Kyiv, February 2023
Anna Chernysh, how did the outbreak of the war influence your work at Projector?
Projector offers online courses in the creative industries. We provide education in graphic and interface design, visual art and animation, development, creative advertisement and marketing. Before the war, we had some of our audience - less than 5%,- in countries like Belarus, Russia or Kazakhstan.
But since February 2022, we closed our website to Russian and Belarussian IP adresses and now our audience is mainly Ukrainian. Today, around 80% of our students are still in Ukraine and the rest are international, for instance based in, Warsaw, Berlin, London, Lisbon.
For the first month after the invasion, we almost stopped all of our work because our team was mostly volunteering. We paid our team in Kyiv their salaries in cash and focused on the evacuation and moving everyone to safe places. The uncertainty paralysed us for a bit.
“We restructured the courses so that students could study in their own way, watching lectures when they can”
Our team was on a free schedule but some courses continued when the teacher and students wanted to. At the beginning of the war, there were blackouts in the evening, so we adjusted the time of our evening lessons so that students didn't turn on lights because of the lessons.
How do you manage amid widespread the power shortages?
The outages started in October, and it was quite severe till recently. We restructured the courses so that students could study in their own way, watching lectures when they can.
We directed them to places in the cities that provided co-working spaces with generators. Despite the difficult circumstances, students continued their education and new applications kept landing. We never really had a shortage of students.
How do you organise your team?
The majority of our staff is still in Kyiv, while 10 people out of hundred are currently working remotely from abroad. Similarly, half of the teachers are abroad and the other half in Ukraine.
“Many people lost their jobs and were seeking to change profession and work online”
Ever since COVID, most of our team communication is online via slack. For those in Kyiv, we have two small offices equipped with generators for use during the electricity shortages, otherwise they mostly work remotely.
What happens next for Projector?
Before the war, our program largely catered for people seeking to improve their skill set or specialise. But since April, we have been asking questions: how to adapt to the new reality? Who even needs education during the war?
But we found that many people had lost their jobs and were seeking to change profession and work online. In response, we started offering courses for complete beginners.
“Sometimes we see Ukrainians buy our courses during missile attacks and air raids – it is encouraging”
As most people lack the money to pay for the reeducation, we launched a foundation. It is funded by tech companies like Google, Visa, Readdle and Meta has recently also come on board and has donated to the education of 120 women.
Last year we almost had 500 students studying for free, and we had more students than before the war. We also introduced a career focus with events and content designed to help students find a new profession, working either in Ukraine or abroad.
The most exciting thing for the entire institute team was the feeling that even during the war, people cared about their education. I cannot express how important it is for each of us to see that Ukrainians do not lose their spirit.
Sometimes we see Ukrainians buy our courses during missile attacks and air raids – it is encouraging. That is why we know that we will win. Because we believe in the power of education in the darkest of times.
The interview was conducted by Atifa Qazi