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Ukrainian Sophia Steiner School Faces Major Challenges

Ukraine: The Sophia Steiner School in Kiev began in 1997 with a first grade. Year after year another grade was added, until objections from the authorities prevented further growth. The school has two buildings. In one of them there are three beautifully decorated kindergarten classrooms as well as the classrooms of grades 1-4. The other building hosts grade 5-11. So far, the middle and high school are not officially recognized, only the lower grades have received official licenses from the authorities. The teachers have tried several times to contact the local education authority - after all, they are situated in the same building - but each time they were turned down.

With the Orange Revolution the way seemed paved for the former Soviet republic to be integrated into Europe. But the hopes and promise of the winners of 2004 were disappointed; reforms and approaches towards the West have come to a halt. Since 2010, Viktor Yanukovych is now the President of the country. This is the man who had caused the Orange Revolution through his manipulated victory in 2004 in the first place. But this time apparently he has come into office through free and fair elections – Is this really proof of a working democracy?

The educational situation in Eastern Europe is currently such that all schools must follow a centrally designed curriculum. Exceptions are only granted if an agreement with the authorities is reached to declare the school to be in an “experimental phase”. In 2000, the Association of Ukrainian Waldorf Schools in cooperation with the Ministry of Education has agreed on such a twelve-year experiment, the “experiment of integration of Waldorf education into the Ukrainian education system.”

The Sophia Steiner School however, does not participate in this experiment, because the city and local district say that the school is already involved in another experiment. Otherwise, the school would also receive a teaching license for all grades. Apparently, the building of the middle and upper level is too small and is only suitable for a kindergarten. The school has been therefore encouraged to move soon. Maybe the initiative can get a few floors at a nearby vocational school and build up a co-educational partnership.

Just recently, the police knocked at the door and tried to close the school. This often happens in this country. Without a teaching permit for the upper grades, the school is at high risk. Fortunately, they have an agreement with another private school through which they can recognize their diplomas. For example, a student attending the Sophia Steiner School has received a diploma from the other private school.

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