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Ukraine's Younger Generation Seeks New Direction

  • Al Pessin

Ukraine is a very different country than it was just a week ago, following a protest movement led by young people who overthrew the Russian-backed government. They now want to take the country in a new direction.

At the Ukrainian Education Ministry, where university students now are in charge, the sign reads "Students Welcome." Just show an ID card and walk right in. Everyone else is expected to stay out, for now.

Inside, students study the portraits of past education ministers, with the newly-ousted minister dubbed "The Destroyer of Ukrainian Education."

The students are organized. A force of mostly young men is ready to defend the building. There is a command center in an auditorium where students meet to discuss issues, or just to hang out. Strict rules forbid smoking, drinking and the destruction of anything. To help ensure that, the students have blocked off whole sections of the building.

"My name is Anton Savidi. I am a student of Lviv University," said one young man in the university.

On the grand hallway outside the minister's office, students have put makeshift seals on all the doors.

"We don't want any documents that can say something to us about corruption to disappear from here," said Savidi.

Ministry of Education, Kyiv, Ukraine

Ministry of Education, Kyiv, Ukraine

Stopping corruption

The students say they will open the doors later, with investigators and TV cameras present.

At a news conference, their spokesmen said they want input into the selection of the new minister, and reform of the education system.

And long-term, 23-year-old law student Mlada Kachurets said she wants much more.

"This is my real hope, really, to have changes and better life, not by changing faces, but by changing the system, to build a country where the human rights and the rule of law are the most important things," she said.

Those are ambitious goals, though Kachurets said she thinks the nation's young people are better able to achieve them than the older generation has been.

"There is a problem in all the post-Soviet countries - all those older people, they lived inside the Soviet system. This generation, that now are students, they have been growing up in the independent country, in the open world," said Kachurets. "That's why they may propose some new approaches to the system."

Kachurets said she wants her children to grow up in a country where they won't be killed in the streets just because they disagree with the government, what she calls "a normal, civilized country, without fear."

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