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'Ukrainian Only' School In Crimea In High Demand

The Ukrainian-language high school in Simferopol has been overwhelmed by applicants.
The Ukrainian-language high school in Simferopol has been overwhelmed by applicants.
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The only school in Simferopol where all subjects are taught in Ukrainian is seeking to offer new classes to meet high demand, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Crimea is a predominantly Russian-speaking part of eastern Ukraine. The Simferopol Ukrainian Gymnasium was established in the Crimean capital in 1997 on the model of a European high school, based on 11 grades, and has more than 800 students.

It began accepting applications for the 2010-2011 academic year on March 6 and in one day had more prospective students than seats in its classrooms.

The Simferopol Board of Education has thus far allowed the school to have only two classes of 30 first-grade students every year. The school has asked for an additional 30 slots for first-graders due to the increased demand.

"This is really a referendum on Ukrainian education in a Ukrainian environment," school principal Natalia Rudenko told RFE/RL, adding that "people are voting [on the language issue] with their feet."

Rudenko said the best way to satisfy the demand for Ukrainian-language schools in Simferopol would be to open such schools in each of the city's three districts.

But Irina Shykhorieva, the director of the Simferopol Board of Education, said that Ukrainian-language education needs are being satisfied by Ukrainian-language classes taught in mainly Russian-language schools on an "as-needed" basis.

The school's administration told RFE/RL that the majority of the students do not come from ethnic Ukrainian families but are mostly from Russian, Tatar, or ethnically mixed backgrounds. Many of the students are from wealthy families.

Rudenko said the admissions process will continue until September 1. She said they might even ask the city's Board of Education for permission to put together a fourth first-grade class of 30 students.