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Emmanuel Jal, an accomplished creative professional, activist, and former child soldier once wrote: “Education is the only solution for peace.” The Russian Invasion of Ukraine has reminded the world that refugee crises are real and long-lasting. Even if students can return home, there is no guarantee that the school building will be standing–or their teachers will have survived.

And students know this.

Online education has a specific role in supporting people during these tragedies, and MyCoolClass is contributing support, too.

Kids Are Paying Attention

If there is anyone who believes that students–from all around the world–are not paying attention to current events, I am happy to dissuade them. Nearly every day, a student asks me if they can write their current essay on the war, even if it means changing their topic late into writing. Their topics vary from military aid to sanctions, from humanitarian assistance to proposed UN resolutions.

And these essays are coming from middle school students.

They are watching. They are listening. They have opinions.

They are demanding to be heard.

I have tremendous faith in humanity. Some of my kids think this is the beginning of World War III; some of them think adults will stop this before it escalates to that level. Although I do not want to diminish the severity of the situation, I tell them I believe in the second option. I tell them that there has always been war and hate, and there have always been good people who knew when to step in–or when to swallow their pride and accept defeat.

Every day, kids find examples of virtuous people. “Did you see that [Company] supported Ukraine by [noble action]?” they’ll ask me in an elevated voice. Those moments give them hope that even if some world leaders are making terrible choices, at least ordinary people are choosing to rise above.

Every company that does the right thing gives hope to those students.

Conversely, every horrific action makes them sad and removes a little piece of their faith. “Why would [leader/company/person] do that?” they ask me as if I have an answer that makes sense of hate.

And with both of those questions consistently asked, it is important for adults–especially organizations and industry leaders–to do the right thing.


Solidarity with Ukraine

Teaching Refugees–and the Children of Refugees to solve refugee crisis

Although approximately 45% of my students identify as people of color, I often do not know the familial background of my students until they feel comfortable enough to write an essay discussing it. When that happens, it is common for students to write about the oppression in their families’ home countries.

Sometimes, the students were born in the US, UK, or other country and have only heard the stories from their parents: “When my mother and her family fled…” or “My parents were forced to leave because….” Sometimes, students were so young that they do not remember the journey: “When I was a baby, my parents…,” and sometimes, they remember it well: “Last year when I was forced to flee to the States….” Those essays are often difficult to read, but a rewarding experience that allows me to understand my students more clearly.

And when they feel safe sharing those stories, I watch the faces of their peers; the compassion, humility, and gratitude are instant and obvious.

The Role of Online Education

COVID taught us the greatest benefit of online education: It can happen from anywhere. Any student with a stable internet connection can learn from teachers across the globe, including those displaced by violence.

Poland and other Ukrainian neighbors are solving the refugee crisis and helping children, families, and educators. Many families worry that their students’ education will be postponed, resulting in an achievement gap, delayed admission to universities, or lack of vocational training. Whether the invasion lasts a few more days or several months, students still require an education.

Online learning provides an opportunity for students to continue their studies with their current teachers or, when necessary, new tutors. Despite the chaos and trauma, they are experiencing, their access to education can remain a touchstone.

How is MyCoolClass Helping?

Cooperatives strive to do good things, and the actions they take are not transactional. In response to the crisis, MyCoolClass–with the help of many volunteers and partners–has taken the following steps:
–Manually translating our website into Ukrainian to enhance accessibility.
–Created a simplified application process for displaced teachers in Ukrainian
–Waive the onboarding fee for teachers affected by conflict
–Working with Ukrainian speaking volunteers and regional host families
–Create a volunteer program to provide free supplemental education to displaced students to solve the refugee crisis.

MyCoolClass stands with the Ukrainian people and is taking the steps to support students and educators affected by this ongoing tragedy.

Conclusion

All MyCoolClass members are educators, and we understand the power of knowledge. Access to quality education is vital to foster understanding, empathy, and compassion. It is crucial for students to be successful in their current and future academic careers. It is critical to ensure employment opportunities.

Access to education is how we fight hate; after all, “Education is the only solution for peace.”

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