In a mask and with a passport
Ukrainian School Graduates Participate in External Independent Testing during Pandemic
“You put on a mask, go through temperature screening, have your documents checked, use a sanitizer at the entrance, and finally you can get to the exam. And then everything depends on you,” says 17-year-old Mykyta from Toretsk, a conflict-affected city in eastern Ukraine.
The procedure described by Mykyta for the External Independent Testing (EIT) is now in place in more than 1,600 testing facilities throughout Ukraine, including the regions affected by the armed conflict.
More than 350,000 children who have completed schools, lyceums and gymnasiums in Ukraine are taking part in the EIT this year under lockdown restrictions linked with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), together with partners, helped educational institutions to create a safe environment during the EIT and provided testing facilities with disinfectants for surface treatment, non-contact thermometers, insulating medical gowns for doctors and information materials.
Andrii: “During the lockdown, I firmly decided that I want to be a physician”
School graduate and future physician Andrii comes to his first External Independent Testing exam in mathematics, confident in his knowledge and preparation. It was only the lockdown measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic that caused some frustration.
Before receiving the exam sheet, the 17-year-old boy from Ivano-Frankivsk passed through temperature screening and document checking. An ambulance crew and police officers were on duty next to the school that hosted that EIT.
“These measures prove that the situation is serious. But everything went fine and was well organized, everyone was keeping a distance,” Andrii recalls. The boy came to the exam in a medical mask, and he and the other students received two spare masks at the entrance to the school building.
The exam lasted for several hours, but Andrii said that the mask did not cause him any problems. He even forgot about it for a while.
“When you know the subject well nothing can distract you. I was very lucky with maths. My mother teaches it. Thanks to my personal tutor, I was 100 per cent confident that I was well-prepared,” he smiles.
During lockdown, Andrii once again thought about his preferred future profession of physician and looked at it in a new way: “In my ninth grade, I had the idea that I wanted to be a physician. This is both interesting and practical, and you help people. Now, during the coronavirus outbreak, I was once again convinced of how doctors are needed in the country, and I firmly decided to be one,” says the boy, who is supported in his choice of profession by his older friends – also doctors.
Before entering medical school, Andrii will have to pass two more exams. The lockdown made it more complicated for the school graduate to prepare for them. He used online instant messengers for some of his preparatory lessons, while he studied other topics on his own.
“You need to understand that medicine is a profession where you set a high standard for yourself. A health professional should educate himself all his life. I think that now is the time for young people in the country like me to change the situation for the better in medicine,” asserts the future doctor from Ivano-Frankivsk.
Anastasia: “Dancing is my entire life”
For 16-year-old Anastasia from Kyiv, the beginning of summer is very intense – every day is filled with dance training and preparation for the EIT.
“Dancing is my entire life. Therefore, I chose the profession of coach. I not only really love dancing, but also delving into the mechanics and the process of creating a dance,” says Nastia, who in 2017 became the world champion in ballroom dancing in the Juniors 2 category in China, and last year became the champion of Ukraine in the Youth category for the second time.
Nastia spent three months of strict self-isolation at home. It was a very difficult time for the girl: for the first time since she was 5 years old, she was not exercising every day.
“I did stretching exercises at home to stay fit. And I walked the dog so as not to constantly sit still,” recalls slender, light-haired Nastia. Now, as the lockdown has eased, the athlete has returned to regular classes at a dance school.
At the same time, the pause in training and the self-isolation helped Nastia to prepare well for the EIT.
“I was observing the lockdown requirements all this time, and that helped me focus on the exams,” says the school graduate as she shows online mock EIT tests that she constantly takes on her smartphone.
Nastia understands the procedure for testing in a pandemic well. Her teachers sent her a video explaining what she can take with her to the testing facility and which medical precautions will be followed.
Therefore, today Nastia has a pen, a mask and a passport with her, and she is ready to take tests that will take her one step closer to her dream of becoming a professional ballroom dance coach.
“When you coach others, you learn a lot yourself. And you have the opportunity to open different pairs in a new way, from different sides. It will be interesting to me to learn even more about dance,” says the determined school graduate.
Mykyta: At the final evaluation, you feel responsible to the school, your parents and your future
Mykyta, a senior school student from Toretsk, had a headache before his first maths exam.
“I was afraid that I would not pass the temperature test, that they would not let me in. Also, maths is the most difficult exam for me. Both the masks and all the medical measures generated some emotions. So, of course, I was nervous,” the 17-year-old graduate shares his emotions after passing the test.
The future university and profession of the boy depend on the exam results. “I am choosing between studying to be a lawyer or a journalist. My future university depends on the score I get,” worries the boy.
During the lockdown, Mykyta admits that he found it difficult to allocate himself time independently for exam preparation. “At school, we studied more systematically and comprehensively. At home, sometimes you just want to do sports or photography, or read. It seemed that there was still a lot of time before the EIT,” smiles Mykyta who has a serious interest in the art of photography.
The teenager lives in a conflict-affected area in eastern Ukraine. Transportation appeared to be yet another challenge to taking the EIT in his region. Testing facilities are located in nearby cities with which Toretsk does not have regular transport connection.
“The boys and I get a taxi and share the ride because there is no other transport. Only the suburban train, but you have to wake up as early as 5 a.m. to catch it, and the journey takes a long time,” explains Mykyta.
The boy is preparing to take the remaining tests. “Of course, I'm a little worried, because in the EIT, you feel responsible to the school, parents and your future,” says Mykyta.
Daniela: I want to change our country for the better
17-year-old Daniela from Kyiv had completely different plans for this summer. She had intended to successfully take the EIT, go and meet her sisters in Moldova and, on her return, prepare to move to Brussels to study. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown, her preparations for the EIT had to be transferred to Zoom, communication with family members was limited to text messages, and admission to Belgium was postponed until mid-autumn.
“I stayed at home for three months, and everything I did was studying. Of course, there was a little psychological pressure. But I understand why these precautions are needed; they must be adhered to,” says the girl who is learning several foreign languages.
She is confident in her knowledge, but agrees that the lockdown measures and hot weather are troubling and can be distracting during the exams. “My weak spot is numbers. I was worried that I would not remember all the dates for the history exam. But the teacher came up with cards for us with an event on one side and a date on the other. It helped a lot with remembering everything,” says the girl, who dreams of becoming a political researcher.
After completing her studies at Brussels University, Daniela wants to return to Ukraine to apply her knowledge in her native country. “There are things that I don’t like in my country, I want to change it for the better,” says the blue-eyed, smiling school graduate.
To help nearly 350,000 school graduates across the country access higher education equitably and transparently, even if COVID-19 brings its recalibration, UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Education and Science to adhere to safety measures during external independent evaluation.
UNICEF Ukraine has procured a total of 10,389 medical gowns and 3,250 contactless thermometers for all the medical staff working in evaluation centres. Thanks to an in-kind donation of 28 tons of disinfectant provided by Unilever, more than 1,600 evaluation centres across the country received supplies to clean surfaces in the classrooms. In partnership with Nova Poshta, nearly 80 tons of these protective items, including hand sanitizers, face shields and information materials on safe practices, were delivered to all 24 regional hubs and Kyiv for further distribution by centres.
UNICEF works with governmental and non-governmental partner organizations and the business community to consolidate efforts and provide comprehensive and equitable access to quality education for all children, as well as to promote sustainability, efficiency and capacity in education, health and social services for children and young people.