Drones, Kalashnikovs as learning material for Ukraine teens

Schoolchildren learn how to handle pneumatic rifles during a lesson at the military-patriotic centre (YURIY DYACHYSHYN)
Schoolchildren learn how to handle pneumatic rifles during a lesson at the military-patriotic centre (YURIY DYACHYSHYN)

Firing a rifle, stripping down a Kalashnikov or learning how to pilot a drone: it is all in a day's training a year and seven months into a war which is only too real for a dozen-strong group of teens in Lviv, western Ukraine.

The youngsters -- male and female -- clutch a black training assault rifle in their hands, some a little clumsily, as their instructor watches them learn to fire at virtual targets against a forested backdrop projected onto a wall.

In another class, a man clad in army fatigues with Ukrainian insignia on his shoulder shows teens how to strip down and reassemble a Kalashnikov piece by piece.

Then it's time for a lesson in how to familiarise oneself with the latest in weaponry -- grenades, mines, gas masks, all of them part of everyday life on the front lines in Ukraine.

"I am very happy a military centre like this has been opened -- there's a lot to do here," says Danyl Porchenko, a student in the 11th grade.

A number of firearms are laid out on a table, ranging from sniper rifles, portable rocket launchers and even anti-tank weapons.

Another lesson comprises firing an air rifle against targets a few metres away.

"It's an extremely interesting and necessary course," says Olena, a 10th grade student, "because we live in a time of war and we don't know what's going to happen in the future. We may need it at any time".

Iryna Brozniuk, in the same year, concedes that "I have such adrenaline from shooting. I shot a 'ten' (score), I was shooting for the second time".

She adds she hopes she will never have to do it for real "but just in case, you have to know all about it".

Piloting a virtual drone is taught via computer to show the students a little about this modern warfare method which has become a feature of the war ravaging their country.

Some of the students have a shot at taking a joystick in their hands and piloting the virtual drone around a laid-out circuit.

"I find this very useful, because the situation is such that there may come a time when we will need these skills," explains 11th grade student Vladyslav Rudyk.

After 19 months of conflict the war has permeated all levels of Ukrainian society, from children's games through to the school curriculum and beyond.

In Russia, meanwhile, the authorities have reintroduced military training in into the school curriculum, including teaching students how to pilot drones and generally familiarise themselves with combat hardware.