My Oulu: Ukrainian Ambassador Olga Dibrova visited Kaakkuri School – educational cooperation creates hope for a better future
Her Excellency Olga Dibrova, Ukraine´s ambassador to Finland, was invited as a guest of honour to the Council of Oulu’s Regional Days held this week. During her visit in Oulu, the Ambassador and her spouse visited Oulun Vesi, Nestor Cables, Ukraine Help Center Oulu, and Kaakkuri School to discuss how to prepare for rebuilding Ukraine after the war. Although the audience gave a standing ovation to Dibrova’s speech at the Regional Days, the most valuable discussions took place with the Ukrainian students at Kaakkuri School. They gave her faith in the future.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Finland, Her Excellency Olga Dibrova was invited as the guest of honor to the Council of Oulu’s Regional Days. The cross-cutting theme of the Ambassador's visit to Oulu was the reconstruction of Ukraine. The theme was explored during a visit to Oulu Waterworks and Oulu based company Nestor Cables Ltd, which designs and manufactures fibre optic cable solutions.
Education plays an important role in reconstruction of Ukraine too. In his speech to the Finnish Parliament in April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi stated out that Finland's expertise will be needed to rebuild and reform the Ukrainian education system after the war. Therefore, the visit at Kaakkuri School’s preparatory class, where students are mainly Ukrainians, was a natural choice for ambassadors and her spouses, Yevhen Dibrovas program in Oulu.
The City of Oulu has in total of 14 preparatory education groups for 145 students with an immigrant background, of whom 69 are currently Ukrainians. Principal Outi Ervasti, vice principal Juha-Matti Kanniainen and student counsellor Susanna Luomala from Kaakkuri School had the honor of hosting the ambassador Dibrova’s delegation.
Google translate and images to help with teaching
The teachers of the preparatory class, Enni Keränen and Emilia Penna, presented how they typically study in the class with students. Students aged 7–10 are on Keränen’s class and Penna is responsible for teaching slightly older students aged 10–12. The preparatory class focuses on studying Finnish, but the teaching follows, where applicable, the curriculum of basic education, in addition to which each student has their own study plan. Several students are also studying remotely in Ukraine.
"Mikä päivä tänään on? Mikä päivä huomenna on?", asks Keränen in Finnish from the class.
The dishes served at lunch are reviewed with pictures – what is on offer at lunch today is also written in words on the board. Image-word pairs, memory games, Friday bingo – Keränen and Penna have many methods in use when teaching the language. Sometimes they still have to rely on the help of Google Translate. Students also translate longer questions to their teacher on their phones.
Usually, students are in the preparatory class for about a year, after which they move on to basic education, according to their own study plan.
“In the preparatory class, students have integration classes with their own age group quite soon after starting their studies in visual arts, music, physical education – subjects where language skills are not so critical. Classes are important situations for social learning", says Eija Laasonen-Tervaoja, coordinator of language and cultural studies in city of Oulu's basic education.
Math is easy
After short introduction in the class, the students of the preparatory class get to speak. The conversation with the ambassador is lively and Dibrova is interested in what it is like for children to study in Kaakkuri.
"Math is so easy! And there is less homework compared to my old school", says Aylin.
Aylin is also studying remotely in Ukraine and admits that attending two schools at the same time is sometimes hard.
"Ukrainians have a lot of mechanical calculus in mathematics. In Finland, we use more functional puzzles, sometimes we count on an iPad – I would estimate that our mathematics teaching is quite diverse. On the other hand, mathematics is universal, and the language is not so significant in arithmetic. For students, mathematics may seem easy because they are already familiar with it", Penna reflects.
There are a lot of blue-and-yellow handicraft works in the class and the speech turns to the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Blue skies and yellow wheat fields – yellow sunflowers are also behind the colours. The students also find it nice to talk to the Ambassador about Ukrainian customs, in their own language.
When the ambassador's entourage leaves the class, the tension is released. Penna and Keränen have plenty to do to direct the students' interest back to studying, as the visit was clearly an event that the children had been looking forward to.
Finland's help is needed now and in the future
During the visit, Ambassador Dibrova pointed out that Oulu and Finland have a clear role to play in helping Ukraine, precisely in the field of education.
"I am sure something could be done already. Oulu is the twin city of Odessa – perhaps we could find a way to maintain cooperation between the schools in the cities in some simple way. It does not have to be anything complicated, but it could provide support for teachers both in Odessa and here in Oulu", Dibrova reflects.
"Perhaps mathematics education in both countries could be used to open the way for cooperation", she suggests.
Ambassador Dibrova is especially pleased with the safe environment of the Kaakkuri School which Ukrainian children can attend. Encounters with happy students strengthen her faith in the future.
"I have had the opportunity to meet several Ukrainian students and they are really happy to be able to go to school in Finland. I believe that these positive experiences will carry us for a long time and will also help us build our education in Ukraine after the war", Dibrova assesses.
Elegant way for solidarity
The Ukrainian Ambassador’s visit to Oulu has been taken into consideration in many ways. Valkea Shopping Centre and Oulu Theatre have received blue and yellow lighting as a sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Hintta Design, a special brand of the students of Hintta School, manufactured a pin with a blue-and-yellow version of Oulu’s brand badge, which Dibrova found particularly pleasing.
"I am very touched to see your pins. Many times, the people I have met are wearing some small yellow and blue things, but this one is stylish, you look like a cohesive team! The symbol also fits my first name, Olga", Dibrova laughs.
The badge will soon be available at Hintta Design's online store.
Mun Oulun tavoite on vahvistaa oululaisuutta ja sen näkyvyyttä lisäten Oulun kaupungin pito- ja vetovoimaa kirjoittamalla paikallisista ja ajankohtaista aiheista, kuten kaupungin päätöksistä, tapahtumista, kolmannesta sektorista, yksittäisistä kaupunkilaisista sekä mielenkiintoisista ilmiöistä. Mun Oulu on osa Oulun kaupungin viestintäorganisaatiota.