EU4Youth story from Ukraine: from private lessons for children to a chain of English language schools

28-05-2020

Margaryta Matsegora is a trained teacher, with a specialisation in Greek and English languages from the Mariupol State University in Ukraine. The 30-year-old realised that a teacher salary was not enough to sustain her family and so decided to start teaching English to children on a private basis.

Margaryta developed her business from scratch. She started by giving private English lessons to individual students, but over time she gathered a small group, rented a room and started giving lessons to several students at a time. Her first classroom was in a residential area and had a surface of just 10 m².

It was convenient for students and parents: they didn’t need to go far, the prices were low and the quality of teaching was high. The group built up quite fast. “I wasn’t ashamed to go from one residence to another, put up advertisements and distribute my business cards,” says Margaryta.

Soon the young entrepreneur realised she couldn’t cope with the growing number of students, and that she needed to hire an assistant. She found a good teacher, shared her methodology and agreed on the teaching materials. 

Of course, it was not easy when the military operations began…Many families left the city, many parents said that they could not afford to continue paying the classes, because they had lost their revenues. But some of them stayed and Margaryta’s school continued giving lessons. In the course of time, Margaryta started working on establishing a second branch of her school.  She wanted to open a school on the left bank of Mariupol, where traditionally there are few educational institutions for children.

Margaryta found a room, but the renovation works required a lot of investments and almost everything she had earned until now was used to carry out the works. But the money did not stretch far enough to buy the necessary furniture. Margaryta was facing a dilemma: either to increase the price of her classes or wait for an indefinite time until she had enough savings to cover the expenses.

A possible solution was found by chance – Margaryta saw information on a social network about a project providing grant support for young entrepreneurs – EU4Youth – Enhancing Youth Education, Employment and Participation in Conflict-affected Areas in Georgia and Ukraine.

This project is implemented in the Donetsk region of Ukraine and in the regions of Shida Kartli and Samegrelo in Georgia. The Danish Refugee Council acts as the grant manager in Ukraine in partnership with the Mariupol Youth Union.

Project coordinator Oleg Vishnevsky says the main beneficiaries of the project are young people – victims of the conflict including internally displaced people (IDP). “Young people from the ages of 18 to 35 who want to start their own business or who want to extend the possibilities of a business that already exists can participate in the project. The support can be granted for purchasing equipment, as well as for taking courses or trainings. The participants can search for and choose the trainings that in their opinion can help them to be more competitive in the job market or to acquire new knowledge for their business,” says Oleg Vishnevsky.

Before sending her application Margaryta did a thorough market assessment, estimated the quantity and the costs of the necessary furniture and equipment and prepared a detailed business plan.  

Margaryta’s application was accepted and she received a grant of 22,000 hryvnia (around €820), which she used for purchasing the necessary furniture for the classroom. Just a few weeks after submitting her application, the venue was furnished and she had started work.

The new crisis started unexpectedly: when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Margaryta moved her classes online. Many students as well as their parents were glad for the opportunity not to lose the acquired knowledge. Especially since Margaryta did the parents who lost their income a favour: instead of having to pay a full course at once she made it possible to pay for each class separately. For those who still couldn’t afford the classes even in this way, Margaryta gave free express-lessons through Skype and published detailed educational posts on her page in social networks.

“Thanks to this grant, our students read good quality educational materials, study new vocabulary and topics and the teachers received an additional income during the quarantine,” says Margaryta.

Article written by Danish Refugee Council, Ukraine.