New schools, new projects and new students have given the start of the academic year a celebratory flavour.
Kiev has two new schools this year – one, the Simcha Jewish educational complex, has just joined the World ORT network, while the other is the re-launch of the ORT Technology Lyceum following its amalgamation with another school. Many of the 670 children at the ORT Herzl Lyceum in Kishinev spontaneously broke into dancing as they celebrated starting a new year in their new building. And the ORT Sholom Aleichem Gymnasium is now operating at its new, larger, superbly equipped premises in the centre of Vilnius, the culmination of a 14-month, €3 million refurbishment project.
“The new premises in Kiev, Kishinev and Vilnius are another example of how World ORT improves the learning environment for its students,” said World ORT Chief Programme Officer Vladimir Dribinskiy. “All three schools spent their formative years squeezed into former kindergartens. Now, thanks to the generosity of our donors and the cooperation of local authorities, we have the physical structures which will enable us to raise educational standards even further. The situation is incomparably better. In particular, each school now has state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor sports facilities. Parents and children at Kishinev were ecstatic.”
David Benish, World ORT Representative for CIS, Central Asia, Caucasian States & Baltic States, welcomed the Simcha school to the ORT family. Enrolment at the Chabad school had halved over recent years as it struggled to provide the quality scientific and technological education that parents wanted.
“Thanks to our donors we can give the school the support it needs to restore its potential and increase the number of students within a short time. I look forward to working with the principal, Rabbi Mordechai Levenharts, whose dedication and leadership has had such a significant impact on the school, its staff and students,” Mr Benish said.
Meanwhile, local media have noted that the launch of the expanded ORT Technology Lyceum means that there is no longer a need for parents to choose between a good school and a Jewish one.
The Lyceum had already established itself as an educational force to be reckoned with. It was the first school in Ukraine to offer the Cisco IT Essentials course, had been selected as a Microsoft IT Academy, and provided entrepreneurship training in partnership with Hewlett Packard. Such is its reputation that the mayor, former professional boxer Vitaly Klitschko, passed over the city’s 500 other schools to celebrate the new year there.
World ORT has invested significantly in the school, whose enrolment has nearly tripled, so that it starts the academic year with updated facilities for the advanced study of English, Hebrew and information technology.
Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Eli Belotserkovsky was also at the opening ceremony.
“I commend the parents of the young people here,” he said. “You have made the right choice – this is a school which represents the best of the education systems in Ukraine and Israel.”
ORT Moldova President Ilan Shor congratulated the crowd at the opening of the new school in Kishinev: “This new building will give you the opportunity to get a quality education. The children here – future journalists, doctors, teachers and other professionals – are the future of our country. For you, dear students, everything has been done to create a place where you can acquire good, useful knowledge.”
The opening of the ORT Sholom Aleichem Gymnasium at its new site also attracted high profile dignitaries: Lithuania’s Foreign Minister, Linas Linkevicius, was joined by Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius, and Linas Piliponis representing Litcon, the company which reconstructed the building into a modern facility of which any major city would be proud.
“Our gymnasium can safely be called a school of the future,” said the Principal, Mischa Jakobas. “A huge amount of work has gone into creating this school so that it meets the needs of the 21st century. It is a testament to the cooperation that has taken place between the private and public sectors.”
In Israel, World ORT Kadima Mada has opened a new-style classroom at Be’er Sheva: the Future Learning Space is the first of 200 due to set up in schools throughout the country’s underprivileged peripheral regions. The project will also include the training of teachers in new pedagogical methods.
“Following on from our provision of hundreds of Smart Classes across the country, Future Learning Spaces are designed to encourage interdisciplinary, collaborative learning – students can move between workstations featuring the latest educational technology and receive support from their teacher when needed. It represents a major step towards further raising educational outcomes in these areas,” said World ORT Kadima Mada National Director Avi Ganon.
“It’s the next big thing,” reported Israel’s prestigious business publication, Globes. “This model will allow inter-classroom and even long-distance learning. Teams of students will work in parallel in different places and communicate via video – just like people do in high-tech global companies.”