In light of the recent violence and turmoil in Ukraine, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies hosted a discussion Monday evening in the LaFortune Student Center.The panel, titled “Euromaidan: Revolution in Ukraine?,” was led by Yury Avvakumov, Nanovic faculty fellow and assistant professor of theology.The slideshow prepared by Avvakumov began with a slide that changed the title of the discussion to say “Euromaidan: Revolution in Ukraine!,” which he said reflected the emerging conviction that the situation in Ukraine is indeed one of revolution.“I thought that I would start with this title because when we discussed this event and its title, three days ago, a question mark after the title was still appropriate. Now you have to replace the questions mark with an exclamation mark,” Avvakumov said. “The revolution in Ukraine has happened. This is absolutely clear.”Avvakumov said the term “Euromaidan” originated from a hash tag used on Twitter in reference to the protests. The “Euro” refers to the Ukrainian people’s demands for an alliance with the European Union and “maidan” refers to the name of the Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, where the protests have taken place.Since November of last year, Ukrainians have been protesting the corruption of their government, Avvakumov said. Mass protests began after former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who recently fled Ukraine, abruptly rejected a landmark association agreement with the European Union in November 2013, just one week before the anticipated signing of the agreement.GRANT TOBIN | The Observer Avvakumov said the rejection came as a direct result of Russian pressure exerted on Ukraine in order to prevent the nation from starting the process of integration into the European Union.Although this issue has greatly angered the Ukrainian people, Avvakumov said, they are demonstrating against the corruption of their current government as much as they are protesting their former president’s reluctance to sign an agreement with the European Union.Avvakumov said such corruption includes everything from nepotism and bribery to disrespect of human dignity and the authoritarian style of the former president and the ruling party.“In the eyes of millions of Ukrainians, Russia, in its present condition, embodies these vices of the political system. By contrast, potential membership in the European Union can help fight the new authoritarianism and promote transparency, the rule of law, independent media and respect of human dignity,” he said.Avvakumov said the protest began with young Ukrainians, though it includes a broad spectrum of middle-class citizens who are students, intellectuals, artists and representatives of small and mid-sized businesses.“These are people who perceive that the political system forcibly takes away their freedom and their professional and personal future. These are people for whom Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are indispensible everyday tools,” he said. “These are intelligent people with a clear sense of human dignity and civil courage. They call the revolution ‘The Revolution of Human Dignity.’”The Euromaidan protest has swelled in number from 700,000 people in November to one million people more recently, Avvakumov said. The demonstrations began peacefully, but have since turned violent.On Feb. 17 the Ukrainian government called for the use of military weapons, in an attempt to put an end to the rioting. Avvakumov said over 70 people have been killed and hundreds have been injured, but the protests have nevertheless continued.“Euromaidan will not go away until they are convinced that the whole thing really functions and really works, and they get real transparency with their government,” Avvakumov said.Michael Gekhtman, chair of the mathematics department and a Ukrainian citizen, also spoke briefly about the crisis in Kiev. Gekhtman said he is worried the protests will have the same result as similar protests in 2004, which occurred in response to perceived corruption in a presidential election, and is concerned for the safety of his parents.“What I am worried about is that it’s going to revert to what happened shortly after the Orange Revolution because the main players are the same — same politicians,” he said. “These are very dangerous times. My parents still live in Kiev. I was there in October — no one expected this to turn out this violent this fast.”Tags: Euromaidan, Nanovic Institute, Ukraine
