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The content of adult education courses has been adjusted due to the war. Special projects have been launched to promote psychological support, first aid and other practical skills during times of crisis. Photo: Adriana Dovha.

Learning & teaching

Ukraine: Overcoming the war with adult education

Authors: Michael Sommer Published:

The content of adult education courses has been adjusted due to the war. Special projects have been launched to promote psychological support, first aid and other practical skills during times of crisis. Photo: Adriana Dovha.

Adult education institutions in Ukraine have chosen to continue their fundamental educational tasks, even under the extreme conditions of war. “They face the challenge of maintaining regular teaching activities but also ensuring that protective measures are in place for learners and staff,” says Tetyana Hoggan-Kloubert from the University of Augsburg in Germany in her interview with ELM Magazine.

What has changed in the adult education sector since the Russian attack?

Tetyana Hoggan-Kloubert: Since the onset of the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine in 2014, the country’s adult education system has undergone significant transformations. Prior to 2022, Ukraine had already experienced substantial loss of life and infrastructure, especially in the occupied territories such as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sevastopol, and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. These territorial changes and the ongoing war have had profound implications for adult education, necessitating a swift adaptation to the new realities.

With the comprehensive outbreak of war on February 24, 2022, the challenges facing Ukraine’s adult education system intensified. The aggressive war and concerns for safety led to significant relocations of educational institutions, forcing them to move to safer areas and restart their operations.

Despite these challenges, many adult education institutions have proven to be resilient and committed. They have chosen to continue their fundamental educational tasks, even under the extreme conditions of war – including in areas enduring constant shelling such as the Lifelong Learning Centre in Sumy.

However, some adult education centres have been forced to cease their activities. Others, in turn, have successfully transitioned to distance learning, whether online or in hybrid formats, and in some cases offline, depending on the security situation.

A significant deficiency revealed during the war was the lack of bomb shelters in schools and universities, leading to uncertainty and unpreparedness during air raids. Educational institutions faced the challenge of not only maintaining regular teaching activities but also ensuring that protective measures were in place for learners and staff.

How has the war affected the participation in adult education?

Tetyana Hoggan-Kloubert: Despite initial scepticism and the widespread belief that “now is not the time for education,” adults gradually returned to learning. This return to education suggests that learning serves as psychological relief from the stresses of war and as a tool for social cohesion.

How have the courses and initiatives been adapted to address the effects of war?

Tetyana Hoggan-Kloubert: Adult education institutions in Ukraine have actively developed innovative approaches to meet challenges posed by the war and the needs of the population. For example, the Lifelong Learning Centre in Sumy has successfully introduced online seminars for mental health support. Launched in March 2022, these seminars are designed to help individuals cope with the psychological stresses of the war.

Additionally, many adult education institutions actively focus on the needs of internally displaced persons. Ranging from language courses to qualification for new jobs, they offer a broad range of services. For example, the Network of Education Centres in Lviv has initiated a psychological support group for internally displaced Ukrainians. Given the changed life circumstances due to relocation, this group provides a space to process traumatic experiences and receive emotional support.

The Centre Podillia-Sotsium in Vinnytsia has collaborated with external partners to organise courses in tactical medicine. In collaboration with the ZDRAVO centre and the military administration of the region, practical skills were imparted to provide first aid for injuries in case of war. In Mykolaiv, the SAMPLE education centre has trained over 1,000 people in first aid for massive bleeding.

Some adult education centres actively engage in volunteering. For example, the Centre for Non-formal Adult Education in Nikopol has mobilised a group of volunteers producing useful items for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This includes shoe insoles, first aid kits, and other items to meet the soldiers’ needs. Training sessions in various cities also focus on strengthening the organisational efficiency of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteers to develop their organisational and strategic skills.

Given the need for educational initiatives for the reconstruction and rebuilding of Ukraine, programmes are now being developed for the reintegration and social integration of war veterans. Some adult education institutions work on developing training programmes to strengthen NGOs and volunteers for preparing the country for integration into the European Union.

How do you address the needs of individuals who have experienced trauma due to war? Are any special methods used in adult education?

Tetyana Hoggan-Kloubert: In adult education, the consideration of this topic is evident in numerous projects, such as in the “Reintegration of War Veterans through the Creation of Educational Opportunities” in Ukraine led by DVV International. In these initiatives, both individual and group consultations play a crucial role, covering legal, psychological, professional, and business-oriented aspects to address the diverse needs of veterans. The goal of such projects is a holistic reintegration strategy, aiming among others at enhancing veterans’ skills and competitiveness in the job market.

This project involves partnerships with organizations like the NGO Network of Education Centres in Lviv and the NGO Centre for Adult Education ‘South’ in Mykolaiv, extending its reach through Adult Education and Training Centres in various regions. Additionally, the project incorporates awareness campaigns and ethical communication guidelines ensuring ethical conduct in interactions, especially with veterans facing disabilities.

Similarly, the Centre of Social Innovations in Lviv has initiated holistic projects to support veterans and individuals traumatised by war. The focus here is on building active and continuous communities. Beyond conventional psychological support, the project introduces alternative practices, engaging veterans and volunteers in various relevant activities. The project establishes groups like the one dedicated to camouflage netting at the Lviv National Academy of Arts.

These groups foster constant communication and support among participants, many of whom are veterans. Such initiatives contribute significantly to community building, camaraderie, collaborative work and a sense of usefulness among participants. Camouflage netting, implemented as an art therapy method, and subsequent art therapy sessions provide a mechanism for individuals, including traumatised ones, to distract themselves from problems and find a sense of purpose.

Can education for democracy and peace work at all during and after the war?

Tetyana Hoggan-Kloubert: The prospects for adult education post-war reflect the necessity of addressing the challenges of transitioning to a peaceful life. This includes the restoration of infrastructure and the economy, overcoming humanitarian and demographic crises, reconstructing the environment destroyed by war, strengthening state institutions, reintegrating the former occupied territories, and supporting internally displaced persons, as well as promoting re-migration from other countries. Ukrainian society will demand fundamental systemic changes after the war, refusing to return to life as it was before.

The “Ukraine Recovery Plan (Education and Science)”, released in November 2022 in collaboration with several Ukrainian ministries, universities, and NGOs, emphasises the key role of adult education in social and professional adaptation after the conflict. The plan aims to establish effective social mechanisms for the learning of adults, particularly for war veterans, returning refugees, and older individuals who have lost their jobs.

The Recovery Plan underscores the importance of international cooperation to integrate best practices and further develop the adult education sector. This highlights the need for a global perspective in adult education to support Ukraine in the post-war phase. The prominent position of adult education in the Recovery Plan emphasises that it is not only seen as a tool for skill acquisition but also as a crucial element for social cohesion and sustainable development in Ukraine after the war.

Dr habil. Tetyana (Tanja) Hoggan-Kloubert is a researcher in adult and continuing education at the University of Augsburg, Germany. She comes from Chernivtsi (Western Ukraine) and has lived in Germany since 2001. Her research focuses on democracy education/civic education, social transformation, migration, propaganda and ethics. She cooperates with the University of Chernivtsi and its learning centre for adults and is active in helping victims of war in Ukraine.

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Michael Sommer (PhD) is an ELM magazine editorial board member. He was the editor of the German magazine "Erwachsenenbildung" (until 2021) and works as a project developer for the Akademie Klausenhof. Email: sommer(at) Show all articles by Michael Sommer
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