The Ukrainian education sector is beginning to learn more and more from EU countries year by year. With the active support of the European Union, Ukraine is also implementing and adopting foreign experience in education. However, as it stands, problems have begun to emerge concerning professors who refuse to change their Soviet approach to education and their worldview in 2021.
In most Ukrainian institutions of higher education, professors can be found whose views are in direct opposition to the postulates that Ukraine looks up to become a full-fledged member of the European Union. In recent years in our country, there has been an increasing number of high-profile cases of faculty members violating human rights with respect to students. Professors have allowed themselves to make sexist public statements that degrade the honour and dignity of a student before, but the issue reached its apogee at the end of 2020.
Student activists who try to draw the attention of the public, the media and higher education administrations to the above problems often find themselves under pressure from university staff and under constant threat of expulsion. The problem is not an isolated one, as even the country’s best-known and largest universities are prone to sexism and student rights violations.
Several students and alumni of the Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University (one of Ukraine’s most prestigious universities) reported that they had been insulted and humiliated by the head of the foreign language department, Valentina Daineko. In particular, in their appeals to the university administration, they mentioned such statements by Ms. Daineko as: “girls at the Institute of International Relations are a doormat for diplomats” and “you will achieve nothing in life because you are girls”. Also in their petition, which gathered more than 1,500 signatures, they pointed out her prohibition on wearing jackets in cold lecture halls in winter and drinking water during classes.
Often, as cited in an appeal to the university president by the Muslim Association of Ingushetia, Ms Daineko forced students to cover their desks with a prayer rug with the names of Islamic deity, holy to Muslims.
Sometime later, after numerous appeals from students and alumni to the university administration, a reply was received in which the university administration said the students themselves had violated the university’s code of ethics, which could lead to their expulsion for the topics they had raised.
The human rights organization ZABORONA in Ukraine has already put one of the female students on the list of persecuted activists.
As a result of dozens of appeals, reports on this situation on the biggest TV channels and publications in the press, there has been no reaction other than ignoring and excuses. The student parliament of the university, which is supposed to protect the rights of university students, did not help the students, and the students themselves received documents with hints to expulsion signed by the administration of the university.
The European Students’ Union supports the aspiration of Ukrainian students to have their human rights – respected.
The European Students’ Union (ESU) supports the development of Ukrainian higher education in the framework of the European Higher Education Area and considers unacceptable attempts of university administrations to put pressure on students by publicising facts of sexism, harassment and bullying on the part of academic staff.
ESU appeals to the Verkhovna Rada, the Office of the President, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Education of Ukraine and asks to develop and adopt laws and regulations to minimise the possibility of such misconduct by teachers and to provide punishment for it.
The European Students’ Union asks the administrations of Ukrainian universities and the administration of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in particular to immediately launch an investigation into existing allegations of sexism and human rights violations by the teaching staff.
We also draw attention to the need for legislative changes at the local level and advocacy work to prevent pressure on student activists whose views do not coincide with those of the university administration.
Proposed by: UAS