“No one’s forcing me to do this — it’s something inside telling me to do it,” the 57-year-old told AFP.”I feel a bit guilty about breaking [orders] to hold online classes, but the reality is that it isn’t easy here.”The only solution is to be close to students with door-to-door teaching,” he added.Suroto is one of a small number of teachers taking on dangerous terrain, bad weather and the chance of contracting the novel coronavirus, to reach home-bound students across the world’s fourth-most populous nation, home to a quarter of billion people. Topics : Nearly 70 million children and young people have been affected by school shutdowns which started in mid-March.While the pandemic has sparked a boom in online learning, especially in wealthy nations, about one-third of Indonesia’s nearly 270 million people don’t have access to the Internet or even, in some cases, electricity. Call to teachAs Indonesian authorities consider reopening schools, critics warn it is too early as the nation’s virus curve has yet to flatten.Officially, the country has more than 35,000 cases of COVID-19 and 2,000 deaths. But with one of the world’s lowest testing rates, Indonesia’s real toll is widely believed to be much higher.And the country’s pediatric association has warned that malnutrition and mosquito-borne dengue fever may be putting children at a greater risk of dying from the respiratory illness. Nearly 18 percent of Indonesian children under five years old suffer from nutritional deficiencies, while kids aged five to 14 make up nearly 42 percent of dengue fever patients, according to health ministry data. The risk was highlighted in April when an 11-year-old girl with dengue fever, which itself can be fatal, died after contracting COVID-19. Health authorities said the pre-existing illness could have exacerbated the effect of the virus on her weakened immune system.Still, getting back to school can’t come fast enough for some students.”I’m bored at home. I miss the school and all my friends and teachers,” said Gratia Ratna Febriani, a pupil in Kenalan village.That feeling struck a chord with junior high school teacher Yunedi Sepdiana Sine who says she will keep answering the call to visit some 50 children a week.”Students really miss their teachers so I feel needed,” she said.”And that’s what makes me content.” ‘Can’t help them’ Meanwhile, many rural parents struggle to fill the gap as they juggle often low-paid jobs and child care.”I can only remind [the kids] to study because I can’t help them like a teacher can,” said Orlin Giri, a mother from East Nusa Tenggara, one of Indonesia’s poorest regions.”And we don’t have enough money for an Internet plan,” she added.That is a common story nationwide, said Fina, a teacher on Borneo island.”Many parents only graduated from elementary school or junior high school — or they didn’t even go to school,” she said.”Just being able to send their children to school is an extraordinary achievement.”Fina, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, opted not to visit students as she has a baby and lives in an area with a high infection rate.”But this pandemic has taught us that, while technology is good and very helpful, it so far cannot replace the presence of teachers,” she said. ‘Feet on the street’Suroto and other Indonesian teachers say they wear face masks, but the threats of becoming sick or infecting students are ever-present.Avan Fathurrahman, an elementary school instructor on East Java’s Madura island, visits up to 11 students a day, an experience he wrote about in now-viral Facebook posts.He admits to being scared of getting ill.”But my fears were overcome by the call to teach,” Fathurrahman said.”I would not be comfortable staying at home knowing that my students couldn’t study properly.”Aside from government calls for online learning, educational programs are being aired on a state-owned TV channel.Education minister Nadiem Makarim — a co-founder of local ride-hailing app GoJek — has acknowledged the challenges in remote learning, however, and even expressed shock at how many rural Indonesians lacked Internet service.”We have to rely on the feet on the street — the actual teachers that mobilize themselves to teach door to door,” he said last month.The pandemic has underscored huge challenges in updating creaky infrastructure across the nearly 5,000 kilometer Southeast Asian archipelago — a key priority for president Joko Widodo.”Infrastructure-wise, Indonesia is not fully ready for online learning,” said Christina Kristiyani, an education expert at Sanata Dharma University. “Even if it was possible to do real-time video conferencing, it costs too much in rural areas,” she added. Teacher Henrikus Suroto vowed his students wouldn’t be cheated out of their education when the global pandemic forced schools to be closed in Indonesia’s remote Kenalan village.So he braves windy mountain roads and sheer cliff drops to visit the poor farming community in Central Java, where online classes are out of the question due to a lack of Internet service — a luxury few parents could afford anyway.Not only is Suroto risking death or serious illness from COVID-19, he is violating government orders not to hold in-person classes to prevent the spread of the disease.