When Maggie Palatova first moved to her husband’s home country of Ukraine, the two planned to send their children through the public school system. Unfortunately, corruption and large classroom sizes in that system quickly changed their mind.
“The mentality that pervaded all aspects of life under Soviet Union control still dictates much of what goes on in Ukrainian public schools,” said Palatova. “Since children spend more awake time in school than they do at home, that mentality influences a majority of their lives.”
At the same time, Palatova started working for Kiev Christian Academy, an American-run school for children of missionaries—including the children of CRWM’s George and Sarah deVuyst.
“I fell in love with the school and the job,” said Palatova. “The foundation of the school was truly biblical, and it pervaded every part of the atmosphere and learning process, from curriculum to conversations in the hallway.”
Palatova dreamed that other children in Kiev would be able to experience the same kind of learning environment. Although laws and restrictions made creating such an environment especially difficult, many restrictions were lifted in the beginning of 2015, and people like Palatova now have more opportunities to begin turning their dreams into reality.
Along with this opportunity for Christian education came a long list of challenges, said Palatova.
“At the top of the list has been the challenge of finding teachers who either understand how to carry out our goals as a school or are flexible enough to learn how.”
As Palatova wrestled with this challenge, she connected with George and Sarah de Vuyst about Educational Care, a program developed by CRWM for Christian educators.
In August 2015, Palatova invited the de Vuysts and five other representatives from the newly-developing Christian school scene in the Kiev area to hold the first Educational Care training in Ukraine.
“The de Vuysts did a wonderful job of communicating what a biblical worldview looks like and challenged us to understand how to apply and integrate this concept into our schools,” said Palatova.
“It was encouraging for me to see our teachers set goals and write plans for integrating biblical principles into their lessons and interactions with the students and families,” she added.
Many of the goals that the participants shared at the workshop demonstrate the poor reputation that the education system and teachers have in Ukraine— a reputation for corruption.
“A teacher’s salary is usually only $150 per month,” explained George de Vuyst. “For that reason, many teachers teach in such a way that you have to seek outside tutoring. From kindergarten on up you’d have to bribe your teacher.”
Just one month after that first training session, the first bell rang at New Generation Christian School (NGCS), the school that Palatova now directs and serves as the first-grade teacher.
Already NGCS’s 10 kindergarten students and 10 first grade students, together with all of their parents, are beginning to see a restored picture of education in Ukraine.
“My dream for the school is to see it grow to include all 12 grades,” said Palatova. “I dream that some of our students will use their knowledge and talents to become leaders in various spheres and bring God-honoring changes to Ukraine.
The Educational Care group plans to hold their second meeting in December. George and Sarah de Vuyst will lead participants in exploring how to incorporate different learning styles into the classroom.
Pray that NGCS and other developing Christian schools in Ukraine will be a blessing to both teachers and students, and that it will help transform the nation for God’s glory.