An exciting initiative in Ukraine for the past six years has been the establishment of a summer school on human rights education training and the Holodomor for Ukrainian educators.
Started in 2016, through the initiative of Holodomor Research and Education Centre (HREC) in Ukraine and HREC Education Canada in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sciences of Ukraine, the program has awarded certificates to 150 Holodomor educators who have graduated thus far.
Programs take the form of conducting seminars for educators, academics, and methodologists during the academic calendar.
The initiative also includes running an annual 10-day summer school under the Verba Magistri Methodology Lab which provides training on how to teach the concept of human rights and the Holodomor to selected history teachers in Ukraine as an Additional Qualifications summer training session.
Verba Magistri means “in the words of teachers.”
The objective has been to introduce current research on the Holodomor, but more importantly, to introduce new approaches and methodologies that would enhance the development of critical and historical thinking skills in students, which is a requirement of the Ministry of Education and Sciences of Ukraine’s New Ukrainian School curriculum guidelines.
The partnership got off the ground seven years ago when an agreement was signed between the three parties to provide various programming to include the latest research on the Holodomor and current methodologies for teaching history.
The agreement was signed by Valentina Kuryliw, the Director of Education of HREC, which is a project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, Ludmyla Hrynevych of HREC in Ukraine, HREC’s affiliate organization, and The Ministry of Education and Sciences in Ukraine.
Key Components of a Human Rights Education Training Program
As an educator with HREC, my contribution to the summer school program involves conducting methodology workshops for teachers using the concept of human rights and their abuse during the Holodomor as examples of topics that have been ignored for years in the old Soviet programs (and even in some recent history textbooks that teach an alternate reality to the world we live in).
Educators listen to lectures on the Holodomor, on how to create a trauma-sensitive classroom, and how the Holodomor can be incorporated into art, literature, or other subject areas.
For example, the “Historian’s Craft Lesson on the Holodomor,” which I conduct and discuss with the participating educators, is a sample of how the Holodomor may be taught employing engaging and interactive methods using a variety of primary and secondary resources for analysis.
It follows steps that a historian might typically take, like a detective, when searching for verifiable evidence using the inquiry approach. Brainstorming understandings of core values, basic human rights and how their abuse can escalate into genocide is central to the lesson discussions while using the Holodomor as a case study of these.
This lesson was published in Ukrainian in 2021, by HREC Press and is now freely available for use in Ukraine and abroad.
I also created another lesson on human rights, democratic values and the Holodomor, which I teach during the summer program. It addresses the differences between totalitarian and democratic societies and compares the UN Convention to the Russian war on Ukraine.
This program was created at the request of the Ministry of Education and Sciences of Ukraine.
Training Certificates in High Demand
For educators to earn the Ministry of Education’s Summer School Certificate, each teacher must prepare their own sample lesson on the Holodomor, or in a small group, and present it to the rest of the participants for evaluation.
Thus, the Summer School serves as an opportunity to gain Additional Qualifications for teachers and is fully recognized by the Ministry of Education and Sciences of Ukraine.
Upon completion, attendees are expected to share their knowledge with educators in their city or oblast. This summer school has been taught continuously since its implementation, even during the COVID-19 pandemic and the current war on Ukraine.
Due to its annual demand from educators, the Ministry of Education of Ukraine has said that this Litna Shkola/Summer School has become the most popular professional development summer course in Ukraine.
In November of 2022, Kuryliw and Hrynevych were sent a letter of appreciation and approval by Minister of Education and Science Serhii Shkarlet for the past eight years of this successful joint programming initiative in Ukraine.
Holodomor Summer School Receives Rave Reviews from Educators
It has been a truly rewarding experience to see the interest and excitement of young creative educators over the past several years. They have developed their own lessons to include human rights and their abuse and the Holodomor in their teaching, and it has been great to witness the changes in the way educators are teaching history and the Holodomor genocide in their schools.
The following are some responses the human rights education training program has received from participating educators in their evaluation of their summer school experience:
“I am incredibly grateful for every moment of our summer school training. This experience has changed my worldview and inspired new achievements!”– Educator from the Zaporizhia region
“Verba Magistri supports systematic democratic reforms in Ukraine.”– Educator from the Chernivtsi region
“The analytical conversations will be remembered for a lifetime…Verba Magistri shone richly, progressively, innovatively. The knowledge, pedagogical experiences and unforgettable emotions form good memories for the teacher-practitioner. They will inspire interesting research, professional considerations and be a motivation to the creation and implementation of new projects.”– Educator from the Ternopil region
“An incredibly busy 10 days. Verba Magistri is a bridge and a space for the free exchange of views between academics and educators in introduction to effective educational methods for teaching about the Holodomor and other genocides and for forming respect for human rights and humanistic values in young adults. It’s the most interesting program – all conditions for teacher growth and development and more have been created. Thank you to the organizers for the new experiences and knowledge, for the motivation and inspiration, the thematic excursions and active recreation, the many recommendations and attention to each of us participants.”– Educator from Zaporizhia region
Valentina Kuryliw is the Director of Education for the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CUIS) at the University of Alberta.