The last session in semester. Students take the exam: they read the resume in English and send it by email. They already know how to pay bills using Privat24, place advertisements for seedlings on OLX and send documents via Google Drive. Maybe there is nothing to boast about, but what seems simple and ordinary to us, these students are learning only now. They are from 56 to 81 years old, and all 30 persons study at the “Third Age University”.
It all started back in October 2013, when Donetsk State University of Management, along with two other Ukrainian universities and EU universities from eight countries, won a grant of EUR 1 million under Tempus Programme (from 2014 Erasmus+ – the largest-scale European Union programme in the fields of education, youth policy and sport). However, the DSUM’s “Third Age University” center was able to open only in 2015 and already in Mariupol. It has been operating already for four years, and more than one hundred students have gained here new and necessary knowledge.
Students learn how to use office programs and post on the social media the photos of flowers that have cultivated by themselves, learn English and financial literacy, and master skills of using terminals and ATMs. All this helps older people to be involved in modern processes and not to fall out of life. In addition, they will be able now to speak almost the same language as their grandchildren.
“We met with the girls before class today. And they say: “I had no idea that I could learn this!” We have found a place in the city where we are welcomed” – Alla, 57, the youngest student in the group, says.
Education for students is free. They are required only a desire to learn and mandatory attendance.
English and physical training in the park
Yevheniia Drahomyrova, Associate Professor at the Department of Tourism and Logistics at DSUM, deals with the organization of training. She is confident that the university should be open to all, regardless of age. After all, this is an opportunity for pensioners to feel needed and involved in life.
The students can be taught by bachelors, masters, and students 55+ themselves. Everyone has something to convey from their own experience and knowledge.
It is interesting to observe how in the park, for example, older people and younger students are engaged in physical exercise together and speak English among themselves.
“The former school teacher at our university gives lectures for second-year students, – Yevheniia Drahomyrova, the lecturer, says. — She has enough experience to help recent schoolchildren adapt to a new standard of learning. And she herself does not fall out of active life, her knowledge is in demand. Such cooperation is very inspiring.”
72-year-old Svitlana Ilinichna now communicates with distant relatives only via Skype.
“She came to the University when the group was already formed and all the computers were occupied. But Svitlana Ilinichna really wanted to learn, and I could not say no. We have arranged an additional 16th place in the classroom. Now, the woman actively studies with us, attends various courses,” – Yevheniia says.
The fact that the center is based at a regular university has obvious advantages. For young students, this is an opportunity to learn from older people, and for older people this is communication that they so need. According to Yevheniia Drahomyrova, students do not have a very high motivation to study. But when they see that the elderly women couldn’t be turned out of the classroom, they start to take a different attitude to learning and realize the value of obtaining new knowledge.
In addition to Ukrainian universities, the universities of Scotland, Italy, Malta, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia and Azerbaijan have become partners of this project. Such connections allow teachers and students to travel to each other and share experiences. In Italy, for example, the Third Age University students have organized a woodworking shop. There they themselves manufacture boats, tables and other wooden products.
In Scotland, the older people’s education system consists of 250 courses, where the students themselves are the lecturers. The subjects are very diverse. There is, for example, a course on the history of Italian cinema.
“Abroad, we were shown how to move away from stagnant academicism, often unjustified even in minor things. For example, if a group consists of women, I can easily say: “Hi, girls” and not to introduce myself by name and patronymic” – Yevheniia says.
The project ended in 2017, but the university is still open to students 55+. The lecturers continue the work they have begun as volunteers and with the permission of the DSUM administration. Because they cannot say no to those who are inspired for a new stage in their lives.
Erasmus+ is the largest-scale European Union programme in the fields of education, youth, vocational training and sport for the period 2014-2020 with a budget of EUR 14.7 billion. The programme provides opportunities for quality education and further self-realization of Ukrainians.
Source: Segodnya newspaper (printed version)