Students in a quandary as Ukraine crisis continues


They are waiting for online classes to begin.

Indian students studying in Ukraine are worried  about their education and future as uncertainty looms  due to the Russia-Ukraine situation.

Anushka Pant, 22, a first-year medical student at the Kharkiv National Medical University in Ukraine, informed The Observer: “Our education has been severely affected by the war as all our classes have halted. Not only that, the stress and anxiety that we suffered during our days in the bunker and even after that has affected our education and mental health a lot.”

About 2,000 Indian students were stuck in their hostel bunker for over a week in Kharkiv when the war started. Anushka and her fellow Indian students were brought back to India on March 7.

“Even if online classes start, as the university is saying, it will be nearly impossible to complete all the chapters that we have this semester online. So we are really not sure what is going to happen now,” Pant added.

Ukraine’s universities have been trying to   continue education. The Kharkiv National Medical University has notified its students it will  start online classes on March 22.

“Our university has been in constant touch with the students. By the look of messages and mails that we get, it seems they are conducting meetings to figure out a way of conducting distance education. How they are going to do with a war going on, we are not sure,” Pant said.

Other universities like VN Karazina and universities in Lviv and Uzhhorod have started online classes on March 15. Authorities have  said if the situation does not improve soon, the students will be transferred to universities and colleges in other countries.

Nikunj Gupta, another first-year-student at the Kharkiv National Medical University, is hopeful about online education. “We have full faith in the university. I am sure the authorities will do their best to cope up with the syllabus and provide the students with the best education, even in these uncertain times,” he said.

Parents are anxious about their children’s education and safety as the war has entered its fourth week.

Geeta Pant, 50, mother of Anushka, expressed to The Observer her concern about the situation. 

“Right now, we are just waiting for the situation to get a little stable. If online classes begin properly, then it will be a positive sign for us that the situation has stabilized. Of course, I am also concerned about her safety. I don’t know if offline classes will resume any time soon, but as long as it’s safe and education is not getting hampered, I will be thankful,” she said.

According to an Indian Express report, the National Medical Commission (NMC) does not recognize or approve any medical course which is conducted only in online mode. This has caused anxiety among students.

“We are also worried about this new NMC guideline as we might not be able to practise in India if online classes continue for a long time. But I hope that as it is an emergency situation we will be exempted,” said Anushka.

Even if online classes  are a success, the mental health of the students has been severely affected and could affect their education.

Dr Mahesh Gowda, a consulting psychiatrist at the Spandana Nursing Home, Bengaluru, explained: “Resilience, the ability of a person that helps them get through a crisis, can be seriously affected by situations like these. A person who has been in a war-like situation may develop several psychological issues like sleep disorders, anxiety and stress disorders. It is very likely that the students will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) later in life. Online classes are difficult enough, but with experiences and mental health issues, it is inevitable that education will be severely affected.”

How the students will cope with online education and stress depends on their skill sets and resilience, Dr Gowda added.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, bombarding its major cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv. Universities and colleges had to be shut down abruptly. Around 20,000 Indian students, most of them studying medicine, were evacuated from the war-torn areas of Ukraine. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting. According to data by Reuters, the war has resulted in at least 15,000 deaths. About 30 lakh people have been displaced.


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