, TUESWU Deputy President Serhii Romaniuk, and Tatiana Zamorska, head of the Donetsk branch of the union. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, and ETUCE President Larry Flanagan took the floor to voice their support and solidarity.

Supporting Ukraine’s education community

TUESWU President Georgiy Trukhanov thanked colleagues for their continued solidarity and support for Ukraine, its teachers, and its students. The union leader spoke of the devastating impact of the war on Ukraine’s education community, stressing that destruction was widespread, with millions of students and teachers displaced, and one in every seven education buildings destroyed.

While many Ukrainian students continue their education online, they face persistent barriers because of frequent disruptions to power and internet services. Over 900,000 students are affected by disruptions to remote teaching and learning. The years of war have also had a terrible impact on the socio-emotional wellbeing of students and educators and have exacerbated existing inequalities.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion, TUESWU has been working tirelessly to help educators and students, with support from education unions from around the world. The union’s President outlined how Education International support has been instrumental in providing vital assistance, including nutrition and first aid for displaced teachers, and essential equipment like transformers, batteries, and power banks for union branch offices.

International solidarity also supported repair work on three union branches damaged in air strikes in Dnipro, Kyiv, and Odesa and the rehabilitation of the trade union children's camp in Pushcha Voditsa. Efforts are now underway to establish union centers to address the mental health needs of teachers and students affected by war.

TUESWU Deputy President Serhii Romaniuk highlighted the union’s work to monitor government decisions on education and challenge reforms that adversely impact students and educators.

Tatiana Zamorska, head of the Donetsk branch of the union, joined the event from an education hub where teachers come to deliver their classes online. The union leader reported on the stark reality of living and teaching amidst daily air raid alarms and bombings, praising the resilience and dedication of educators.

Solidarity across borders

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers and EI Executive Board Member, reaffirmed her union’s commitment to supporting Ukraine, noting that missions to Ukraine and continued dialogue with Ukrainian colleagues were essential to ensuring the country’s fight for freedom was not forgotten.

ETUCE President Larry Flanagan praised the bravery and resilience of teachers working to support their communities in Ukraine, which he witness firsthand during the EI mission to the country in 2023. The sense of hope and solidarity shown by Ukraine’s education community is an inspiration to educators everywhere. ETUCE will continue to work with Education International in support of colleagues in Ukraine.

Education International and its member organisations will continue to stand with colleagues in Ukraine and other areas of the world facing conflict and hardship. The next webinar in the Solidarity series will focus on Gaza and Palestinian teachers.